John Biggs: Standing up for Brick Lane


John Biggs, Labour’s candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets, yesterday joined local residents and businesses in calling on Lutfur Rahman to come clean over his plans for Brick Lane.

In recent weeks many licensed restaurants on Brick Lane have been warned to stop serving food by a midnight curfew or face hefty fines of upwards of £20,000.

Lutfur Rahman’s administration has been issuing the curfew under the planning rules despite many restaurant owners having been issued a licence by the council to serve alcohol until 1 or 2am. 

Some businesses claim that they’ve been operating under their licence condition hours for 15 to 20 years and warn the move could force them out of business. There are also questions about whether the council has the right to take enforcement action under planning conditions if a business has been operating under its licence condition hours for over 10 years.  

One owner said: “I’m working, paying my taxes and providing jobs for other people. The restaurant has been open since the 1980s without problems – it’s just this letter that’s providing the problems”

At a press conference today, John Biggs, announced what he would do if elected Mayor of the borough in May and called on Lutfur Rahman to stop his ill thought out half measures and set out a proper plan for dealing with the problems on Brick Lane.

John Biggs said:

“Brick Lane and other local retail centres like Whitechapel are, or should be, the life blood of the borough and their success is critical to jobs and growth in Tower Hamlets and maintaining our reputation as a vibrant, attractive place to live.

“What we need is a coherent approach that would address the problems faced by business and residents. I will consult with local people and businesses and put together a well thought out action plan and strategy for Brick Lane, not just for the restaurant trade, but for the wider economy and local residents. This would address street sanitation, additional anti social behaviour measures and include a close look at the future survival of local businesses.

“Lutfur Rahman has shown little leadership in the area - his pedestrianisation initiative was a failure, he has faced both ways on the issue of touting and now he has made a knee jerk decision which threatens the livelihood of local businesses and jobs. Brick Lane should be a jewel in the local economy but it is currently sinking in a sea of half-baked indecision." 

Labour’s councillor for Spitalfields and Banglatown, Cllr Helal Abbas, added: 

“As usual with Lutfur Rahman, there are a lot of unanswered questions about the impact of this scheme and he is not taking action to deal with the wider problems facing Brick Lane. If he is worried about anti-social behaviour, why is closing curry houses early is the best solution? The area won’t be served well by jeopardising businesses in the area who have been operating in the same way for several decades.”

Labour’s council candidate for Spitalfields and Banglatown, Tarik Khan, said: 

“As a Spitalfields and Banglatown resident with a young family, I understand the need to make sure anti-social behaviour and noise from the night time economy is brought under control but targeting just some of the businesses on Brick Lane is not the way to go about it.” 

Local resident David Donoghue said:

“I live above a curry shop and the anti-social problems of Brick Lane don’t emanate from the curry shops. Curious thing is that the curry shops have received this letter but the bars haven’t. It just doesn’t make sense. The whole process doesn’t make sense. I’m a pensioner and I’ve been threatened because I live above a curry shop. This whole thing is out of control. It’s mismanaged and there needs to be a full investigation.”

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