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The Tower Hamlets Local Plan

If you live or work in Tower Hamlets then please give them feedback on the "Local Plan" they're developing. It's a plan for the next 10-15 years of development in the borough.

So... what's the point of a Local Plan? In practice, it's a document which gives councils/developers/mayors the written "excuses" they need in order to do things or to block things. So the content of the Local Plan will indeed shape what happens.

Some comments from me:

  • Really important, in my opinion, are local markets for normal people. In TH we have great ones: Whitechapel Market, Roman Road Market, Chrisp Street Market, even the tiny little Globetown Market. These are all places where people can buy their fruit and veg and other stuff. They're great for local business, great for community cohesion, great for healthy eating. TH should preserve our local markets and make sure they thrive. There are a couple of threats to local markets: one is the commercial pressure from supermarkets and/or delivery services. Another risk coming from the overhyping of Shoreditch is the transformation of a market from a useful local place to a poncey market for expensive home decorations or what-have-you; could also be a risk of a market turning touristy I guess.
  • Cycling provision for all. The Cycle Superhighway is a bit controversial at the moment: lots of drivers on Mile End Road hate it, because of the congestion, but what they haven't realised is that the congestion is caused by the building works, not the cycle lanes themselves. Once it all settles down it'll be great for everyone. TH should maintain the great public cycle provision - the segregated cycle-lanes, the bike-hire stands. But also, the council needs to encourage all parts of society to take advantage of these things that the borough and the city have built. The facilities are mainly used by men, mainly within a certain age bracket, and I think also there are some ethnic groups that aren't benefitting too. So TH needs to keep up this provision but also do some outreach to get people using it.
  • Safeguard social housing - in fact safeguard all council / housing-association property. There are intense pressures on housing in London, and councils are generally put in a position where many of their options are shut off, but the current government is happy to say "Hey, why not sell of some of your stock, that'd help with cashflow." So there's a strong bias in favour of selling off the family silver. But in order to make sure ordinary working people can live in TH in future, the council and the housing associations need to maintain their position, at the very least, and ideally provide more social housing.
  • Improve the leisure walking routes in Tower Hamlets. There are some decent walking routes around here, e.g. from the Olympic Park down to Cody Dock, or along the Thames, but the provision is really quite fragmentary, and it'd be great to have a real consolidated network of pleasant right-of-way footpaths. For example, you can't currently walk all the way down the River Lea to the Thames. You can get some of the way but then you have to do a big diversion round the Tesco, and then a bit later a big diversion round the industrial estate. The supposed "Greenway" out of the Olympic Park has been blocked off by building work for many years, making it more theoretical than actual. Imagine how many people would reap the benefits if there were more consolidated leisure wlaking routes, taking advantage of our rivers and canals.
  • Some people complain about the number of tower blocks being built. I think it's more complicated than that - there are some excellent, really well thought-out new high rise areas in TH, while also there are some rush-job maximum-density useless blocks too. The council should ensure that developments are designed for living, providing amenities such as playgrounds and little parks, good public spaces and designated room for neighbourhood shops. And also ensure that private and social housing are mixed together, not divided into enclaves. In my opinion the St. Andrew's Hospital Redevelopment in Bromley-by-Bow is a great example of a well-designed modern housing area.
  • Planners need to remember that the Shoreditch hype is well over by now. How can they ensure that Shoreditch's new personality, after the trendy phase and then the gentrifying phase, works well over the next two decades? Retains some of its vibrancy? Frankly I don't know. But Shoreditch's trajectory over the next ten years is going to be completely different from the last ten years.

Also some things I found while reading around this topic:

  • There's a "Poplar Riverside Housing Zone" which is designated for housing development. "Future sites include Chrisp Street, Leamounth North and Aberfeldy" it says here. However I can't work out exactly where it is - they've not published a map. Does "riverside" mean by the Thames or by the Lea? I strongly suspect it's by the side of the Lea (approximately here) since that's the bit that's still basically industrial and not recently developed - can anyone confirm?
  • Looks like there are plans to build a "fashion hub" in Poplar.
  • There's some kind of Bromley-by-Bow Masterplan Supplementary Planning Document adopted in 2012 which relates to the area around Bromley-by-Bow. What does it imply? Well I don't know for sure, but: it labels some specific areas for regeneration, including the Stroudley Walk area and Empson Street; and it has a fair amount of development planned along the West bank of the river - including a "future green space" where Tesco's is! In fact, the other half of the area where Tesco's is is marked as "New District Centre: New town centre with mix of uses including retail, community uses, residential dwellings and commercial uses." Gosh. Oh and it also plans to fix one of my bugbears: the lack of connection between the West-bank towpath and Twelvetrees Crescent bridge (fixing that will really help join the riverside walking routes up).

But anyway, like I said, give them feedback on the Local Plan.

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