Isle of Dogs neighbourhood forum ‘disenfranchises’ thousands of residents

Meeting of Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Planning Forum. Photograph: Andrew Wood
Meeting of Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Planning Forum. Photograph: Andrew Wood

Isle of Dogs residents are up in arms after thousands of people were left out of delayed plans for a neighbourhood planning forum.

The proposed forum was approved by Mayor John Biggs at a council meeting on Tuesday 5 April, having been initially proposed by the community 16 months earlier.

The original proposal from residents covered the wards of Canary Wharf, Island Gardens, Blackwall and Cubitt Town and a small area north of Blackwall Station.

But in last minute changes planning officers proposed a new area, chopping off everything north of South Quay.

Map of the Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Planning Forum. Approved area in blue, excluded areas in red
Map of the Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Planning Forum. Approved area in blue, excluded areas in red.

Conservative Councillor Andrew Wood, who is Secretary of the Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Planning Forum, said residents had voted unanimously in favour of the original forum area, and that the new plans will leave thousands of people “disenfranchised”.

He said: “If they’d said to us 15 months ago that this was the plan, we wouldn’t have liked it but we would have got on and dealt with it.

“Now all the people cut off have to restart that process from scratch.”

He added: “The council talk the talk on restricting development and trying to have a plan for the Isle of Dogs, but they’re not going to commit and put their heart and soul into it in the same way that residents are.”

Neighbourhood plans

In 2011 the government introduced powers for residents to make neighbourhood plans to influence planning decisions with limited interference from central government.

In areas without parish or town councils, this process is led by local forums, which are set up with approval from the council.

Residents in the areas left out of the approved forum – including Blackwall and some of Canary Wharf – plan to propose two more forums.

Since the original proposal from the Isle of Dogs forum new rules have been introduced to force councils to make a decision within 13 weeks.

“Because of the 13 week rule they wont be as delayed as we were,” said Cllr Wood. “But all it does it adds loads of work and fragmentation and costs more money for government.”

Members of the new forum considered challenging the council’s last minute plans through judicial review but decided to go ahead with the current model to address “really urgent issues” in the area.

Cllr Wood said: “With a judicial review, we would have had to delay our neighbourhood plan, and planning applications would have gone through without our neighbourhood plan in force. So we made a pragmatic decision.”

A council spokesperson said, “The Mayor in Cabinet has agreed the boundaries for the Isle of Dogs and Spitalfields Neighbourhood Forums.

“These boundaries best constitute neighbourhood areas as defined by legislation and guidance, in terms of key local and business assets, land use, ward boundaries and communities.

“A well-established neighbourhood planning forum can play a positive role in ensuring planning policy has regard to residents’ wishes, therefore it was important we took the time to consult all parties involved, examine the detail of the applications and get the final result right.”

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