South Dock bridge to Canary Wharf gets £7m go-ahead with London business rates cash
PUBLISHED: 18:00 09 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:56 17 October 2018
A badly-needed footbridge linking the Isle of Dogs to Canary Wharf has been given £7 million government funding to start construction following a three-year campaign.
But the grant chosen by London Councils representing local authorities is no government ‘gift’, as the money comes from business rates that were collected by Tower Hamlets Council in the first place.
The scheme is part of a £47m package clawed back from the chancellor for eight special projects.
“This shows we have our finger on the pulse of what London needs,” London Councils’ chair Peter John said. “Local authorities and the Mayor are all determined to make sure rates revenue can be spent on strategic benefits to the business community.”
Today’s grant has been welcomed by Tower Hamlets councillor Andrew Wood, representing Canary Wharf ward, who has been campaigning for a footbridge following a strike on the DLR that caused ‘bottleneck’ queues of commuters trying to reach the alternative Jubilee line tube station,.
But Cllr Wood is sceptical about the funding ‘gift’ announced today.
“It’s actually our money being returned to us,” he told the East London Advertiser.
“Business rates are an appalling mechanism, being used as additional funding for infrastructure when it was the council that raised them in the first place.
“It’s our own money that should have stayed local in the first place.”
Tower Hamlets raises £300m in business rates a year for the government, but gets back just £119m.
Former councillor Bell Harris, who has campaigned for all business rates to be returned to local authorities after they were reined in by the Thatcher government in 1991, slammed today’s grant as “a red herring” that starves public services of funds.
The retired Polytechnic lecturer said: “Distributing the revenue this way keeps public service cuts continuing.
Our business rates being next to the City have rocketed four-fold, which is killing small traders now facing bankruptcy. They should not be used for hand-picked projects by the government.”
Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs also led a delegation of small traders to Downing Street last year calling for more business rates to be returned to local authorities rather than dished out for selected projects.
But London Councils insists that the South Dock footbridge is vital for the Isle of Dogs to get better access to the London Underground for commuters.
The area faces another 20,000 homes and more office towers being built or having planning permission. Yet another 59,000 homes could be built by 2031.
The Isle of Dogs’ neighbourhood forum argued at a public examination hearing in March for all new development to stop until public services would be able to cope.
Resources were being spent on projects like the proposed Rotherhithe Bridge and a new civic centre at Whitechapel, which Cllr Wood feared diverted resources and didn’t deal with the population growth.
Plans for South Dock footbridge were unveiled in February to relieve Canary Wharf’s older ‘bottleneck’ footbridge. Public consultations have been held, but it is yet to receive formal planning consent from the council.
The design takes account of noise, vibration and wind to avoid the ‘wobble’ effect that plagued the Millennium Bridge in the City when it opened.