The first of our five Saturday morning classes on London planning was given by Duncan Bowie. You can see his slides below along with a report from Finbar Bradley. For more information on the Planning School, click here.
Kicking off the London Society’s first in a five part series of Saturday Morning Planning Schools, Duncan Bowie took an enthusiastic group on a tour through 2000 years of London Plans.
Duncan is the author of such books as ‘Radical Solutions to the Housing Crisis’ and ‘Politics, Planning and Homes in a World City’ and having previously held posts with the Mayor of London, the Association of London Government, the Housing Corporation, and the London boroughs of Newham and Lambeth, he is currently a senior lecturer at the University of Westminster.
We began with the Roman invasion and moving quickly to the first Mayor of London In 1189, Henry FitzAilwin [1189-1212] who brought in the first building codes for the city. These included methods of building party walls with stone due to its fireproof nature. A brief discussion around fire and building codes then set the foundations for a more in depth discussion into the restoration of the city after the 1666 Great Fire with plans from the likes of Wren, Hooke and Evelyn.
By the 1800s, proposals such as Paxton’s Great Victorian Way in 1855 and the consequences of the Great Stink of 1858 started to focus on some of the city’s greatest infrastructural issues and proposed means of future proofing.
In 1889 the London City Corporation began to push development further with individuals like Roseberry, Williams Benn and Burns bringing through legislation such as the 1909 Housing and Planning Act along with an increasing number of proposals for a ring road. In the 1930s there was an ambition to develop a green belt, something proposed in 1901 with Lord Meaths’s ‘Green GIrdle’ and previous to this by John Claudius Loudon, as far back as 1829.
Between the 1940s and 1980s a drive to populate the centre of the city and a focus on protection of the fringes was evident. Le Corbusier, Lutyens and even the Royal Institute of British Architects proposed large scale schemes between1930-40 with a great deal of enthusiasm for green space, connectivity and infrastructure. The MARS plan from Le Corbusier was one of the most ostentatious and even received gasps today.
Trystan Edwards “A Plan for Greater London”, though somewhat vague, gives the best representation for how development in London has moved forward to this day and is frighteningly similar to the London Planning Advisory Committee’s Growth and Regeneration Areas Plan.
The Greater London Development Plan, first proposed by Abercrombie in 1944 had gone through several iterations by 1984 when it proposed 70% of housing was to be public sector and 80% of all housing was to be houses with gardens. By this time, a focus on development of a “Global Central Activities Zone” was proposed and between 1986-2000 there was a complete shift from the previous views of dispersal of central London. Today, the focus has shifted toward hyper densification of certain areas.
Duncan gave several key words of advice as he closed his piece.
Firstly, land ownership is paramount. If the government does not own the land they will find it hard to enforce plans. Though a mayor will always have the best intentions, their role inevitably focuses around making deals that best suit the community as opposed to enforcing a plan.
Secondly, a compact city approach is no longer suitable for London and focus needs to be shifted toward a high density suburbia with a return to focus on net regional growth.