Spitalfields could soon have its own town council after 107 years
- Credit: Mike Brooke
A study begins next month to set up one of London’s first town councils which would cover Spitalfields and the area around Petticoat Lane, bringing “parish politics” back after more than a century.
It would govern a large swathe of London’s East End right up to the City itself, running from Aldgate in the west to Whitechapel in the east and along Commercial Street up to Shoreditch.
The study was agreed at last night’s Tower Hamlets cabinet meeting following a petition by 300 households calling for a community governance review under the 2010 Localism Act.
The petition was organised by the Spitalfields Planning Forum which the council recognised in 2016 as a formal representative neighbourhood body.
Its secretary James Frankcom addressed the cabinet following a meeting the forum had with the council on Monday.
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“There is a real sense of civic pride in Spitalfields,” he told the East London Advertiser.
“We have issues beyond planning such as local funds that need to be spent on the area which is generated by all the developments spreading from the City.
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“Having a locally-elected accountable town council would be a fair way of determining how that money is spent. It would provide a democratic neighbourhood infrastructure to encourage more investment and improve the area as a place to work and live.”
A community governance review under the Local Government Act is automatically triggered by a validated petition, which has to be done within a year. The Spitalfields review gets under way by October 8.
Forum members have been burning the midnight oil to get everything ready to submit any evidence when the review starts.
“Our interest is creating a meaningful but small town council to address long-term problems Spitalfields has,” Frankcom explains.
“This is a unique area, with the City on its doorstep. It has unique pressures of a night-time economy and anti-social behaviour on our streets. Families living here feel beleaguered by encroachment from developers spreading out from the City. So we want greater representation and attention to the area.”
Spitalfields was once a self-governing civil parish set up in 1729 which lasted until it was absorbed into the Metropolitan Borough of Stepney in 1911, which itself was merged into the new London Borough of Tower Hamlets in 1965.
But its heritage goes back centuries before 1729. The name Spitalfields comes from St Mary Spital, a Middle English shortened form of ‘hospital’, or ‘spittle’. It appears as ‘Spittellond’ in 1399 and as ‘Spitel Fyeld’ on the 1561 map of London and also as ‘Spyttlefeildes’.
The land belonged to St Mary Spital, a priory or lodging for travellers run by a religious order, built in 1197. A field next to the priory is where Petticoat Lane market first started in the 13th century.