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Tower Hamlets mayor: Boris Johnson treated borough like 'dormitory to fill'

John biggs portrait
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Tower Hamlets’ mayor, John Biggs, has criticised former London Mayor Boris Johnson for allowing too many homes to be built in the east London borough without thinking about the long-term consequences

Biggs, a former Labour London Assembly Member was speaking at an event earlier this week (10 October) where he outlined his vision for housing. The Tower Hamlets mayor slammed Boris Johnson for viewing the borough like ‘a dormitory to fill’ with new development.

He said: ’The answer to the challenge is not just to build as many homes that we can pack into the borough; that was the message of the last mayoral administration.

’Johnson and City Hall saw Tower Hamlets, particularly the Isle of Dogs, more like a dormitory to fill with housing, [to] squeeze in as many as possible without really managing the consequences.

‘We are now reaping the consequences of those [decisions] in terms of congested transport, in terms of people feeling that the development has run haphazardly [and that ] hasn’t provided the infrastructure they need.’

He added: ‘Repeatedly Johnson overruled local decisions and he approved developments, which were too dense for local services.’

However Biggs praised the new direction under current London Labour mayor Sadiq Khan.

He said: ’I’m pleased to see that [current London mayor] Sadiq is making a step in the other direction. For example, in listening to our concerns about the oversized development at Bishopsgate and the problems that caused.’

Biggs added that, while he was concerned about building and ‘not thinking of the consequences’, the council are ’not becoming NIMBYs’ and welcome development in the borough. 

In addition, Biggs discussed PLP Architecture’s £900 million Bishopsgate Goodsyard development, which was indefinitely postponed to address the concerns raised by Greater London Authority planning officers in April.

Up until that decision, Johnson had approved every scheme he had been asked to rule on. 

Biggs said: ’It’s pretty evident that the scheme that was withdrawn is probably not buildable in its current form.’

He added: ’We want to have a conversation with Hackney and with City Hall about what we think is a good development for that site. It’s laid empty for far too long; it does provide a real opportunity for development for housing, for other needs, for employment uses.

’So [there is] enormous potential there and there must be the possibility of getting it right in the near future.’

A spokesperson from project backers Hammerson and Ballymore commented: ’We are actively working with the mayor of London Sadiq Khan and his team to progress the planning application for the Goodsyard.

’We will now look at all of the points of concern raised by the GLA’s planners and remain committed to reaching a positive conclusion to regenerate this site which has lain derelict for more than 50 years.’

During the talk Biggs also outlined his target to build 1,000 new social homes and 2,000 ‘genuinely affordable’ new homes in the borough. 

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