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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

 

The Society’s 2019 ‘engineering’ theme of events kicked off with Alistair Lenczner of Expedition Engineering  with a review of the Railway system in and around London, of schemes in the pipeline and what could be done to set up a better infrastructure for London in the future. Roger Cline reports.

The Industrial Revolution started outside London and early canals and railways were designed for goods transport. In London a passenger line opened in 1836 from Spa Road to Deptford (soon extended from London Bridge to Greenwich) and the London to Birmingham Railway opened in 1837 to Euston where some effort to provide impressive architecture was made to re-assure passengers that the undertaking was reliable. Railway termini were banned from the central area south of the Euston Road so there was little through north-south traffic (except via Ludgate Hill or Willesden/Clapham Junction). Passengers arriving at mainline termini were carried on the sub-surface Metropolitan and District lines until the first decades of the twentieth century when deep-level tube lines were provided across the central area. Goods traffic had its own termini and was mainly destined for the docks. Canal access to the docks was provided by the branch of the Grand Union canal to Paddington and then along the Regents Canal to Limehouse in 1820. The railways followed suit in 1851 with the North London line to West India Docks and further connections to Tilbury and eventually the container port near Canvey Island.

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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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