The Mayor

About me

John Biggs, Mayor, Tower Hamlets, homepageI am proud to be the Mayor of Tower Hamlets. It is a place close to my heart. I live and work here and have strong ties to both the area and the council. I was first elected in Wapping in 1998 and I’ve been a representative of the borough ever since.

As Mayor, my focus is on improving the lives of local people by ensuring that the council, and its partners, provide the best possible services.

We face some difficult decisions in the next few years as local government continues to deal with funding cuts.

I want to see the council working with our public sector partners, local businesses and the community to tackle the issues that face us. Celebration of, and respect for, diversity, collaboration and empowerment will all be key elements of my tenure as Mayor.

Together, I want us to build a better future for everyone in our borough.

My priorities

I will ensure that, as a council, we are well placed to deal with the massive rates of change we face, which will come in the form of budget pressures and our growing population.

I have committed to building council homes to give local families the decent, affordable homes they desperately need. Too many people have been squeezed out of the borough by the unaffordability of housing.

And alongside that, helping people to secure employment and improve their household incomes will also make life easier. I will bring new jobs to Tower Hamlets and expand the opportunities for work experience, volunteering and mentoring. I have committed to developing a new Mayor’s Apprenticeship scheme to give young people in Tower Hamlets access to the very best jobs and training on their doorstep.

The population is growing fast and Tower Hamlets is a great place to live. But we can do more to make it even better – I want to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour and further improve the quality of the environment, street cleaning and public amenities.

Together with my Cabinet and senior officer management team I will provide strong leadership and direction.

I promise to be open and accountable. I am committed to the council becoming more transparent and ensuring that you, the residents, have better access to us and our decisions.

View details of council meetings you welcome to attend.

I will also be holding question time meetings around the borough (details to follow) and I will hold regular surgeries where you can raise any issues or concerns.

I want to hear from you and I promise I will answer your questions.

You can contact me by email via my enquiry form or call my office on 020 7364 4993. You can also follow me @mayorjohnbiggs on Twitter at

John Biggs

Executive Mayor of Tower Hamlets

July 2015

Full council

Find out what I had to say on the state of the borough at full council (Wednesday 18 May 2016).

Mayoral assemblies

I held the first Mayoral Assembly at Swanlea School on 21 January.

Residents, business owners and voluntary sector partners attended to feedback ideas and concerns about the Whitechapel Vision, work being done to create jobs for local people, support for businesses and local anti-social behaviour issues.

Due to time constraints, these are the questions that couldn't get answered on the night. You will find answers to these below:

Whitechapel vision

Q. How do you propose to make the best out of a fantastic opportunity to improve Whitechapel Market as part of the vision?

A. The council is currently developing new Markets and Street Trading Strategy 2016-2021, which will include a Business Improvement and Investment Plan (BiiP) for each of our eight main street markets, including Whitechapel.

Traders will be fully consulted on the strategy in March 2016 and it will be in place from April 2016. Each market BiiP will be trader-led, which is a fantastic opportunity for the traders to have a strong voice on what improvements and investment take place on their market.

Market services now have a commercial project officer who is working with traders and the Whitechapel Vision team to ensure the fantastic opportunities that will become available as part of the vision works are realised within Whitechapel street market.

Q. Whitechapel has some of the highest air pollution levels in London, affecting residents’ health and wellbeing. How can the vision improve air pollution?

A. We have commissioned a draft Whitechapel Public Realm and Open Space Study to help improve the environment of Whitechapel town centre, especially Whitechapel Road. 

There are ambitious plans to transform the road into a much more pedestrian friendly environment and reduce vehicular traffic, cutting levels of pollution. 

There are on-going discussions with Transport for London (TfL) to help improve the conditions of health and wellbeing through these improvements. The introduction of Cycle Super Highway 2 has begun to change the environment creating more sustainable modes of travel and the council is committed to continuing this work.

Q. The old Royal London Hospital building on Whitechapel High Street has a vast basement space. Is it possible to create an inviting indoor market with strict rules on presentation, hygiene, etc? This could also attract various specialised food vendors / delicatessens / cafés, so that the whole project could be in direct competition with various popular outdoor London markets. People would travel from all over London to visit it with the added advantage of having the tube station and various bus routes so near.

A. Although there are currently no plans for an indoor market at Whitechapel as we are investing in the street market, it is an idea that can be explored further as part of the Whitechapel vision but not within the hospital site.

Q. Crossrail have re-opened a new entrance at Whitechapel station to make way for the advancement of the redevelopment. Much as we all welcome these changes, there are serious accessibility problems for people coming into the borough. Can anything be done to address this?

A.  Accessibility to public transport is a key priority for the borough. When the new station opens at the end of 2018, all lines will all share a concourse, ticket hall, gateline and station operations room, leading to a fully integrated station that provides step-free interchange between the Crossrail, Hammersmith and City, District and Overground lines. In the meantime, the temporary ticket hall that recently opened is accessible to wheelchair users, carers with buggies and those carrying wheeled luggage.

Jobs, employment and local business

Q. What are your policies to support young people from low income families in employment or financial support at college/university? 

A. The new markets and street trading strategy 2016-2012 has a specific action to create young entrepreneur opportunities on street markets and to work in partnership with our employment service, colleges and universities to support young people into employment.

Community safety, cleaning and tackling anti-social behaviour

Q. What is being done to stop anti-social behaviour on estates?

A. Although reported crime and anti-social behaviour (ASB) is falling year-on-year we know that is a high priority for residents within the borough.

We work hard with our partners such as the police and social landlords to tackle anti-social behaviour. We also work to improve estates by creating safer spaces so that ASB can be prevented before it happens. Our CCTV system provides footage on all major routes.

We support victims and witnesses of ASB and carry out enforcement when necessary. The council has uniformed accredited THEOs that target ASB hot-spots as well as an ASB team and Detached Youth Workers who engage with individuals to moderate poor behaviour.

We urge all residents to report ASB using the non-emergency reporting line 101 to ensure we respond to ASB incidents when they are happening.

Q. What is being done for young people so that they don’t get involved in anti-social behaviour?

A. Our detached youth workers and rapid response teams engage with young people on the street and in estates to signpost them to more positive options and to educate them on the effect of their behaviour on the community.

Q. Bars and pubs cause anti-social behaviour. Shouldn’t they be made to take responsibility for it?

Bars and pubs must have a licence under the Licensing Act 2003, which sets out strict conditions on the licence holder to control public nuisance. These conditions are specific to each premises/circumstances.

In addition the council runs a Best Bar None scheme to encourage standards to be raised in bars. The council is also preparing a late night levy consultation, to see if there is public support for a levy to be paid for premises that open past midnight. Funds raised would assist with more enforcement in licensed premises.


Q. Considering the recognition of the need for more housing, should council planners refuse MANSARD roof extensions in conservation areas, particularly when basement extensions are allowed?

The council recognises the need for more affordable homes and the need for more family homes in the borough. We have been proactive in delivering these through the Development Management process and the Local Plan is also being updated to address future needs. 

However, planning applications in conservation areas are subject to some specific considerations because they include buildings / areas with special architectural or historic interest, which the council has a legal duty to protect the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of that area as set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act.

Under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) conservation areas are designated heritage assets and their conservation is to be given great weight in planning permission decisions. The Local Plan has clear policies for managing heritage assets in the borough, including conservation area character appraisals and management plans (for all the 58 conservation areas in the borough) that officers have to take into consideration when making decisions on planning applications.

Whilst a mansard roof extension may be acceptable on some properties in some conservation areas, it may not be suitable in other areas due to its detrimental impact on the character and appearance of the conservation area.  Applications have to be considered on a case by case basis taking into account all the various planning considerations including when located within a conservation area the special character and appearance of that particular conservation area.

Officers are not able to support planning applications for mansard roof extensions where it is considered that the proposals will have a detrimental impact on a designated heritage asset. 

Basement extensions carried out within the foot print of the existing dwelling unit are covered by Permitted Development rights and therefore does not require planning permission. (Roof extensions are not covered by Permitted Development.) 

Under Permitted Development there is more scope for extensions for basements than for roof extensions including mansard roofs in conservation areas.  Basement extensions are also less visually prominent than roof extensions and have fewer amenity impacts on neighbours. However, basement extensions within conservation areas extending beyond the existing foot print of the dwelling unit or involving alterations to the front of the building still require planning permission and all design and heritage policies in the local plan will apply.

Q. What support is there for residents who want a MANSARD roof extension?

To help residents who want to extend their homes, the council has prepared some guidance for mansard roof extensions in Conservation Areas. The guidance sets out design principles for mansard roof extensions and serves as a good practice guide for mansard roof extensions more generally across the borough.

The information has been subject to public consultation for feedback on it and will be updated to reflect comments from residents. It will then be published on the council’s website in the coming months.

Whilst the guidance note sets out standards of good design for mansard roof extensions, this does not mean that mansard roofs are acceptable in principle in conservation areas across the borough. Applications must be considered on a case by case basis taking into account the impact upon the special character and appearance of the conservation area as well as other planning considerations.