Grand plans to transform Tower Hamlets over the next 15 years have been unveiled, with a round of public consultation. A series of five sessions to discuss the plans got underway this week. Attendance at the first event at the Idea Store in Chrisp Street market was sparse however, attracting fewer than 30 people. Four more sessions are planned over the next two weeks in Bethnal Green, Bow and Whitechapel.
Tower Hamlets 2030 represents the council’s attempt to shake off the borough’s image as one of the worst areas for child poverty in the country. The plan calls for special Opportunity Areas to be set up, creating more jobs and homes. Public transport is also set to be improved, thanks to Crossrail. There is a big focus on better training, particularly for women, regeneration in Whitechapel, more free schools and better community facilities.
The plan is set to be adopted in autum 2017. Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs was optimistic about the council’s proposals for the next 10 to 15 years. He said: “This document and consultation are designed to help shape the direction of policy, so I would urge everyone with an interest in Tower Hamlets to voice your views. In doing so, we will meet the needs of the borough going forward, with a shared vision that we can all be proud of.”
Local residents and business owners who attended the first consultation session were more critical.
Jenny Boswell-Jones, 69, who has lived in Whitechapel for 40 years, is concerned about the rising cost of living, which is pushing artists and local business owners out of the borough. She explained: “I don’t think you just want people to sit in front of computers doing administrative work. You need places where people make things. I think we’ve lost that tradition in Tower Hamlets.”
John and Joan Drummond, who’ve lived in Poplar for three years, heard about the Idea Store session from an advertisement outside Bow Road station. Joan was disappointed to find a small number of people at the session, and added: “ I didn’t know whether it was going to be a presentation or a consultation, or just an exhibition. I don’t think it’s been very well advertised at all.”
What to look out for in the next 10 to 15 years:
- Opportunity areas to be set up in City Fringe/Tech City (including Whitechapel), Isle of Dogs and South Poplar, and Lower Lea Valley (including part of the Olympic Legacy area and the Poplar Riverside Housing Zone).
- Aim is to optimise the supply of available land to enable the development of homes, jobs and required infrastructure for all Tower Hamlets communities and link strategic areas with new footbridges and tunnels including the City, Canada Water, Greenwich, Royal Docks, City Airport, Canning Town and the Olympic Park.
- Public transport to be further enhanced by Crossrail and new Crossrail stations at Whitechapel and Canary Wharf, which are scheduled to open in 2018.
The aim is to shorten journey times to major growth areas such as Bond Street, Stratford City, City Airport, and Heathrow, attracting inward investment, more jobs, and development opportunities in Whitechapel and Canary Wharf.
- More jobs to be created in Whitechapel, as part of the Whitechapel Vision regeneration project, and as part of the expansion of knowledge-based digital companies around Tech City in Shoreditch. Most enterprises registered in Tower Hamlets are microbusinesses employing fewer than 10 employees, so small businesses will be given extra support.
- There will be more emphasis on training to address current high unemployment rates for women and ensure local people are better qualified and can take up job opportunities in the borough.
- There will be more free schools, which are outside local government control. New free schools are allowed to operate in more restricted sites and buildings, with less play space, than local authority schools.
- Community facilities will be improved. 134 pubs have closed in the borough since 2000, a net loss of 52 per cent.
The full document of the new Local Plan is available to read on Tower Hamlets council website.
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