Tower Hamlets Council News

New home for the Spital Square mosaic

BritbanglaDesk:Much loved landmark repaired, relocated and reopened.

A colourful landmark and much loved feature of the Borough that fell into disrepair has been brought back to life.

The ‘Spital Square mosaic’ was produced in 1995 by two schools, Thomas Buxton and St Anne’s  situated opposite each other on Buxton Street near Brick Lane. Pupils from the schools worked together to produce the 12 piece mosaic.

Over the years the mosaic had been dug up from its original home and placed on a skip for disposal before being resuced. For a number of years half of it was stored in a lock-up on Brick Lane where it sustained significant damage. With support from the Council it has been  repaired and placed in its new home in Ravencroft Park and was formally opened by Tower Hamlets Mayor, John Biggs.

Tower Hamlets Mayor, John Biggs said: “This much loved mosaic means a lot to our residents and reflects the many elements of Tower Hamlets. It’s great news that it’s been restored and put on display once again.”

The mosaic took over six months to create and involved one hundred and twenty pupils from both schools. The children filled giant twelve-foot long sections of concrete with colourful designs that reflected different aspects of the local area. They made mosaics of menorahs and mehndis, mosques, churches and synagogues, Hugenuot spinning wheels and sewing machines.

It had been placed in landscaped gardens on the site of the old Spitalfields Hospital directly behind Spitalfields market. The project attracted a lot of positive media attention and was filmed by children’s tv programme Blue Peter

Following redevelopment of the original site the mosaic was moved to  the old railway arches in Brick Lane and arranged on opposite sides of the street near the railway bridge.

Cllr Abdul Mukit Cabinet Member for Culture and Youth said: “The restoration of the mosaic is a fantastic testament to the work of volunteers and the council coming together to bring a local landmark back.”

The mosaic has now been moved to its new resting place at Ravencroft Park where it is laid out as it was originally meant to be displayed. It was moved in December 2017 and works to repair the damage and grafitti has now been completed.

Planning permission granted for new town hall

  •  New town hall to be located in Whitechapel
  • Grade II listed former Royal London Hospital building being brought back into use

Planning permission has been granted for Tower Hamlets Council to turn one of the borough’s most historic buildings into a new town hall.

The Grade II listed former Royal London Hospital building, located in Whitechapel, will be home to an ambitious new council building, with services for residents, a library, café and public spaces all under one roof.

The council’s Strategic Development Committee voted overwhelmingly in support of the scheme when it met last week (28 February). The decision is subject to approval by the Mayor of London over the coming weeks.

The 18th century building has a special place in the hearts of many Tower Hamlets residents as it was used as a maternity hospital for much of the 20th century. It has been vacant for several years.

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs said: “This is a key milestone in delivering our new town hall, which will be a landmark building.

“By bringing the council together with our partners, like healthcare and housing, it will be somewhere where residents can access a range of public services in one place.

“We also want to encourage local people to feel this is a building for them to use.

“And compared to other options it demonstrates the best value for money. We want a town hall that is worthy of the name but will press down on costs.”

The estimated total cost of the new town hall is £105m which will be better value for money compared to current arrangements.

It will save the £5m a year it currently spends to rent its current accommodation at Mulberry Place. In addition, an estimated £78m will be recouped from the sale of old council buildings that will no longer be needed once staff have moved into the new town hall. Those redundant sites could be used to provide much needed new housing.

Construction of the ambitious new town hall, designed by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, will start later this year, with an expected completion date in 2022.

As well as public spaces on the ground floor, the new building will provide open plan office accommodation for council staff and partner organisations and a council chamber and meeting rooms.

There are also plans for a library, cafe and customer service facilities for residents and visitors.

The new design will retain and restore the Georgian façade of the original hospital building, which dates back to 1757.

The Civic Centre will be in the most accessible part of Tower Hamlets. Situated next to the new transport hub in Whitechapel, it will be served by four different train and tube lines including Crossrail, along with bus and cycle routes.

Associate Sam Scott of architects AHMM said: “Achieving planning consent for this exciting proposal is an important milestone for such a sensitive and complex project.  AHMM and Tower Hamlets Council have engaged extensively with the public and amenity societies to conserve the character of a building which occupies such a significant place in the collective memory of the East End.”

Mayor John Biggs backs Fairtrade Fortnight

Over 30 people attended the event at Care House in Whitechapel on Saturday 3rd March. The free event was supported by Darul Ummah Mosque, E1 Community Church, St Mary’s Church, St George’s in the East, Salvation Army Stepney, St Paul’s Shadwell, local co-operatives and Tower Hamlets Council. It brought people together over Fairtrade food to discuss how to promote Fairtrade products and tackle other environmental and social justice issues.Mayor John Biggs attended a Fairtrade breakfast event aimed at encouraging Tower Hamlets residents and businesses to back Fairtrade Fortnight in the borough.

Fairtrade Fortnight is 26th February 2018 to 11th March 2018. This year, it focuses on supporting farmers and workers who produce food.

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said:

“I’m proud of the fact we are a Fairtrade borough, . We will continue to  work with our community and businesses to support Fairtrade in Tower Hamlets.”

In 2017, Tower Hamlets became the first local authority to affiliate with Electronics Watch so that we can make sure working conditions in our supply chain are safe, workers are treated with respect and dignity, and manufacturing processes are environmentally responsible.

Fairtrade is about making sure that farmers and workers get a fair deal with prices and with decent working conditions. The Fairtrade logo means that the Fairtrade ingredients in the product have been produced by small scale farmer organisations or plantations that meet Fairtrade social, economic and environmental standards.
The whole community can get involved by choosing to buy Fairtrade. There are over 4,500 Fairtrade products from coffee and tea to flowers, chocolate, bananas, beauty products and much more.

The council’s commitment to Fairtrade is highlighted through tender and contract processes in relation food, drink, uniform and IT equipment related to Fairtrade conditions.

The cafes at the Town Hall and the Professional Development Centre also stock a variety of Fairtrade products.

Councillor David Edgar, Cabinet member for resources said:

“We know that local faith groups, organisations and residents are playing their part in promoting Fairtrade. At the council, we’ve been working to make sure that we embrace Fairtrade and other forms of ethical procurement wherever possible. We want to make sure that our suppliers are working with businesses that treat people well.’’

Cracking the nut of illegal trading


  • Illegal traders, linked to organised crime, closed down in Tower Hamlets  
  • Food, thought to be bird seed and sold as caramelised nuts, was cooked using electricity illegally sourced from a nearby car repair shop 
  • Pollution from the illegal traders could be affecting the brickwork of Grade I and II listed bridges in London

A lock-up being used to store nuts sold by illegal street traders was closed on 7 March by Tower Hamlets Council in collaboration with Network Rail, amid concerns the occupiers supported organised criminal activity, failed to give workers the minimum wage or employment rights and failed to comply with reasonable health and safety standards.
Tower Hamlets Council Enforcement Officers detected the smell of nuts being cooked in a man- made, poorly constructed lock up inside railways arches of a lock-up in Mill Yard, E1, (near the Royal Mint).
The council began enforcement work against the occupiers when it was found that electricity to cook the nuts on Network Rail’s premises was being taken from a nearby car repair shop, authorised traders and local residents were complaining about pollution and waste, and it is thought the ‘nuts’ were actually for the consumption of birds.

The activities of peanut sellers in London are increasingly being looked at by council and police forces because traders could be victims of exploitation or trafficking.

City Police report that “peanut” traders can be taken to court in the morning, get a fine, have their nut trolley confiscated and they can be back trading in the afternoon, so enforcement activity against individual traders on the street has limited success.

There are also concerns that gas cylinders, used to keep the peanuts warm, are not being looked after properly, and could pose a risk of fire to the public.

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets said: “We want to ensure our residents and visitors to London are protected from the illegal trading activities of people who care more about making money, than the impact they are having on vulnerable people who can be forced to work in poor conditions, local people who face the waste from their activities and the heritage of our built environment.

“The scale of this issue is on the rise, and we are doing all we can to clamp down on it. We will continue to work in partnership to resolve the bigger issues that are plaguing London, including modern day slavery and people trafficking.”

Councillor Asma Begum, Cabinet Member for Community Safety added: “We fully support legal food traders who contribute to the capital by bringing an array of wonderful foods to residents and visitors. However, there are some illegal traders who are putting people at risk of food poisoning by their activities and could be preying on vulnerable people who are just trying to earn a living. This has serious consequences and we are working hard to resolve them.”

A partnership of councils and police from Tower Hamlets, Southwark and City of London, are now considering the best legal approach to tackle the problem of illegal trading in the capital.
The team are focussed on protecting the historical heritage of bridges along the Thames, many of which are Grade I or II listed, from the pollution caused by illegal traders.  The work also protects residents from hygiene issues associated with the street selling trade, and more vulnerable people from being exploited in the process as they try to make a living.

Tower Hamlets Council’s enforcement officers supported bailiffs  to confiscate containers, a nut trolley and a box of neon light sabres used for unlicensed street trading.
Ongoing work to clamp down on illegal traders continues. The illegal structure where the nuts were cooked will be pulled down and removed in the next two weeks.

Tower Hamlets Council marks International Women’s Day

Tower Hamlets is very proud of its long history of ground-breaking women, and on International Women’s Day has focused its attention on the amazing roles that women have played and will play in our borough. 

130 years ago, a strike at the Bryant & May match making factory that was led by the women in the factory marked the first decisive chapter of this history – and striking an important first step to address gender inequality. Nearly 30 years later, Sylvia Pankhurst and the East London Federation of Suffragettes used Tower Hamlets as a base: calling for universal suffrage and campaigning for the rights of workers and improved conditions for the poor. Its newspaper, the Woman’s Dreadnought, was first published and circulated in the streets around Bow and Bethnal Green on 8 March 1914 – a date that is now celebrated as International Women’s Day.

Since then, numerous women have played equally vital roles in shaping the future of their community. These include Mary James and Hannah Billig (both awarded honours for their work supporting those in need) in the 1930s and 1940s, Mala Sen, who set up the Bengali Housing Action Group helping to establish Brick Lane as a safe living area for the Bangladeshi community in the 1960s and 1970s, the first female Mayor of the borough Eva Armsby (elected in 1979) – and Julie Begum and Women Unite Against Racism in the early 1990s, who founded a female counter-racist action group.

With such a rich history of women in the borough, Tower Hamlets has also highlighted its many resources and support materials for its current female residents with a day-long event at Rich Mix. Here, a one-stop information zone focussed on the range of activities offered specifically to support and empower women in relation to employment rights and apprenticeships, to advice and help on health, childcare, money and language courses.

The story of influential women in Tower Hamlets was also the focus at the borough’s Staff Conference held today – with the inspirational Lorraine Flanagan, Headteacher of Thomas Buxton Primary School in Bethnal Green speaking on the history of women in the borough, and drawing a parallel with own journey from her early career in Scotland working on Oil rigs to leading a successful school in the Borough.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs addressed the staff conference. He said: “This year’s theme ‘Press for Progress’ illustrates how important it is that we back up our anger and words with action. Not just for gender equality but for a more equal society in all ways. That goal is something I hold dear, and I know people across Tower Hamlets do too. That’s why I want our council to hold regular Gender Pay Audits to ensure that, as an employer, we are leading the way in tackling conscious and unconscious bias and ensure we are driving forward gender equality across both our council and community’’

Tower Hamlets held its staff conference, a chance to recognise the values of the council in our employees. The session was heavily favoured by International Women’s Day and a panel of leading women from inside and outside the council including a young banking executive from Clifford Chance and Alice Williams, Founder & Project Manager of Luminary Bakery –  a social enterprise that helps women find work and opportunity and Leonie Campbell King, Associate at Clifford Chance Law debated the changes and challenges for women today.

The council has never had so many women at the most senior levels of management in the council.  There are currently five members of the Corporate Leadership Team (out of 6) and half the Councils Cabinet of ten members are women. While it was acknowledged that there is still a way to go for women toenjoy proper parity and equality in the workplace the Council has a good base from which to work

As the boroughs ‘Big Clean Up 3’ campaign comes to a close also, today was the perfect day for a select group of volunteers to hit the streets around Roman Road – the area in which Pankhurst and the Suffragettes first sold the Woman’s Dreadnought – and clear them of litter.

Celebrations of the amazing history of the borough continue throughout March. The Borough has partnered with Alternative Arts  – with support from the heritage lottery fund – to present a diverse range of events, talks and exhibitions across the borough celebrating the beginnings of universal suffrage, and the vital role that women play in our community today in one of the epicentres of the initial struggle. Later in the year, Tower Hamlet’s Local History Library and Archive will also provide interactive exhibitions, photography displays and market stalls that bring to life the pioneering work of the ELFS. This includes a recreation of ‘Women’s Hall’ – the HQ of the ELFS – where you can see original materials from a pivotal point in our history which opens from 29 May to 20 October.

With much still to do in society at large, Tower Hamlets looks forward to playing as pivotal a role in the future as it has in the past.


Mayor marks National Apprenticeship Week as his Apprenticeship Commitment passes 150 mark


The Mayor of Tower Hamlets has marked National Apprenticeship Week with a visit to Europe’s largest city farm.

Mudchute Farm and Park on the Isle of Dogs is not only home to a number of rare animal breeds, it is also a recipient of council funding for three new apprenticeships.
The money comes from Section 106 contributions, the term used for money obtained from developers to guarantee that large scale construction projects also benefit the local community.

In 2015, the council agreed a 17 year deal with the East End Community Foundation worth £993,284.

The EECF has decided to use the money to fund projects across the borough including an apprenticeship programme at Mudchute.

So far the welcome financial boost has seen the farm create an additional three new apprenticeships.

An apprentice from year one has been employed for a second year and two new apprentices have been recruited. The three staff, aged between 19 and 21, are currently working within finance, childcare and animal care.

All three are completing NVQ training alongside their day to day roles as they progress towards formal qualifications.

During his visit on Tuesday, Mayor John Biggs met with two of the new apprentices.

Tanjima Khanam, from Poplar, is based in the main office at Mudchute where she deals with the organisation’s accounts.

The 21-year-old was already a volunteer at the farm when the apprenticeship opportunity came up. She jumped at the chance to apply.

“It’s been quite a journey to get here but I’m really pleased with where I am now,” she said. “I want to stay here for as long as possible.”

While Tanjima’s job involves sitting at a desk for much of the day, 19-year-old Louie Legon has a very different experience.

The animal care apprentice can be found outside in all elements.

“Ever since a young age I’ve always wanted to work with animals,” said Louie.

“Originally I wanted to be a zookeeper but then I discovered the city farm.

“It’s very practical – I get assessed on my skills every couple of months and I’m learning something new every day. I really feel like part of the team.”
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “I’ve committed through my Mayoral Apprenticeship programme to broker 1,000 new apprenticeships. We have record employment in the borough and I want our young people to be able to share in these benefits through access to decent jobs.

“I am proud that fantastic community organisations like the East End Community Foundation are delivering apprenticeships from the proceeds of growth. During my visit to Mudchute I saw first-hand what a transformative and positive impact the new apprenticeship places are having on these hard-working young people.”

Cllr Joshua Peck, Cabinet Member for Work and Economic Growth, said: “By putting developers’ money to good use in the community, we have been able to ensure these three young people have a positive future ahead of them at Mudchute.

“The Mayor’s Apprenticeship Commitment has already led to more than 150 new opportunities being created while our WorkPath programme has helped 2,600 people into training and employment since its launch a year ago.

“Later this month we will launch Young WorkPath, a first-of-its-kind service dedicated to helping 16 to 24 year olds get onto the career ladder.

“Our commitment to making sure Tower Hamlets residents are supported at every stage of their employment journey is unwavering.”



Tower Hamlets’ Big Clean Up 3 hailed a success


Tower Hamlets’ third week-long clean has been hailed a success with increased numbers of partners, clean ups and amounts of litter collected by energised volunteers.

The Big Clean Up 3 (which took place between 5 and 9 March built on the previous two Clean Up weeks with 50 large sacks (a 30% increase from Big Clean Up 2) of litter collected and partnerships with eight organisations who brought volunteers to show some love for their neighbourhood.

Nine areas received some extra love and attention from council staff and volunteers during the week, from Manilla St in E14 to Whitechapel High Street, Roman Road, and Mile End Park.

The Council organised the events for #TheBigCleanUp (providing equipment, collection of rubbish bags and promoting local events) and worked with volunteers and partners including: The GoodGym, The Canary Wharf Group, The Shipowners’ Club, The London Islamic School, Queen Mary University Students’ Union, The Aldgate Partnership, Tower Hamlets Homes and the council’s waste contractor, Veolia.

The Big Clean Up is part of the Council’s ‘Love Your Neighbourhood campaign’, which aims to work with local people to improve the areas where they live.

Edward Field, Partnership Manager at GoodGym – whose Tower Hamlets branch helped kick the week off with 12 joggers and two other volunteers tackling rubbish on Whitechapel High Street on Monday night – said:

“Combining regular exercise with making a difference to the neighbourhood is central to how Good Gyms works, and being able to make such a visible difference to the streets of Tower Hamlets was a pleasure. Hopefully events like The Big Clean Up will persuade everyone to put a little extra effort into loving the neighbourhood”.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said: “I’m very pleased that the Big Clean Up events have taken place throughout the borough and forged new collaborations between organisations. Littering is committed by only a few but blights our entire community, so it is great to see the enthusiasm with which people come together to make a positive difference to Tower Hamlets.”

Lead member for Strategic Development, Councillor Rachel Blake added: “It’s great to see volunteers and partners come together once again for the latest Big Clean Up.The reception by local communities and participants has been incredibly positive – showing how the Council is working with local partners to keep our streets clean.”



Responsible Tower Hamlets businesses celebrated in Best Bar None awards

LBTH Best Bar None Awards 2018, Tower Hotel – 12Mar18


The Best Bar None (BBN) Award winners for Tower Hamlets in 2018 were announced last night in a ceremony at The Tower Hotel, St Katherine’s Way, London.

27 pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels across Tower Hamlets entered this year’s awards – marking them out not only as fun places to be but also leading examples of the night-time economy and responsible practice within the borough.

All have taken practical steps to reduce alcohol induced crime and anti-social behaviour, and ensured the safety of patrons and the surrounding area, by:


  • Keeping up to date drug policies which also include psychoactive substances known as legal highs
  • Using CCTV for improved security
  • Having a dispersal policy to ensure people leave safely, towards the best transport hub and away from residential areas.

Steps like these also create a harmonious relationship between the venue, local businesses and residents. The BBN Awards is a national scheme supported by the Home Office and is designed to promote the responsible management and operation of premises which are licensed to serve alcohol. Venues that qualify can then use a Best Bar None logo as a sign of quality and assurance.Businesses that qualify for a BBN award also become eligible for a 30% levy reduction in the borough for being members of a business-led best practice scheme.

Bradley Lomas of the East London Pub Company (one of the 27 businesses to be nominated) comments: “The BBN scheme is fantastic in pointing out the key principles of operating a successful but safe business that works for everybody. Operating in the hospitality industry comes with many challenges; so the BBN awards are a platform that can help achieve greater understanding on how to tackle and resolve these challenges.”

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said: “The range of bars, restaurants, pubs, hotels and other nightlife is a key part the thriving community in our borough. However, ensuring the safety of our residents and visitors is a priority – and these awards recognise those businesses that have set a new standard. It’s great that we have so many businesses in our borough achieving these new high-standards and we would like to see more businesses join them.”

Lead Member for Community Safety, Councillor Asma Begum said:

“The BBN awards are a great way of promoting safety – not only of guests and customers, but of neighbourhoods and the local community. It’s great to see business owners in Tower Hamlets promote knowledge and understanding of running a safe operation, while giving residents and customers reassurance that they take key issues seriously.”

Investment to upgrade Bethnal Green Library

Significant upgrades including new roof, lift installation and new windows. 

The restoration of one of the borough’s much loved libraries has taken a significant step forward, following major investment in libraries and Idea Stores, as part of this year’s council budget proposed by Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs.

Residents can look forward to better facilities at Bethnal Green Library where essential works are underway.

Mayor John Biggs visited the grade II listed building in Cambridge Heath Road to view progress of the work to bring the building up to date while maintaining its character and restoring original features.

The library will have a new roof, refurbished windows and a lift to enable access to the first floor. It will be closed temporarily until 2 April 2018.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said: “Bethnal Green Library is an amazing building. For almost a century, it has given people the joy of literature, and of expanding knowledge, but it has been neglected. I am absolutely committed to retaining an excellent local library in Bethnal Green and this work will help secure that.

“Due to our investment, the building will be brought up to date, providing improved access, while retaining its unique charm and historical features.”

From 3 April, the library building will be partially open, however access to key areas such as the children’s library will be maintained, ensuring the service is open.

The intention is for the works to be completed and full access to the building to be restored by the end of May 2018.

The budget for 2018/19 helps protect services for residents who need them most, including libraries and Idea Stores.

The latest investment of just over £600,000 will complete the original works, which began in 2015.

Cllr David Edgar cabinet member for resources added: “Bethnal Green Library is a stunning building that has been at the heart of the community for so long. It’s great to see that it will be restored for the benefit of everyone.”