Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Planning Forum, 2014 - 2020
The Localism Act 2011 gave local communities the power to set up Neighbourhood Forums to write planning policies for their area. Their Neighbourhood Plan policies would address locally-specific issues not covered by the public authorities in their more strategic Local Plans.
After moving to the Isle of Dogs in 2012, I discovered that Tower Hamlets Borough Council had been nodding through many huge residential buildings in this area adjacent to the Canary Wharf business district and bounded by water – often housing over 1,000 people each - without also planning and investing in sufficient social and physical infrastructure to support them.
This was in part driven by changes in the Government's national planning policy intended to boost new housing, which allowed developers to assume such infrastructure would - in exchange for relatively modest payments to the Council - be provided by public bodies, utilities and others as and when required for whatever they built. This was regardless of whether such infrastructure would - or even could - be provided, and with no obligation on the Council to spend even the developers' contributions on the necessary local infrastructure.
Clearly such a general policy needed to be tempered here, where the many densely packed high-rise developments would rapidly grow the local population from c. 40,000 in 2014 to over 100,000, necessitating a local infrastructure investment costed by the local authorities at £1 billion.
So in 2014, working with local councillors and other residents, I set up the Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Planning Forum to impose local policies on the Council that - amongst other things - would require large residential developments in our area to be supported by adequate infrastructure before being approved.
Those policies - the Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Plan - became formal Council planning policy following an 86% vote in favour of them by the entire Isle of Dogs voting community in an official referendum held on 6th May 2021. (Like all other public votes, the referendum had been substantially delayed due to Covid 19 lockdown restrictions.)
As Chair, I not only led a large committee representing all the very diverse residents in our area, but also managed the drafting of our policies and our relations with the local authority and the media.