A&O's conscience kicks in

Allen & Overy (A&O) has agreed to sign up to a unique social compact with Tower Hamlets council as part of the deal to make Spitalfields its new home

Details of the social agreement were being finalised as The Lawyer went to press. It will run for the duration of A&O's 25-year lease of the 750,000 sq ft development.

The social compact was a key point of discussion at a lively meeting of the Tower Hamlets planning committee last month, when the council resolved to grant permission for the scheme despite hard-fought opposition. The planning permission will be issued once the social compact and Section 106 agreement, dealing with community benefits from the scheme, have been finalised.

Spitalfields Development Group (SDG) chief executive Mike Bear said the agreement would include “soft” obligations, including providing pro bono legal advice, working with local schools, offering training and job opportunities to residents and considering local companies for services such as catering.

“What A&O has agreed is to focus and extend [their existing pro bono work] into Tower Hamlets,” he said.

Developers are regularly obligated to make commitments to local communities. SDG and its joint venture partner the Corporation of London will inject £20m on the back of the Spitalfields scheme. But it is unheard of for an occupier with no equity interest in the development to sign up to a formal agreement.

ABN Amro and the Royal Bank of Scotland already occupy buildings on the site, albeit with no social compacts.