The London Society aims to provide a platform for the debate on how London ought to develop, and to go with our theme of ‘change’ in 2021, we will have a strand of articles on the blog called “Change: Opinions” – polemical pieces that make a case for a radically changing some aspect of the status quo or of received wisdom.
Here, Hamish Stewart of London Independence presents a 'Postcard from 2030' - the M25 turned into a linear park, County Hall the seat of London Government again, London diplomatic missions in European capitals and increased spending on infrastructure, housing, social care and amenities.
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The declaration of London’s intention to return to Europe as a city state in the final weeks of 2021 took everyone by surprise. The Mayor of London had kept such a low profile during the start of his second term that no one expected such a bold move, with much of the legal and regulatory groundwork hammered out in European capitals in quiet negotiations. It was an admittedly grand vision, starting with the return of London’s seat of government to the County Hall and the opening of London diplomatic missions in G20 capitals and a number of European capital cities, building on existing commercial embassies. London First was staffed up with senior civil servants and a vision for London’s return to Europe as a city state explained in detail to diplomatic partners.
In twelve short months in 2022, County Hall became a central government for London, drawing together London Councils for more joined up decision-making across transport, land use, energy, housing, waste disposal, utilities and other areas key to London’s Renaissance as a prosperous city state. New public parks were created across the city, with council owned parking lots converted to public parklands and affordable housing. New swimming pools were opened in all boroughs alongside architect-designed youth and community centres. Londoners breathed a collective sigh of relief as living standards and quality of life improved at an unprecedented pace.
A new London Constitution
With clear timelines and ambition spelled out in a ‘Joint Statement on London Independence’ issued from the Mayor’s Office and all London councils, the central government was put on notice of what was in store. Plans were published outlining how the city would proceed with phased independence and a return to the common market. One of the first steps was the publication of a draft London Constitution, outlining the rights and responsibilities of Londoners and their government. The Queen was provided with a timeline for moving the Royal Family out of their London properties and transferring ownership of all lands inside the M25 into a public trust. The Queen chose to move the family to Balmoral, with Buckingham Palace Gardens opened up as one of the first in a new series of public parks.
Alongside the draft London Constitution of 2022, a new diplomatic corps worked steadily on a framework agreement with the European Union, modelled on the Gibraltar Agreement, and incorporating elements of the Swiss and Nordic EU membership models.
The publication of the London Independence roadmap and the Constitution defined the Mayor’s second term. A flurry of investment in London’s rail, tram and a zero emissions ferry, bus and taxi fleet followed. The investment push in transport and affordable housing turned London into a global leader in zero emissions transport and buildings. To help fund the city’s ambitions, redundant roads and parking were systematically converted to higher value housing and new commercial and local government centres. TfL finally had a consistent stream of revenue to build out an integrated public transport system, linking cycle, scooters, tram, bus, ferry, and London-wide rail services via a single software application. A revised property tax schedule was published, updating council tax to reflect current property values and establishing a stable fiscal basis for London’s future.
London passports and an M25 border forest
A London e-passport was launched in late 2022 inspired by the success of Estonia’s e-residency programme. The London Passport provided access to local services and reciprocal freedom of movement for education, leisure travel and work in other European capital cities. The e-passport enabled a proper enumeration of the city’s growing population and clearer application of Londoners’ constitutional rights. Alongside the launch of the passport, conversion of the M25 into a border forest proceeded rapidly. In one of the world’s largest energy positive housing construction and parkland creation projects, eight years were spent converting the 188km ring road into mid-density community housing and the world’s largest urban linear park and biodiversity corridor. The M25 forest and housing ring inspired a similar land use transition for the Berlin Ring, the Paris super-périphérique, and other European city ring roads.
Longer-term infrastructure partnerships were negotiated with a European consortium, adding three more Eurotunnels and additional train service to capital cities across the European high speed network. High-speed electric passenger ferry services between London, Calais, and a number of other French and UK cities were piloted in 2023, with agreements for London to settle more asylum seekers from around the world, supporting a labour market recovery and maintaining the strong working age population so essential to the city’s future prosperity.
The 2020s: a decade of global engagement & democratic renewal
The London Constitution defined the city state’s internationalist outlook and enshrined the rights of children and young people. Voting in London elections was made compulsory, the voting age lowered to 16. The penalty for not voting was a small fine paid into the London childcare fund. At the same time as publishing the draft Constitution, the Mayor launched a London-wide pre-school childcare programme and support for mothers and families, providing a world-class system of early childhood education and care accessible to all Londoners. Cannabis was decriminalised with a portion of all sales tax earmarked for reinvestment into child and youth services and the provision of paid maternity for all London mothers. With these bold moves, the Mayor signalled that London was serious about caring for future generations, boosting London’s global standing as a city with high quality of life. With new housing added around the M25 forestlands and across central London, the city was able to accommodate rapid growth, with the population hitting 10 million in 2029.
On the path to independence as a European city state, London distinguished itself in international affairs as a vocal supporter of international human rights, a city-state leader with a highly educated population working at the frontiers of finance, biotech and medical research, engineering, and climate change adaptation, and a centre of global culture. The return to EU membership in 2030 was the culmination of shared work and a multi-level diplomatic effort. Londoners benefitted from a decade of large scale investment in public goods and services and the international community welcomed London’s contribution to international affairs and multilateralism in a challenging period.
 The land area of 188km across 6 lanes was around 415 hectares, creating an enormous new public park and housing for London’s growing population.