Another naughty cabinet minister has been found out. Housing minister Robert Jenrick over-ruled government planning inspectors and approved 1500 new homes to be built on the Isle of Dogs, East London. A planning application had been submitted by wealthy businessman Richard Desmond, who subsequently donated £12,000 to the Conservative party 12 days later. Jenrick had been forced by Labour to reveal texts and and memos he had sent to Desmond after sitting next to him at a dinner. He also approved the deal the day before a new Community Infrastructure Levy was to be implemented, thus saving Desmond £40m in taxes which Tower Hamlets Labour council could have spent on local services.
Jenrick faces calls to resign, but as usual the PM states that the matter is ‘closed’. In other words, Boris wants to keep Jenrick in his job whatever he has done wrong, the same as with Dominic Cummings. However, I have often stayed overnight on the Isle of Dogs, and believe me, a 1500 housing development is the last thing the island needs.
I learned to drive on the Isle of Dogs back in 1976. At that time there were just a few hundred Victorian/Edwardian terraced houses, a more modern housing estate as I remember, and several small shops there. The roads were quiet. My old school’s playing field was situated on the Isle of Dogs (we got on a bus from my school in the East India Dock Road to play hockey or tennis on the island, as the school had zero facilities for sports). There was a blue swing bridge that we passed over on the bus to access the island.
Compare that to the photo below that I took when I stayed on the Isle of Dogs in order to attend the High Voltage festival in 2010. There has been 10 more years of building since then, and the island is bursting at the seams. Have a look at the featured photo too (I’ve also copied it at the end), as on that one you can just see the ‘City Pride’ pub through the trees that had been there when I was a kid, but has now been pulled down to make way for yet more ugly flats.
Residents complain there is not enough water pressure to run washing machines, and there is a real fear sewer and drainage systems won’t be able to cope with yet another housing development. Nevertheless, wealthy businessmen need to make another million or ten, and so to hell with the consequences.
When I saw first hand in 2010 what had happened to the Isle of Dogs since I lived nearby in the 1960s, I wanted to cry. It’s ugly, and developers’ greed is clearly apparent here. We EastEnders always considered the Isle of Dogs as a kind of poor relation in the 1960s (not that we in Poplar were living in the lap of luxury though!), but now if you walk along the West Ferry Road and look in estate agents’ windows, even tiny flats sell for half a million pounds and upwards.
In my opinion Richard Desmond and Robert Jenrick should be ashamed of themselves to even consider building yet more homes on this now totally overcrowded island. Yes, Jenrick should resign, and soon!