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'Spitalfields town council' idea gets 61 per cent 'yes' vote in Tower Hamlets poll

PUBLISHED: 14:00 08 April 2019 | UPDATED: 14:12 09 April 2019

Petticoat Lane in its heyday... boundary of Spitalfields town council could include this famous Sunday street market. Picture source: Lesley Love

Petticoat Lane in its heyday... boundary of Spitalfields town council could include this famous Sunday street market. Picture source: Lesley Love

Lesley Love

Six out of 10 households in Spitalfields want their own town council which could include a say in running the famous Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane Sunday street markets.

Proposed boundary of Spitalfields town council. Picture source: Jame FrankcomProposed boundary of Spitalfields town council. Picture source: Jame Frankcom

Campaigners have won the first round in the online public consultation by Tower Hamlets Council with 61 per cent in favour of the idea of a Spitalfields & Banglatown neighbourhood authority, after more than a century.

But the move could face opposition from some borough councillors bucking the trend for a return to localism.

“This amazing result means the next stage of public consultation has to include an option to create a new civil parish,” the campaign’s founder David Donoghue said.

“Now we have a chance to get real change in local democracy.”

FOR... Town council campaigners David Donoghue (right) and James Frankcom testing opinion in Brick Lane. Picture: Mike BrookeFOR... Town council campaigners David Donoghue (right) and James Frankcom testing opinion in Brick Lane. Picture: Mike Brooke

Donoghue headed the successful campaign in 2017 to stop the “forest of skyscrapers” plans for the 11-acre Bishopsgate goodsyard scheme.

Spitalfields would be only the second town council in Greater London, if households want it in the next stage of public consultation.

The town council idea has had a rough passage so far, with opposition from some Tower Hamlets councillors like John Pierce, London Assembly’s Unmesh Desai and even Spitalfields parish rector Andy Ryder, all speaking against at a public meeting at the Habury Hall in November, despite all the political parties supporting the concept.

The last time Spitalfields made its own parish decisions was before 1911, when local vestries and boards of works were finally abolished and merged into the new Metropolitan boroughs set up 11 years before. Spitalfields and Whitechapel were taken over by Stepney borough. More centralisation came in 1965 with Greater London’s creation when Stepney itself was incorporated into the new Tower Hamlets, along with Bethnal Green and Poplar.

AGAINST... Tower Hamlets Cllr John Pearce (left) and London Assembly's Unmesh Desai both said 'no' to town council idea at Spitalfields public meeting in November 2018. Picture: Mike BrookeAGAINST... Tower Hamlets Cllr John Pearce (left) and London Assembly's Unmesh Desai both said 'no' to town council idea at Spitalfields public meeting in November 2018. Picture: Mike Brooke

But the need to return to more local representation has grown since, spurred on by the 2010 Localism Act which lead to area planning forums being set up like Spitalfields and the Isle of Dogs, both recognised by Tower Hamlets last year.

Out of the Spitalfields forum emerged the campaign for a town council for parish issues like street lighting, cleansing, recycling, green spaces and having consultation rights on planning and licensing issues, first revealed in the East London Advertiser in December 2016.

It would have a say on how street markets like Brick Lane and Petticoat Lane are managed and would support events like the Brick Lane Curry Festival and any street parties.

But a parish council would not decide final planning and licensing applications, nor education, apprenticeship training, housing, policing, rubbish collections and welfare which would still fall to Tower Hamlets.

Town council public consultations

• Tuesday April 9, Sunley House, Toynbee Hall, 28 Commercial Street, 3.30-7pm

• Tuesday April 30, Kobi Nazrul Centre, 30 Hanbury Street, 11am and 2.30pm

• Wednesday May 1, St Hilda’s Community Centre, 18 Club Row, 4-7.30pm

• Saturday May 11, Brady Arts Centre, 192-96 Hanbury Street, 10am-2.30pm

Town councils are run by independent members putting community before party-politics who don’t need to be members of outside political bodies to stand a chance of election, its proponents point out.

The proposed Spitalfields boundary runs west to Petticoat Lane and Norton Folgate, east to Deal Street and Greatorex Street, north to the edge of the Bishopgate goodsyard site and south to Wentworth Street, although the final line is yet to be determined.

Four public consultation meetings are being held by Tower Hamlets Council over the next six weeks, the first tomorrow at Sunley House in the Toynbee Hall Settlement from 3.30 to 7pm.

The town council campaign is supported by the Spitalfields Society and the Spitalfields Community Group.

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