The Roman Road Neighbourhood Forum consider the neighbourhood area boundary appropriate, as it not only includes businesses along a section of the Roman Road, (east of Grove Road up to the A12), but a significant area within the boundary includes residential communities for which the Roman Road is their closest high street: communities lying to the south of Roman Road, with Bow Road as the southern boundary; and communities to the north with Victoria Park as the northern boundary.
For the Roman Road to continue to function as a local high street in years to come, it is important that the needs and views of the surrounding residents inform the plan, and not just taking into account the needs and views of businesses on the Roman Road itself.
A wider neighbourhood area will encourage residential communities to participate in seeing the benefits arising from the neighbourhood plan occur beyond the Roman Road, to the surrounding residential streets and estates.
1. Elements of character for the area and the diversity of its population
The layout of the streets and architecture of the neighbourhood area reflects the many changes that have occurred over the last 150 years and contribute significantly to its character: streets of Victorian terraces at the western end of the boundary, to the south of Victoria Park and immediately north and south the railway viaduct, including around Tredegar Square. Post-war housing estates dating from the 1950’s to more recent developments form the majority of the housing stock in the area - a mix of towers, low rise apartment blocks of three to six storeys and terraced houses. Some of the industrial heritage is still present in buildings such as the, now converted, Bryant & May match factory, in the south east corner of the neighbourhood area boundary and the Chisenhale studios to the north west corner of the neighbourhood area boundary.
The residential community within the neighbourhood area boundary is a diverse mix of ages, ethnicities, income levels and religions that reflect the borough as a whole (Core Strategy p20).
Paragraph 033 of the Planning Practice Guidance has been considered. This refers to ‘whether infrastructure or physical features define a natural boundary, for example a major road or railway line or waterway.’ Major roads or canals form the boundaries of all sides of the proposed area, with the Roman Road running like a spinal column through the area. The proposed area is a suitable catchment area for walking to local shops and businesses, primary schools, GP surgeries and Mile End and other local parks. Paragraph 033 also states that ‘Electoral ward boundaries can be a useful starting point for discussions on the appropriate size of a neighbourhood area…’ Our proposed area boundary coincides closely with the external boundaries of Bow East and Bow West wards.
The Council’s existing evidence base, Local Plan strategic objectives and policies, site allocations and ‘places’ guidelines (as seen in the Core Strategy)
The Tower Hamlets Local Plan (section 3, p86) shows that there are no site allocations in the proposed neighbourhood area.
Roman Road is designated as a ‘district centre’ in the Core Strategy (maps on p27 and p36).
Victoria Park and the Regent’s Canal form the northern boundary to the neighbourhood area. These natural assets are significant in the borough as a whole (Core Strategy 2010-2025, Ch1 para 1.33), with the importance of connecting to open, green and water spaces highlighted as a particular challenge.
Page 114 of the Core Strategy describes the vision for Bow, the opportunities for growth and how Tower Hamlets Council intends to achieve it. The chapter highlights the principles for change which align with preliminary discussions that the proposed Forum have had, including:
• Improvements to connectivity should be sought, with new development and estate-regeneration to reinstate a traditional, joined-up street pattern.
• Retail, small and medium enterprises, creative industries, leisure and civic uses should be focused in Roman Road East town centre.
Relevant policies in the local plan include: p24-DM2 - local shops, p36-DM8 - community infrastructure and p40-DM10 - delivering open space.
There are a number of statutory listed (largely Grade II), and locally listed buildings within the neighbourhood area boundary. There are also several conservation areas including: Roman Road Market, Driffield Road, Medway, Tredegar Square, Fairfield Road, Regents Canal and Victoria Park.
2. Could the Area boundary would negatively impact on the delivery of strategic policies from the local authority?
Our review of the Council’s Core Strategy and Local Plan haven’t identified any potential negative impacts on the delivery of the strategic policies. There are a number of synergies between the aspirations of the proposed Roman Road Neighbourhood Forum and the Council’s policy documents. We view the proposed Neighbourhood Plan for the Roman Road area as an opportunity for some of the Council’s delivery aims to be achieved through the neighbourhood plan.
3. Which alternative boundaries were considered?
a. The inclusion/exclusion of Fish Island.
The importance of improved connectivity between Bow and Fish Island, separated by the A12, led us to consider the inclusion of the island. We decided against this for the following reasons:
• Fish Island falls under a different planning authority for plan-making and development control - the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC).
• An Area Action Plan (AAP) already exists for the island: the Fish Island Area Action Plan (2012).
• The proposed plan area is already quite large, and broadly coincides with the ward boundaries for Bow East and Bow West.
b. The inclusion/exclusion of the area south of the railway line, Antil Road and Tredegar Road up to Bow Road
This southern boundary was discounted because:
• One of the aims of a plan would be to improve the connectivity into Bow from neighbouring areas, and within Bow itself.
• The railway line is seen as one of the barriers to north-south movement within Bow. Considering how to mitigate its negative impact and improve connections with the Roman Road from the area to the south would be an appropriate challenge in developing a neighbourhood plan.
• Through contact with members of Mile End Old Town Residents Association (MEOTRA), we came to a fuller appreciation of the distinctive character and context of the area previously known as Mile End Old Town. Part of this is now covered by the Tredegar Square Conservation Area. We believe that the interests of residents in promoting conservation and improvement in the MEOTRA area can be supported within the wider context of a neighbourhood plan, allowing a win-win outcome.
c. The inclusion/exclusion of the section of Mile End Park between Grove Road and the canal, from Mile End Road in the south to Old Ford Road in the north.
The local authority's plan making team asked the Forum to look at excluding Mile End Park from the neighbourhood area because the proposed neighbourhood area only included the northernmost rectangle of the park, omitting the larger area of the park south of Mile End Road.
The Neighbourhood Forum made further consultations and decided to include this section of Mile End Park for the following reasons:
• Consultation with people attending an annual community fair in the park, organised by Friends of Mile End Park, showed support for inclusion of the park. Comments from local residents included the following:
"It makes sense for the park to be included in the area. The other side of the canal have other green spaces that are more readily available." (E3 5EE)
"It’s important to keep the park as an open space. The canal is a natural boundary for the area." (E3 5RF)
"I think it’s reasonable to include the park. Queen Mary College however is concerned about preventing unauthorised access from the park." (E3 5AJ)
• Core strategy 2010 -2025 (2010) Chapter 1 Para.1.33 ‘Given the inner-London nature of the borough, improving access to open, green and water spaces continues to be a significant challenge.’ The core strategy (SP 13 Planning Obligations) also states that one priority is ‘publicly accessible open spaces.’ The chapter on ‘delivering placemaking’ says one way this will be achieved is by improving ‘connections between Mile End Road and Victoria Park and to promote walking and cycling through Bow.’
d. The inclusion/exclusion section of Cadogan Terrace to the north of the canal up to the boundary with Hackney.
Cadogan Terrace is a spur off the north-eastern corner of the rectangle originally proposed as the plan area. The Council’s plan making team asked us to consider including the part of Cadogan Terrace that is within Tower Hamlets.
We subsequently changed our minds and included Cadogan Terrace up to the border with Hackney because:
• We hadn’t given consideration to the residents and businesses along this road until prompted by the plan making team.
• We consulted local residents and businesses, and responses were generally favourable to inclusion. There was some wariness, but this seemed mainly due to reservations about how effective they thought a neighbourhood plan would be in delivering change, rather than objecting to the idea of inclusion.
• Omitting Cadogan Terrace could potentially leave this area isolated from the neighbourhood it is most closely linked with in Tower Hamlets.