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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.”

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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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Peter Murray

 

KdPd-xTe_400x400In wishing all members of the Society and visitors to this site the compliments of the Festive Season, I would like to thank you for supporting the work we have been doing to celebrate and debate this wonderfully complex and endlessly fascinating city.

Over the year we have organised a busy programme of events which have been well attended and covered a wide range of topics; the membership has grown steadily and I am pleased to say that we have attracted a substantial number of younger members, which bodes well for the future. We have published a very attractive Journal and organised a number of events with the All Party Parliamentary Group on London’s Planning and Built Environment.

In the New Year we will be engaging with the Mayor’s consultation on the new London Plan, organising visits – including a series to some of London’s Great Estates, ancient and modern – as well as walks and talks.

We are keen to further increase the number of members – so, if you haven’t joined up yet, please do so for 2017; if you have friends who you think would like to join, please pass on information about the London Society, or consider giving a Gift Membership.

We also have a Corporate Membership class, so if you work for, run or have contacts with a company you think might like to support the work we do please pass on the details or let Director Don Brown know.

Wishing you all the best for 2017 and I look forward to seeing you at lots of events during the year.

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Peter Murray, Chair, The London Society

 

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Peter Murray

 

The Society held two concerts recently, celebrating the 150th anniversary of English Heritage’s Blue Plaque scheme and the contribution to the culture of London made by musicians.

On 31 October, Pizza Express in Soho rocked to the sounds of Omar Puente/Al McSween duo, Yiddish Twist Orchestra, Gospel Singers Incognito and The Sugar Sisters – jazz musicians who all hail from London, exemplifying the melting pot of cultural influences that the City, and especially Soho, has become over the years.

The second concert was at Cecil Sharp House, home to the English Folk Dance and Song Society and celebrated those folk collectors memorialised with Blue Plaques; Cecil Sharp and Percy Grainger. The stellar group of artists included Stick in the Wheel, Sam Carter and Lisa Knapp & Jack Harris. The relevance of the sung tradition of folk tunes and themes came through strongly, with Lisa Knapp and Stick in the Wheel in particular, powerful in their reference to the work of collectors of folk tunes and the importance of developing and promoting the tradition of learned aural culture.

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