The Labour group of councillors in Tower Hamlets, have strongly criticised Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s decision to amend the Major Events Policy for Victoria Park, which would allow two extra major events to take place in the park each year and increase the capacity threshold for a large event from 5,000 to 20,000 people. This will enable the park to be closed for more events throughout the year without the need for advanced notice and permits.
The decision, taken by the Mayor in Cabinet on 29 November 2023, has been described by Labour councillors as “unjustified, irresponsible and detrimental” to the park, to residents, and the environment. The justification for the decision was to “identify alternative income streams to continue to be able to fund non statutory services including parks and open spaces.”; with the decision aiming to raise approximately £1.6m a year from closing the park to residents. Mayor Lutfur Rahman has come under criticism for his management of council finances since getting elected in 2022, with a dramatic reduction in the council’s reserves and a £5m increase in his personal office costs alarming opposition councillors.
Labour councillors have called on Mayor Rahman to reverse his decision and to review the current Major Events Policy for Victoria Park, in consultation with the park users, the residents, the stakeholders, and the experts.
Councillor Asma Begum, who represents Bow West, which borders the park, said: “This is a blatant attempt by Mayor Rahman to exploit Victoria Park as a cash cow, without any regard for the impact on the park, the residents, and the environment. He is using the park to cover for the £37m hole that has appeared in the council’s finances under his watch.
It beggars belief that he is seeking to impact those that live around and use the park at a time when we should be protecting our green spaces – not selling them off to the highest bidder. He should not use the park as a source of revenue to cover up his failures, but rather as a resource for the benefit of the people.”
Councillor James King, Labour spokesperson for culture and leisure, said: “Victoria Park is a precious and historic asset for Tower Hamlets and London, and it should not be turned into a commercial venue for excessive and inappropriate events. Mayor Rahman’s proposal would reduce the availability and accessibility of the park for the local community, especially for families and children who rely on the park during the summer holidays.
It would also increase the noise, traffic, waste, and pollution in the area, and damage the natural habitat and biodiversity of the park. He is essentially privatising the park, deciding to close it off to the residents of this borough for stretches of the year, in favour of selling access to paying punters.”
Labour has launched a petition urging Mayor Rahman to reverse his decision, the link can be found here: https://www.thlabour.org/campaign/victoriapark/
- The report of the Corporate Director of Communities to the Mayor in Cabinet on the proposed amendments to the Major Events Policy for Victoria Park can be found here: LONDON BOROUGH OF TOWER HAMLETS
- The previous Major Events Policy for Victoria Park was adopted by the Mayor in Cabinet on 27 November 2019.