The Independent Examiner appointed by Tower Hamlets Council confirmed on 14th April 2020 that the Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Plan should go to a public vote. The immediate effect is that, from now on, the Plan’s policies must be followed by Isle of Dogs developers and the Council.
The public vote to ratify the Neighbourhood Plan – like other upcoming public votes as a result of the Coronavirus lockdown – will be delayed till 6th May 2021. But that doesn’t stop the Neighbourhood Plan policies coming into full force on 14th April 2020.
Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Planning Forum Chair, Richard Horwood said: “It’s a red letter day for the long-suffering people of the Isle of Dogs. The Examiner’s ruling at last brings into force the basic policies we need to help manage the huge amount of dense development in our area. He has recommended some adjustments, but the essential policies that our community has been crying out for are now in force.”
Forum Secretary and local Councillor, Andrew Wood explained: “The formal policies in the Plan, which now must be enforced by the Council, cover the strains on our infrastructure, the use of empty sites, construction management and communication, sustainable design, resident votes on estate redevelopment, and 3D models for high rise planning. Other policies that had been in the previous Plan, but which the Examiner felt did not technically fulfil the statutory tests required of formal planning policies, are now set out separately as the aspirations and recommendations of the community.”
The Examiner, John Parmiter, has proposed some amendments which the Council, together with the Forum who wrote the Plan, will work on in the next few weeks. But the key policy addressing the strain on local infrastructure of new large developments remains substantially intact.
This policy provides that planning applications for large residential developments on the Island must, from now on, include an assessment of the impact of the proposal on the local infrastructure; that they must be phased to align with new or enhanced infrastructure on which they’re contingent; and that the Council should reject applications which would result in negative infrastructure impacts that cannot be adequately mitigated through levies paid to the Council by developers and/or through planning obligations.
Horwood added: “This is a major achievement for the Isle of Dogs community, as developments have not previously been allowed to be rejected or delayed for lack of adequate infrastructure, but that will happen now.”
Planning policy has till now meant that developers could insist on being granted planning consent for new buildings regardless of their extra strain on the local infrastructure, as they were entitled to assume that the necessary infrastructure would somehow be provided as and when needed. All they had to do was agree to pay a standard Community Infrastructure Levy (or CIL) to the Council, which is normally only a fraction of the actual cost needed for the extra infrastructure, with even that payment reduced by any facilities they agree to build on the site.