An investigation by the East End Enquirer has revealed that the mystery tenant of the Sutton Street Depot seems likely to be Channel S and there are multiple issues with both the new lease and the previous lease that ended in 2018.
For those who do not live in Tower Hamlets we should explain that Channel S TV is extremely influential within the Bangladeshi population and for a politician to gain its support is to gain significant electoral advantage.
- A company called Brit Bazar Ltd linked to Channel S seems to have started work at Sutton Street establishing a large market for halal meat and fish.
- There is no record of planning permission being gained for this work.
- It is also unclear why Mayor Biggs did not recover the Sutton Street Depot when the last lease expired in June 2018 and instead left the property in the possession of the tenant and did not seek to recover the property for three and a half years.
Both Tower Hamlets Council and Channel S have been approached for comment.
Update 26 April 2022: Tower Hamlets Council and Channel S have both provided us with responses which are further down the page.
This is what we know
In September 2021 the Enquirer ran two stories relating to the granting of a generous lease of the Sutton Street Depot in Sutton Street just off Commercial Road by Mayor Biggs to an unidentified tenant.
The Sutton Street Depot used to be, you guessed, a Tower Hamlets Council depot and it remains a council property.
The whole depot is of a considerable size at roughly 90m long x 40m wide, around 3,900 sq metres, that amount of space just off the Commercial Road is probably worth a few quid.
Sutton Street Depot is also mentioned in the 2014 document which was instrumental in the downfall of Rahman, ‘Best Value Inspection of London Borough of Tower Hamlets Report’ by government auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) . This can be found here, paragraph 2.77 onwards.
Our first story described the very odd way in which a tenant was being offered a very favourable lease of a large council property but the tenant was not named, despite repeated requests by this publication.
Our second story explained the linkage between the new mystery tenant and Channel S but still did not explain why a Bangladeshi-language media company would be interested in the Sutton Street Depot site as it has very nice offices in Walthamstow?
The lease document authored by Ann Sutcliffe, Head of Place at Tower Hamlets Council, can be seen here Agenda item 6.9 Lease Renewal at Sutton Street Depot, 6 Sutton Street, London, E1 0AY.
The basic details of the lease are:
- Grant of a new three-year lease, excluding security of tenure, at a rent of £125,000 per annum, subject to an initial 12 month rent free period
- Approval of the repayment of £80,000 in arrears by virtue of an up-front payment of £40,000 with the balance payable after 3 months
- Agreed work to be completed within 6-months of completion
Which explains nothing.
The funny thing is that this sort of bargain deal for Sutton Street Depot is remarkably similar to other leases issued by Tower Hamlets Council under both Mayor Biggs and Mayor Rahman that we have outlined here. Worth a read.
There is one other possible clue as to the real nature of this deal at paragraph 4.1 of the lease renewal document (Equalities Implications) which says ‘The future redevelopment of the market site will require planning consent, which will involve consideration of issues such as affordable housing, access and employment opportunities.’
Market site? What market site? Mole had a dig through the Planning Applications but nothing interesting there. Did we miss a memo or something?
Fast forward six months…
Last week Moley was walking along Commercial Road when, pausing at a road junction, he glanced across towards the Sutton Street Depot offices.
Through the green leaves of a young tree Moley was sure he could see a new sign outside the Depot. A For Sales sign maybe? Hmmm….
Every the nosy little burrower, Moley went and had a look see.
No for sale sign but there was this (see photo) announcing something called ‘Brit Bazar, a halal meat and poultry market.
Market? A MARKET? In Sutton Street Depot? Bingo!
Usually the gates to the interior yard at Sutton Street Depot are shut, but not that day.
Looking inside (see photo) it was clear that somebody was very busy building the essentials for the Brit Bazar market, with various bags of sand and cement piled up and, at the rear, what seemed like seven brand new air con units on top of an open structure.
Deep freeze facility maybe?
Nobody seemed to be around so there was nobody for Moley to ask.
Whiskers twitching Moley could hardly contain his excitement on the way back to Mole HQ as he had a pretty good idea who might be behind the market.
Mole has not been able to trace Mr Hussan.
Whoever Akther Hussan is he has lots of fingers in the pie that is Sutton Street as you can see below from the list of companies of which he is a director.
|Akther Hussan||Director||Brit Bazar Ltd||13575384||Unit 2, 4 Sutton Street, London, E1 0BB|
|Akther Hussan||Director||Eastfield Cash & Carry Ltd||13406010||Unit 1 4 Sutton Street, London, E1 0BB|
|Akther Hussan||Director||Halal Bazar Ltd||12900321||6 Sutton Street, London, E1 0BB|
|Akther Hussan||Director||Direct Halal Ltd||12648667||6 Sutton Street, London, E1 0BB|
Update 26 April 2022
Channel S got back to us and said they can confirm that ‘Mr Akther Hussan has no business connection with Channel S other than an advertiser who is currently marketing Brit Bazar.’
Moley checked the Tower Hamlets Council Planning Register again and could find no mention of a market in Sutton Street Depot (or Sutton Street).
Planning rules for markets are a little tricky but the Sutton Street Depot is pretty big and adjoins multiple homes so you would think that whoever Brit Bazar is that they would have applied for planning permission of some sort.
Unless Brit Bazar has such a great relationship with its landlord, Tower Hamlets Council, that is just does what it likes and worries about the rules later?
Mole did manage to obtain this advert for Brit Bazar which is currently running on Channel S.
We searched the Planning Register once more and got lucky.
This is more like it! A rejected planning application from August 2020 relating to Sutton Street Depot.
So who submitted this?
Shemema Begum! Now that is a coincidence because when we were previously looking at Pearl Blue Holdings we found one Shamima Begum who was also a director of various Channel S companies.
Ms Begum now seems to indicate a formal link between Sutton Street Depot and Beta Bazar who seem to be opening a market in the Depot.
There is still no legal or formal connection that we can establish between Channel S or any of its companies or the market at Sutton Street Depot. (Sure Brit Bazar advertises on Channel S but it would be odd if it did not.)
Unless some of the documentation has deliberately not been made available to the public for some reason?
The agent for this application is given as Ronald Cardy of Taylored Space.
A schedule of works prepared by Taylored Space is attached to the lease document Agenda item 6.9 Lease Renewal at Sutton Street Depot, 6 Sutton Street, London, E1 0AY. with the address of 111A George Lane, London, E18 1AN, a postcode that it shares with 253 other companies.
Tailored Space Ltd (not necessarily the same company as Tailored Space it seems) has a registered address of 34 Clifford Road Walthamstow London E17 4JE
Other companies sharing the E17 4JE postcode are:
CHS.TV Ltd 06129201 6 Clifford Road London E17 4JE which is the controlling company for Channel S companies and BBT Network Ltd 09125768 36 Clifford Road London E17 4JE the Ultimate Beneficial Owner (UBO) of which is none other than Miss Shamima Begum.
Which would seem to further confirm the link between the Sutton Street Depot lease and Channel S.
Anything you want to tell us Ann?
While we focus on a market we might be missing the real deal here, a possible future redevelopment of the Sutton Street Depot.
Let’s look again at paragraph 4.1 (Equalities Implications) of original report put before Council by Head of Place Ann Sutcliffe.
‘The future redevelopment of the market site will require planning consent, which will involve consideration of issues such as affordable housing, access and employment opportunities.’
And while we are about it look at these two paragraphs as well.
REASONS FOR THE DECISIONS
1.4 Discussions have been on-going to grant the tenant a new 3 year lease outside the Act, thereby continuing to prevent them securing continual rights of occupation. This ensures that the Council retains flexibility regarding future use of the site at the conclusion of this lease term.
3 DETAILS OF THE PROPOSAL
3.1 Terms have been agreed with the existing tenant to take a new 3-year [sic] Outside the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 lease at an annual rent of £125,000 per annum, subject to an initial 12 month rent free period.
Often the most important questions to ask are the most basic ones. Stupid even. Like this one.
How is that Tower Hamlets Council officers seem to have had on-going discussions with The Mystery Tenant of Sutton Street Depot yet somehow failed to mention the identity of this tenant in any published document?
Was this a deliberate omission? If so why? What is the big secret?
Given the controversial history of leases for Sutton Street Depot which we have outlined and is a matter of public knowledge any administration with the slightest bit of common sense would know that trying to keep the details of the latest lease secret would make them look very silly indeed.
Or just plain guilty.
There is the possibility that Mayor Biggs had a perfectly innocent reason for arranging a very nice lease agreement for The Mystery Tenant of Sutton Street Depot. If so we would love to hear it.
But given the Mayor’s reticence so far Moley is not going to get too excited about this possibility.
A reasonable conclusion
It is against the law for an individual to use a public asset for political gain.
This is bribery.
- Sutton Street Depot is a public asset which for reasons unknown is of great interest to politicians, especially at election time.
- This location is mentioned in the October 2014 PwC ‘Best Value Inspection of London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ document (https://bit.ly/3OD9QoU) in relation to the Lutfur Rahman administration.
- Mayor Biggs and council officers have deliberately attempted to keep the identity of the new leaseholder of Sutton Street Depot secret for no apparent reason.
- In all the publicly available documentation, including video of Cabinet, the new leaseholder has only been mentioned once.
- The new leaseholder, Pearl Blue Holding, has a director known as Shamima Begum.
- Numerous companies related to Channel S have a director named Shamima Begum.
- Tower Hamlets Planning Application PA/20/01722 dating from August 2020 (which was refused) was an application for a certificate of lawfulness in respect of internal alterations at Sutton Street Depot in the name of Shemima Begum.
- Sutton Street Depot now seems to be occupied by Beta Bazar Ltd who are undertaking various works inside which we have photographed. We cannot find any planning permission for this work.
- From Council documentation it seems that the site has been earmarked for future redevelopment which may well be of significant commercial value.
- On face value, and in the absence of any explanation from Tower Hamlets Council, it seems that a company connected to Channel S is in fact the new leaseholder of the Sutton Street Depot but the Council has reasons for keeping this fact hidden from public scrutiny.
- In the light of the above and the recent history of corruption in Tower Hamlets Council the Enquirer will be submitting all information to the Metropolitan Police Service.
This just in from Tower Hamlets Council.
A Tower Hamlets Council spokesperson said:
“The lease for the Sutton Street Depot was a three-year renewal granted to the existing tenant. Their name was included in the exempt information appendix, as is customary in matters of commercial confidentiality. No elected members were involved in the preparation of the documents. The lead council officer was Vicky Clark.
“The use of the site as a supermarket would require submission of a planning application and for planning consent to be granted. No such planning application has been to date submitted, but the planning team are engaging with the leaseholder in order to discuss the use of the site.
“The reference to the future redevelopment of the market site was an administrative error and is not applicable to this case.”
Really? That’s it? Here is our response.
- If the name of the still unconfirmed tenant was only in the exempted information appendix because of commercial confidentiality why did Cllr Mufeedah Bustin state the name (Blue Pearl Holding) during the Cabinet meeting? She was reading from a prepared document. Why exclude the name of the tenant from a document but then state the name of the tenant in Cabinet?
- At no point have we questioned the use of the site as a supermarket, only a market is mentioned in the LBTH document.
- Who is the leaseholder of Sutton Street Depot that the Planning Department is engaging with?
- What are the uses of the site being discussed with the leaseholder?
- ‘Administrative error’? Seriously? The lease document is dated 22nd September 2021. Has it really taken seven months for this ‘administrative error’ to come to light?