Tower Hamlets is a borough of interest to many developers with a large number of planning applications in the pipeline. With one of the largest waiting lists for housing in the country, provision of affordable housing is a priority for the Council which currently has a Labour elected Mayor and a Council Chamber which is in no overall control. As we approach 3 May, Labour is in a strong position to gain control of the borough. They are likely to win seats from the handful of Conservative councillors in the south of the borough whilst the split Independents are at risk of losing ground in wards like Shadwell, Stepney Green and Spitalfields and Banglatown. However, not everything is going Labour’s way and several high-profile Labour councillors are standing down from their roles.
In Bethnal Green ward, Cllr Amy Whitelock Gibbs who is the Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services is standing down. Labour is fielding Eve McQuillan and Ahbab Hossain in the ward. McQuillan has spoken about the need for more affordable housing and the importance of ensuring that regeneration schemes benefit the whole community.
Cllr Dave Chesterton of Blackwall & Cubitt Town ward is Chair of the Council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee and is also retiring in May. Ehtashamul Haque who is pro-Corbyn and possibly linked with Momentum and Mohammed Iqbal Morshed Pappu are standing to replace Cllr Chesterton and challenge Deputy Leader of the Conservatives, Cllr Chris Chapman for his seat.
In Lansbury ward, Cllr Rajib Ahmed who is a former Deputy Mayor is not standing in May with Kahar Chowdhury standing to succeed him. Chowdhury is training as a solicitor and was opposed to the Chrisp St Market regeneration proposed by housing association Poplar HARCA when it went to committee on 15 February 2018. Cllr Shiria Khatun is also stepping down and is being replaced by Muhammed Harun who is also opposed to the Chrisp St Market regeneration and has spoken out against the development vehicle in Haringey.
Cllr Josh Peck who is Cabinet Member for Work & Economic Growth is standing down in Bow West ward and is being replaced by Val Whitehead who has lived in the ward for 24 years and regards provision of more affordable housing as a key issue.
In Mile End ward, Cllr Rachael Saunders who is a former Leader of the Labour Group and Chief Whip is not running again in May and is being replaced by Asma Islam who has spoken of wanting more affordable housing and of wanting to ensure residents get a fair deal from developers. Puru Miah is standing as a Momentum backed candidate to challenge the People’s Alliance of Tower Hamlets’ seat.
Cllr Clare Harrisson of St Peter’s ward who is Chair of the Council’s Pensions Committee and Health Scrutiny Sub-Committee is stepping down with Gabriela Salva to succeed her. Salva is a Momentum backed candidate who is Chair of the Tenants and Residents Association for the Wellington Estate where she lives. Salva has also spoken of her opposition to the Chrisp St Market regeneration.
It is clear that Momentum has made meaningful gains in Tower Hamlets with supported candidates being selected across the borough. With the pace of development in Tower Hamlets, it is top of the agenda with many candidates opposing the HARCA regeneration scheme. Of the new candidates some are sure to end up sitting on the Strategic Development Committee post-May and make their vocal opposition to regeneration schemes known.