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Peter Murray

 

On 5 December, Matt Brown, editor at large of the Londonist and author of Everything You Know About London is Wrong, gave the Christmas talk to the Society members at the offices of Pilbrow & Partners in St John’s Square. Jo East reports.

Founded 14 years ago by Matt and other likeminded enthusiasts for all things London, and described by Frank Skinner as “the thinking person’s guide to London” the Londonist has grown to be an online font of knowledge about both London’s current events, and its history and myths. Over the years this has given Matt privileged access to areas denied to most people and Matt took us on a tour of literally the highs and the lows of his time at the Londonist – roofs and tunnels.

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Peter Murray

 

The fourth of the Society’s Saturday Morning Planning School talks was on Saturday 11th November 2017 with Rachel Fisher (Head of Infrastructure in the Cities and Local Growth Unit at DCLG) explloring the flip side of local growth – can places become too successful? Drawing on international and UK examples, the talk explored the relationship between planning policy and what happens in reality. Barry Coidan reports.

On Saturday we were treated to Rachel Fisher’s enlivening personal view on how growth happens on the ground in towns and cities here and around the world.

Rachel began with the general and took us down to the particular – Harlow, a planned town in Essex, and Haringey, a not so planned borough of London. On the way we visited New York, Bologna and Bilbao.

In general terms the conditions for growth (and prosperity) are: good jobs, homes (affordable and market priced) and connectivity – be that broadband or transport links. We’re all urban now. The 21st century is the century of cities and London takes its place as a global city – with a huge population vying for limited space. Imagine the functions of New York, Washington and Los Angeles in one place – that’s London. Its size, economy and status means it has a disproportionate impact on the rest of the UK. Scaling a map based on population, the UK looks grotesquely distorted – with London bloating out much of England south of the Wash.

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Peter Murray

 

The third of the Society’s Saturday Morning Planning School talks was on Saturday 4th November 2017 with Dr Paul Watt of Birkbeck College University of London discussing regeneration projects: what is meant by ‘urban regeneration’ and an examination of  what is referred to as ‘sports-led regeneration’ with particular analysis of the 2012 London Olympic Games. Barry Coidan reports.

Dr Watt’s talk – “London 2012 and the post – Olympics city – a hollow legacy?” began with an overview of urban policy, and regeneration in the UK and Europe. We then looked at recent Olympic Games and their raison d’être besides being sporting spectacles, before focusing on the London 2012 Olympics and its stated aims, the geographical area it was to impact on and its outcomes.

Urban Policy is broad brush: focused on area or territorial impact, not geared to a specific clientele, service provision or benefits. Regeneration seeks to bring about physical renewal as well as social and economic improvement to the area affected. This change is to be sustainable and achieved through a mix of private, public and voluntary sector involvement.

There was, however, little evidence that government decision making recognised that urban regeneration affected different people differently. This lack of recognition in developing a regeneration strategy – asking who it was for, who are to be the real beneficiaries – would impact on the desired outcomes.  

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Peter Murray

 

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on London’s Planning and Built Environment met on 31 October. David Taylor, editor of the NLA’s New London Quarterly, reports.

© BAR Productions Joe Howard

London must patch up its relationship with the public over so-called affordable housing by defining its parameters more realistically. But City Hall is aiming to help address quality and the housing shortfall across the capital through more intervention over land assembly, a commitment to tackling supply with new methods of construction across many tenures and a new name-and-shame database on rogue landlords.

Those were some of the key issues to emerge from the recent meeting of the APPG for London’s Planning and Built Environment at Portcullis House.

Chair Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central and Acton, introduced the session on how we can deliver genuine high quality homes for Londoners and address a crisis over affordable provision.

Deputy mayor for housing and residential development James Murray said that there had been ‘remarkably few’ opportunities to tighten up the speed of getting the new draft London Plan into place, but that it is expected on 29 November. The story of London over the last two decades, though, was of a 40% increase in jobs, 25% climb in population and 15% in housing supply. ‘It has been a story of jobs and economic success, but housing failure’, he said. ‘It simply hasn’t kept up with demand’. There is an ‘affordability gulf’ in what we are building, and although traditional housebuilders have a large role to play they tend to focus on the high-end homes for sale. London needs some 66,000 homes a year, according to new GLA figures, with 2/3 of them having to be affordable.

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Peter Murray

This year’s Banister Fletcher lecture was given by Loyd Grossman CBE – Zoe Green reports.

Loyd Grossman has made a considerable contribution to civil society and is perhaps best known as the host of shows such as ‘Through the Keyhole’ and ‘Masterchef’ and for his own range of cooking sauces.

Beyond this, Grossman has had a lifelong interest in history, the arts and heritage, where he has served on the boards of a number of notable cultural institutions, including English Heritage, the Museums and Galleries Commission and the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association.

The evening event provided the opportunity to gain an insight into Grossman’s role as the first chairman of ‘The Royal Parks’ charity. The lecture took place at the St Marylebone Parish Church, which is just a stone’s throw away from Regent’s Park, one of the eight Royal Parks.

The Value of the Royal Parks

Every single person in the room has been to the Royal Parks – once a year, once a month or some of you may use them almost everyday. With around 7.7 million visits a year, the Royal Parks are very different other cultural assets / institutions. The Royal Parks are essential to our wellbeing and should be considered ‘one ofLondon’s single greatest assets’

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Peter Murray

 

The second in our series of ‘Planning School’ talks was held on 28 October at the Building Centre in Store Street (in association with the Building Environment Trust), with Dr Paul Watt of Birkbeck talking about Social/Affordable Housing in London. Ian R Morrison was in the audience.

A fascinating talk on social housing in London with research that Dr Watt has been doing on estates, illustrated with slides and statistics.

Social housing is allocated on the basis of need, rather than demand and price (market forces). Its alternatives are the private rented sector and owner occupation. Provision varies between countries. At around 20%, the UK is higher than in the U.S., but not as high as other countries in Europe. Its prevalence is determined by political choices, for example social democrat traditions in parts of Europe.

Affordable housing is promoted to help solve the ‘housing crisis’, particularly in London. But affordable can take a number of forms, from being based on local incomes to being tied to a percentage of market rent. But how affordable is affordable? A limit of 80% of market rent in East Village Stratford (the Olympics site) is still out of reach of many local people. The Mayor’s new strategy of ‘genuinely affordable’ will aim to address this.

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Peter Murray

 

On 14 October, The Society organised a walk around Brixton with Blue Badge Guide Angela Morgan. Joanna Day reports.

The Society will be holding a discussion on Brixton regeneration hosted by Squire and Partners at their new Brixton offices, early in 2018. To find out when tickets will be available, add yourself to our newsletter list.

Brixton is in the eye of the beholder. The area contains so many historical and cultural layers that I feel as though I arrive at the end of the Victoria Line and see the area through predetermined filters.

It is refreshing and fascinating, therefore, to take a London Society guided walk through Brixton, led by our fantastic, informed (and singing) guide, Angela, in order to look again – or maybe for the first time – at the fascinating story of Brixton as written in its built fabric, and to take our own punt at predicting its future.

If there is one word you would associate with contemporary Brixton, it would be: ‘change’. Gentrification blazes onwards in Brixton leaving questions about exclusion and identity in its trail. You get the feeling that the consequences of gentrification are not seen as inevitable nor go unchallenged in this feisty part of Lambeth, but whether the driving forces can or should be altered in their trajectory remains to be seen.

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Peter Murray

 

On 25 September, Victor Callister, Deputy Director of Architecture & Built Environment at the Design Council, conducted a Society tour of Chancery Lane and the surrounding area. Sophie Hetherington reports.

This tour of Chancery Lane, led by the inimitable Victor Callister, explored the history of the area from the 12th century to the 21st. Victor was a charismatic speaker, and the walk was illustrated with a booklet of historic maps and images, allowing the group to fully engage with this whistle-stop tour of London’s history.

We began with a brief history lesson on the emergence of Chancellor’s Law (as opposed to Common Law) , which gave name to Chancery Lane, due to the proximity of King Henry VIII, Parliament and the Rolls Building. Chancellor’s Law regarded contracts, and what was “fair” or “right”, and a history of generational legal resets are historically based in this area, as it is where the Law Society has recently been based. 

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Peter Murray

 

As part of the Society’s London Icons series, Emily Gee, Historic England’s London Planning Director, looked at the historic context of building tall in London – Finbar Bradley reports:

In recent times the structures that most people would perceive as iconic have tended to be London’s new breed of tall buildings. On Thursday night and firmly with our feet on the ground at Cowcross Street, the London Society heard a dynamic “short history of London” from the 1600’s until the present. Emily Gee of Historic England took people on a journey from the disasters which brought about planning reform, through the backlash of early attempts to create tall buildings and to future possibilities.

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Peter Murray

 

On 8 March London Society members heard from architect Liam Hennessy who presented Park Lane Boulevard: A vision without tunnels, his proposal to transform Park Lane from a highway to a fine boulevard, humanising what is currently a noisy, polluted urban motorway. Saul Collyns reports.

Microsoft PowerPoint - 150710 Park Lane Boulevard.pptxSpurred by a desire to improve Park Lane’s environment without placing the road into a tunnel, Liam Hennessy proposes to transform Park Lane into a boulevard, and explained that it was conceptualised according to three principal objectives: That an altered Park Lane would not have reduced traffic capacity, that all Plane trees would be kept, and that there would be pedestrian crossings rather than subways.

Hennessy shared images of Park Lane that demonstrate how the heavy traffic volumes and narrow pavements create an unpleasant environment for pedestrians. There are only two pedestrian crossings across the entire road (in an equivalent stretch of road adjacent to Central Park there are seven), and the coach parking spaces lining the road further sever connections between Hyde Park and Mayfair.

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