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Peter Murray

 

Over the centuries London has welcomed new Londoners from around the world who came here to trade, because they were connected to the Empire or to the Commonwealth; who came as a result of persecution or because they wanted to enjoy the greatest city in the world.

As the nation debates Brexit and the Mayor of London compares Donald Trump to the ‘fascists of the 20th century’ in advance of the American President’s State Visit, it is timely for the Society to hold an event about inclusivity in London today.

One in three Londoners were born outside the UK, while more than 300 languages are currently spoken on our streets. For the moment, London is home to a million EU citizens. From our food and drink to our culture and economy the advantages of London’s amazing diversity are clear – our panel will discuss how this impacts on our built environment.

One of the most diverse areas of London is Brixton – so don’t miss the summer party which will be in one of the most interesting recent building refurbishments in the area. The stunning rooftop of The Department Store, which houses the offices of Squire & Partners architects, accommodates Upstairs, a laid back members’ club serving fine food and drinks. Michael Squire has kindly given the society access to the space for what I am sure will be an unforgettable evening. See you there!

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Peter Murray

 

Each year New London Architecture publishes a survey of tall buildings which are being built or will be built in the capital. This year’s figure is over 500. With so many in the pipeline today it is worth recalling the impact that the public enquiry, nearly 20 years ago, into the application to build the Heron Tower has had on planning in London. The proposals for the tower were resisted by English Heritage, supported by the Corporation of London and robustly fought for by Gerald Ronson the developer of the KPF-designed tower. The plans were called in by John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister, in 2001 and following a fractious public inquiry Prescott agreed with his inspector that there was no significant harm to the setting of St Paul’s and granted it permission.

The inquiry was so costly for EH that their resistance to future developments was sorely diminished, Mayor Ken Livingstone was a keen supporter of towers and other permissions soon followed, most notably for The Shard.

The Heron Tower Inquiry was a turning point in London planning and it will be fascinating to hear the recollections of some of the key players in that saga at our meeting, held in conjunction with the Royal Town Planning Institute, on May 30th.

 

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Peter Murray

 

London’s rail infrastructure is one of the keys to its success as city. The Victorians carved through great swathes of the capital to deliver workers into the centre; in the 1930s the extension to the rail and underground system provided access to the suburban areas of Metroland.

Today, the construction of the Elizabeth Line has encouraged development of new housing in areas from Ealing to Abbey Wood that previously suffered from poor accessibility. This month we start a series of talks looking at the role of engineering and infrastructure in London’s growth and development with engineer Alistair Lenczner providing a wider view of the development of the  capital’s network as well as it future potential. In April, architect Rob Naybour of Weston Williamson and historian Dr. Steven Brindle look in detail at one station – Paddington – from its origins as a temporary terminus to its role as a modern transport hub.

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Peter Murray

 

A representative of a leading housing association said at a meeting I was at recently that development in London was becoming “just too difficult”. High land values, the huge investment in fees before a project gets off the ground, the long delays in planning – a couple of years is not uncommon, larger and trickier sites can sit around for a decade, the uncertainty once the project gets to the planning committee and the possibility of it being called in by the Mayor all add to the difficulties. Birmingham, on the other hand, is enticing developers to the area by promising planning decisions in 16-18 weeks.

If London is to deliver anything like the 65,000 or so homes it needs then the system needs to speed up. But is faster better? The other side of the coin is that local communities want to have a say in what sort of development takes place in their neighbourhood and the Mayor is committed to a system that includes greater consultation. How do we square the circle? I look forward to finding out from Daniel Moylan on March 5.

Daniel is one of the most perceptive politicians on the subject, as Co-Chairman of Urban Design London, a former Kensington and Chelsea Councillor with a focus on planning, design and placemaking, a former Chairman of the Mayor’s Design Advisory Group and instigator of the concept of ‘Good growth’. His criticisms will be robustly rejected, I am sure, by Victoria Hills, the CE of the Royal Town Planning Institute who has had an eminent career in London’s planning system at the GLA and the Old Oak Common Development Corporation.

It should be a lively evening. I look forward to seeing you there and at the other fascinating events the Society has organised over the next month.

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Peter Murray

 

London National Park City will be launched in May 2019. The concept already has a large following among Londoners as well as the support of Mayor Sadiq Kahn, and was covered in a London Society event earlier this year. The enthusiasm with which the idea has been received reflects the importance that we collectively place on green space in the capital.

Next year, one of the key strands of the Society’s programme will be around the topic of our legacy of squares, parks and metropolitan green spaces. We’ll look at our regional parks in the Lee, Wandle and Colne Valleys and at our common lands and forests.

But also we’ll study the problems that our local parks are facing because of cuts in borough funding; we’ll discuss the frustrations of park users when they find their ‘public’ space enclosed in order to accommodate a pop concert or a winter fair and we’ll look at the management of privately-owned, publicly-accessible space (POPS).

Green space is just one of the key London issues we will be focusing on over the next 12 months. I hope you will join us to share thinking and debate their role in delivering the sort of capital we want to live in.

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Peter Murray

 

This month the Society goes out to Romford to visit Gidea Park, a very interesting but little-known purpose-built garden suburb closely linked to Hampstead Garden Suburb. A competition was held for houses on the site and by 1911, 159 houses and cottages had been built.  The designs were for detached houses costing £500 and cottages costing £375.  Eminent architects like Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin, Baillie Scott, Curtis Green, Clough Williams-Ellis and Ashbee took part. Another competitive exhibition, on a smaller scale, was held in 1934.  Berthold Lubetkin’s and Tecton won first prize for a house at 64 Heath Drive. Wilfred Owen, Edward Thomas and Noel Coward all had connections with the Park. Noel Edmonds, the TV personality, was brought up there.

The idea of competitions for housing is an interesting one; I and Ben Derbyshire – President of the RIBA and our Banister Fletcher lecturer this year have been trying to set one up for London but so far the funding has not been forthcoming; there is greater interest in the idea in the other metro cities. We need to be able to shoe what the best of new development can be like – and certainly Gidea Park provides a good example of how that can be done while creating a permanent place for people to live.

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Peter Murray

 

As we continue our investigation into how we plan for a London with 10 million inhabitants, we look at the constraints – how does the Green Belt impact on the development of London? And the opportunities, what sort of infrastructure do we need in the future?

Of course the two are inextricably linked. Crossrail 2 will create substantial pressures in boroughs like Kingston for development in the Green Belt; if we seek greater connections to the Rest of the South East (ROSE) then substantial lengths of track will pass through areas where no new development can take place extending commuting times.

The LSE published a report in 2016 which suggested that one of the most promising ways to achieve strategic development would be along a limited number of corridors. These would be made up of a chain of centres along public transport links. As well as additional housing, these corridors would provide commercial and industrial space that is increasingly being squeezed out of London itself. The corridors would be bounded by ‘green wedges’ with green spaces which would be improved environmentally, aesthetically and for recreational purposes. Last month The LSE published a more detailed proposal for a corridor along the London/Stansted/Cambridge route which suggests a more rationalise allocation of land than the ad hoc development which is taking place currently. In the absence of any political will to address issues around the development and the Green Belt his is the sort of debate that needs to be encouraged and in which the Society will continue to play its part.

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Peter Murray

 

The debate with the London Historians on the topic of Architectural Marmite will be a lively one, with strongly held preferences voiced with passionate rhetoric. It will be fun but also raise serious issues that engage with our other key topic of the current programme – the draft London Plan. In order to cater for the expected population of 10 million by 2030 London is going to have to build a massive 66,000 new homes a year – impacting on many people’s back yards. The Plan calls for high quality design, but many Londoners will wonder quite what that means. Sarah Weir Director of the Design Council says that “Good design is about more than aesthetics. It is about delivering for its users, and for everyone affected by it.”

Read More…

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Peter Murray

 

2017 was a bumper year for The London Society with 2500 people attending some 60 events – and 2018 is shaping up to be even better and bigger!

We’ll be continuing with the busy programme of walks, talks and Saturday Morning Schools, as well as, of course, the Banister Fletcher Lecture but 2018 will also see the Society investigating a number of new themes: Alan Powers, former Chair of the 20th Century Society curates a series of talks on London in the 1930s – when planning was so influenced by the Society’s agenda; Eric Reynolds, famous for creating Camden Market, among others, and regenerating Trinity Buoy Wharf, is putting together a programme onLondon: Global Market looking at key examples like Billlingsgate, Spitalfields, Leadenhall and Borough; GLA planner Colin Wilson is curating a programme around the London Plan, which will be the focus of much attention during the year, entitled Planning for 10 Million Londoners.

We will be continuing our studies of London Great Estates and London Iconsthroughout the year.  There will also be Members Only series – How We Work a series of visits to the capital’s key architectural and planning practices to look at the work they are doing and how it will impact on the London of the future.

Click here to download a copy of the current 2018 Spring Events Programme

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Peter Murray

 

I write this from Seoul where I am attending the inaugural Architecture Biennale. To be able to review the upcoming programme of the Society from the other side of the world allows a certain sense of detachment and reinforces one’s views of London’s unending fascination as a city of great historic complexity and contemporary change.
The autumn’s programme is a great reflection of this. The story of the great estate of the City of London, created from medieval land swaps, crumbling city walls and the dissolution of the Greater London Council, will be told by Michael Welbank, a former President of the Royal Town Planning Institute but also until recently Chief Commoner of the City Corporation, one of the most ancient of official posts. Victor Callister, who until he moved to the Design Council was responsible for the transformation of public spaces in the City, will take us on a walking tour to look at the complex area around Chancery Lane, its links with the Knights Templar and the Inns that contain it. And then there is the Banister Fletcher Lecture to be given by Loyd Grossman, a former architectural writer, guitarist, TV presenter, foodie, Chairman of NADFAS and the Royal Parks, he is also a member of the Court of the Worshipful Company of Art Scholars – which takes us back to the City of London and its ancient governance.
The U+I property company recently erected an artwork by Peter Liversidge on the front of its Victoria offices which in illuminated letters boldly states “Everything is connected”. London’s history can be traced not only through its physical fabric but the less tangible networks that are also part of our heritage as a city.
The full list of forthcoming events is available here.

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