Tower Hamlets is responsible for caring for its historic environment, its listed buildings and conservation areas, together with its open spaces and trees. It is involved in overseeing all its conservation areas and in promoting wider initiatives for a sustainable environment.

The council provides pre-application advice and determines planning applications which affect listed buildings, conservation areas, green spaces and tree preservation, ensuring there are no breaches of planning permission.

The council has the power to designate an area as a conservation area. These are areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance. Read about our conservation strategy.

Recent consultations

Driffield Road and Medway conservation areas consultation

This consultation represented the third phase of works to look at enabling a more permissive approach to mansard roofs within these two conservation areas, an approach which has received considerable local support. It followed a report to Cabinet on 6 December 2016 in which a detailed assessment of the potential implications for adopting a more permissive approach to mansard roof extensions concluded that adopting a more permissive approach to mansard roof extensions would have the potential to cause significant harm to the character and appearance of the two conservation areas, and that the only way that this could be justified was if there were to be sufficient public benefit arising from the approach to outweigh the harm caused. 

This consultation looked at the possibility of offering public benefits which might mitigate the harm caused by the development of mansard roofs. Possible façade enhancements, public realm improvements and measures for the delivery of these benefits were offered for consideration.

Cabinet will review the results of the consultation and consider the principle of mansard roof extensions in the Driffield Road and Medway conservation areas alongside  measures for mitigating harm 27 June 2017. In the meantime, applications for mansard roof extensions in the Driffield Road and Medway conservation areas will continue to be determined on their own merits in accordance with current planning policy.

View the 6 December 2016  Cabinet report and decision.

Details of this and other closed consultations can be viewed on the previous consultations page. 

New guidance

Clearer guidance about the possibility of roof and rear extensions for six of the boroughs conservation areas, Chapel House, Fairfield Road, Jesus Hospital, Tredegar Square, Victoria Park and York Square conservation areas, was adopted in July 2016.This followed careful consideration of the responses to consultation, the details of which can be found on the previous consultation page. You can view the updated conservation area character appraisals and management guidelines for these six areas.

Supporting this guidance, the council also prepared a guidance note for mansard roof extensions in conservation areas.

Planning applications for roof extensions in these areas will be determined on their own merit in accordance with the council’s current planning policies.

Conservation strategy

We consulted on ‘Tower Hamlets Draft Local Plan 2031: Managing Growth and Sharing the Benefits’ (Regulation 18) which set out a proposed vision, objectives and planning policies to positively plan and manage development in the borough up to 2031.  To support the Draft Local Plan we had updated our current Conservation Strategy.  The updated Conservation Strategy forms part of the Draft Local Plan Evidence Base.

This consultation  ran between 11 November 2016 and 2 January 2017.

The Draft Local Plan and supporting documents can be viewed and commented on our consultation portal.

Public consultation on draft Selection Criteria and nomination process

As part of the current public consultation process relating to the Draft Local Plan (including the draft Conservation Strategy), the Council has consulted on the draft Local List Selection Criteria and Nomination Process for additions to the Local List.

Tower Hamlets historic environment record and other useful sites

The council maintains an historic environment record providing access to information relating to the local historic environment. Information is currently held in the following planning records.

In addition, information is also held at the council's Local History Library and Archives. Access and opening hours for the library can be seen at the Local History Library and Archives. More information about the collections relating to the historic environment can be found on the Idea Store website.

The national amenity societies and other organisations also provide useful websites covering the historic environment. Each site contains information on the protection and care of old buildings and places.

Historic buildings and places at risk

English Heritage has been collecting data on historic buildings at risk for more than a decade, and publish a database for each local authority area including Grade I, II* and II listed buildings, scheduled monuments and conservation areas that are seen to be under threat. This is used as a pro-active tool to secure the repair of buildings by English Heritage, the council and others.

View the current Heritage at Risk register. The long-term trends have been positive for Tower Hamlets, with buildings coming off the register each year. In particular, the public attention created by the Heritage at Risk programme has been a major factor in allowing many to be taken off the list. 

For further information on heritage at risk in the borough or individual entries on the register, please call 020 7364 5009.

Historic building grants

Under Section 57 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, the council can make discretionary historic building grants towards the cost of repairs to local historic buildings. The council awards grant assistance to listed buildings in community ownership, buildings ‘at risk’ or where there is clear public benefit arising from the works. The annual budget is limited, and grants are awarded from April each year, until the funds are exhausted. If you would like further information on the Historic Building Grant Scheme please use the contact details below.

Conservation & Design Advisory Panel (CADAP)

The CADAP draws on the experience of a wide range of local volunteers who give independent specialist advice on conservation and design matters related to proposals for new buildings and places in the borough. Membership is made up of those with knowledge of the creation of  new buildings and places, including architecture, heritage, landscape, urban design, sustainability, regeneration and town planning. Design experts in disciplines such as access, public realm and the arts may also be represented on the panel.

The government’s new National Planning Policy Framework sets out in Section 62 that the council as a Local Planning Authority should have local design review arrangements in place to provide assessment and support to ensure high standards of design in new development.

Tower Hamlets Conservation and Design Advisory Panel has been running for over 30 years and works with the council’s planning officers and applicants seeking to develop in Tower Hamlets – to give independent advice on the planning of a wide range of new developments in the borough.

For more information about the panel please contact the Place Shaping Team at or call 020 7364 5373. You can also write to:

Tower Hamlets Conservation and Design Advisory Panel, Place Shaping Team
Directorate of Place
Mulberry Place
5 Clove Crescent
E14 2BG

Historic town centres

The council is working to improve town centres in partnership with other stakeholders. The Town Centres Spatial Strategy outlines this work and related priorities in local town centres.

Tower Hamlets Green Grid Strategy

The council has produced an innovative Green Grid Strategy to bring together a combination of spaces and routes to encourage people to walk, cycle and enjoy the local environment and to assist in tackling climate change, enhance biodiversity as well as promoting regeneration and healthy living. Our Green Grid Strategy  sets out how this will be delivered with the individual sites shown on our interactive maps page and our Aldgate Connections Study identifies improvements  to walking routes and open green spaces in the west of the borough.