An East London town with more people packed together than anywhere else in the UK could become “Little Manhattan” in the next few years, locals have said.
The Isle of Dogs in Tower Hamlets has the highest population density in the country and thousands more people are set to move to the area.
Over the last decade, huge tower blocks of flats and offices have sprung up across the Isle as tens of thousands of new people arrive in the area.
The ONS projects that the population will more than double to 100,000 in the next 10 years, with 40,000 people already squeezed into just a few square kilometres.
One street alone, Marsh Wall, is expected to see its population soar by 10 times – from 4,000 to 40,000 in the next decade.
Long-term residents have seen the Isle of Dogs go through a huge change in the last decade, and many think that it will soon become as packed with people as Hong Kong or Manhattan.
Aboud Jrimesty has lived in the Isle of Dogs for 14 years and owns the Byblos Harbour café next to the scenic Millwall Inner Dock.
He says although he accepts the way the isle is changing, he is worried about crime and thinks public services should be improved as more people move into the area.
He said: “There’s a lot of new buildings- it’s going to be Little Manhattan in the next 10 years. It’s a central area, you know? It’s characteristic of a city.”
“But they should add a hospital, more roads and a police station for sure – there’s no police station around here.
“There are a lot of small-time drug dealers around here – that’s a big problem – and laughing gas canisters all over the place.”
Some residents are also concerned that so many new buildings being thrown up could damage community spirit.
Dolly Hollet, who works at the Pepper Saint Ontiod pub, says that she has seen massive development in the area since she moved there six years ago.
“A lot of high-rise buildings have gone up really quickly,” she said. “Even this property [the pub] is going to be knocked down. A lot of companies are buying out this area – I think they’ll build even more high-rise buildings.
“It’s quite a community area around here. Most people will stay here – I like to think it won’t lose its charm as an East London area.
“A lot of people have been working from home, maybe they’ll build more so people can live nearby.”
The manager of Isle of Dogs restaurant Capeesh added that more competition from new restaurants and fewer people travelling to offices in Canary Wharf.
He said: “I’ve lived in this area for 14 years. There are so many new buildings and rent prices have gotten higher.
“There are way too many restaurants now – maybe that’s good for people but it’s not good for business.
“We’ll probably have more big buildings, depending on Brexit and Covid.
“It affects our lunch business because most offices are closed. Evenings after work are good but we used to get so many people after 5/5.30pm.
“For now we’re ok but we had to close our sky bar and it’s not reopening. We couldn’t make enough income during the lockdown.”
MyLondon’s brilliant new newsletter The 12 is packed with news, views, features and opinion from across the city.
Every day we’ll send you a free email at around 12pm with 12 stories to keep you entertained, informed and uplifted. It’s the perfect lunchtime read.
The MyLondon team tells London stories for Londoners. Our 45 journalists cover all the news you need – from City Hall to your local streets.
Never miss a moment by signing up to The 12 newsletter here.
A local councillor said that the rapid growth of the Isle of Dogs would have to be managed properly to stop the increasingly-dense population from overwhelming public services.
Andrew Wood, an Independent-Conservative councillor who has lived on the Isle since 2009, said that more would need to be done to cope with the thousands of new residents.
He said: “The problem is only going to get worse and worse and worse as these new buildings go up, because basically all of them are replacing old office buildings.
“So you’ve knocked down an old office built in the 80s or 90s and you replace it with a very tall and dense residential tower, so that’s a big change in terms of the number of people.
“It’s a mixture of utility things: Thames Water in particular, electricity to some extent, social infrastructure – playgrounds, schools, GP surgeries, parks etc.
“Basically we’re building Manhattan – so either you make the conscious decision that you’re building something denser than Manhattan… or you spread development more equitably and more widely across Tower Hamlets.”