Canary Wharf from the O2
Over there: Greenwich could soon be looking across at another royal borough

Tower Hamlets Council is looking into joining Greenwich in being designated a royal borough – six years after a corruption scandal saw its former leader thrown out of office.

The legal status, which is made official with a royal rharter signed by the Queen, does not provide any additional powers but shows an area has global significance as well as historic links to royalty.

Greenwich was handed the honour in 2012 because of its historic links with the royal family and its Unesco world heritage site status as the home of the Prime Meridian. Kensington & Chelsea and Kingston also have the status.

Across the Thames, Tower Hamlets councillors believe the area could be in with a chance of receiving the status because it is home to the Tower of London – an 11th-century royal palace and fortress. The borough is also home to Canary Wharf, Victoria Park and Brick Lane as well as historic markets.

Greenwich's letters patent
Greenwich was awarded royal borough status in 2012

John Biggs, the borough’s elected mayor, said the council had explored applying for the status before but its chequered recent history had proved a stumbling block. His predecessor, Luftur Rahman, was forced out of office after being found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices by an election court in 2015.

Biggs said: “We did explore it before and think it would be a proud tribute to our exciting and buzzing borough. Not just because of the Tower but also the fact we are a gateway to the future.

“However the previous feedback we had was that we were not yet far enough from the chaos and trashed reputation of the previous administration. We will talk again through our contacts. I will look into it.”

Greenwich was given the honour to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee, and Tower Hamlets councillors believe her platinum jubilee in 2022 could be a good time for its northern neighbour to receive the title.

Liberal Democrat councillor Rabina Khan said: “On business and economy and an outwardly looking borough, I’m calling for a cross-party working group to make a bid for Tower Hamlets to become the Royal Borough of Tower Hamlets or to gain city status.

“We can consult the people of Tower Hamlets whether they want the council to bid for city or royal borough status.  It may be that we bid for both. We will not know if we do not try.”

Conservative Peter Golds added: “Now is a good time to apply. The Tower of London is certainly one of the most important and recognisable Royal heritage sites in the capital, if not the world. It would be rather lovely if we were recognised as royal.”

LDRS logo

Rachael Burford is the Local Democracy Reporter for Tower Hamlets. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
See more about how 853 uses LDRS content.

Help 853 continue reporting on public interest issues in Greenwich and southeast London – we are the only outlet regularly producing original journalism in the borough, and we can only do it with your funding.

Please join over 100 donors who use Steady, PressPatron or Patreon to give a little towards our costs every month. Thank you.