On Tuesday 14th April 2020, the Independent Examiner of the Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Plan issued his report recommending that the Plan be put to a referendum. His report is here in this link.
This is a red-letter day for our community as, according to the law (The Town and Country Planning Act 1990, Section 70) this means that our policies as recommended by the Examiner came into force on 14th April 2020, even though their ratification through a public vote has now been delayed till 6th May 2021 because of the coronavirus restrictions.
The reason for Neighbourhood Plan policies becoming planning policy for their areas as soon as approved by an Independent Examiner, is that virtually all Neighbourhood Plan referenda result in ‘yes’ votes – hardly surprising, as the voters are the people who have written them. So Parliament amended the law (through the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017) to give Neighbourhood Plans the same weight in the planning process as the Council’s Local Plan from the day the Independent Examiner confirms they should go to a public vote. (TCPA, Ss. 70(2)(aza); 70(3B)(d); and 70(3C)). The effect of the later referenda is not only to confirm the Neighbourhood Plan policies, but also to give them the extra moral authority of being the only planning policies the affected community ever gets to vote on directly.
The formal policies in the Plan, which must now 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, haven’t disappeared, but will now be set out separately as the ‘aspirations and recommendations’ of the community.
The exact wording of our Plan now needs to be adjusted by the Council as recommended by the Examiner. Tower Hamlets Council will be working on this over the next week or so, and we’ll publish and send you the final wording then. But make no mistake. As of now, the big residential developments on our Island are at last subject to our community’s policies that have been designed to address the strains that the exceptional density of development is placing on us.
For example, the ‘density’ policy approved by the Examiner 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.
Once the Council has finalised all the exact wording of this ‘Basic Plan’, we’ll then re-start our work on the ‘Long Plan’ – the one intended to enhance and replace this Plan. The Long Plan will include loads of detailed policies that not only deal with the planning process for the huge residential developments in our unique area as focused on in the Basic Plan. It will also cover more specific issues relating to things like: how we can make our playgrounds the best in London; what kind of community facilities we want to develop; where we want to build the new schools and surgeries we’re going to need; how we can encourage more independent tradespeople on the Island; how we want transport to work when the DLR is full each morning; and more detail about how we want the Council to spend the tens of millions of pounds that are paid by the developers.
Because of its much greater practical detail, the Long Plan needs loads more input by the whole community. So please do get in touch, and encourage your friends and neighbours to get involved too. The Basic Plan’s success shows that our community most certainly can influence how our living environment is managed by the local authority. The Long Plan can put much more flesh on that. Click here for our website and ways to get involved.