25 September – 15 November 2008. A major new exhibition at the New London Architecture centre (NLA) that explores the future of the London suburbs opened today, Thursday 25 September. London’s Towns: Shaping the Polycentric City examines Boris Johnston’s election promise to ‘ensure that outer London can play a full part in the city’s economic success’.
Speaking at the opening of the exhibition, Peter Murray, chairman of NLA, compared the past and present mayor’s planning strategies for London to pizzas and doughnuts. “Ken Livingstone was accused of being a 'zone one mayor' with little interest in places like Romford, Cricklewood or Ealing. The former mayor, advised by Richard Rogers had a vision of a dense European city as a model for the development of London. This pizza model or centric city positions London’s Towns as dormitories feeding into Central London.
The new Mayor’s ‘blue doughnut strategy’ won him the mayoralty. Johnson was elected not by central London, but by the outer districts like Bexley, Bromley, Kingston and Barnet. Boris Johnson makes it clear that outer London will be a higher priority than it was with his predecessor.”
‘Planning for a Better London’, published in July, outlines Johnson’s approach. Although he will target disadvantage areas in inner London more emphasis will also be given ‘to issues affecting outer London and ways of realising untapped potential there.’ Outer London is the place where most Londoners live and work, so the new approach is aiming to improve the ‘liveability of the huge variety of places and neighbourhoods that make up outer London’.
Whether defined as suburbs or towns in their own right, these areas will make a huge contribution to the future of the capital. Johnson’s desire to give greater autonomy to the boroughs recognises that London is polycentric; a ‘city of villages’ and a network of town centres each with its own character and style. This exhibition looks at plans and projects already underway to support the London’s economies as a polycentric city.
Opening the exhibition, Councillor Merrick Cockell, Chairman of London Councils said: “The world changed in May when Boris came into power. Previously the suburbs or outer boroughs did not have the confidence or assertiveness to identify themselves in comparison to central London. They were very much associated with traditional ‘suburban’ family living in a house with a garden. Now, the outer boroughs have moved on. They have the justification to change; to take control of their own identity and commission their own urban regeneration and new developments. The challenge is for the boroughs to deliver sustainable communities with regeneration opportunities and employment.”
The selection of towns and urban centres under the spotlight in the exhibition include: Barking, Barnet, Bromley, Clapham, Croydon, Ealing, Greenwich, Hammersmith and White City, Harrow, Hounslow, Ilford, Kingston, Lewisham, Park Royal, Romford, Stratford, Upper Lea Valley, Uxbridge, Wandsworth, and Wembley.
Andrew Barry-Purssell, Head of the London Plan, Greater London Authority is speaking at the first London’s Towns conference, Thursday 9 October, 09:00 - 12:30 at New London Architecture
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Notes to editors
• London’s Towns: Shaping the polycentric city - 25 September – 15 November at New London Architecture, The Building Centre, 26 Store Street, London, WC1E 7BT. Opening times, Monday – Friday, 9am – 6pm and Saturday, 10am – 5pm. Admission free. T: 020 7636 4044, E: email@example.com
• The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of half-day conferences and breakfast briefings bringing together decision-makers and the architecture, development and planning communities to set the agenda and debate the issues. For further information visit www.newlondonarchitecture.org/londonstowns
• Five free breakfast briefings on Wednesday mornings throughout the exhibition will focus on the projects and research transforming outer London’s towns, urban centres, high streets and suburbs.
• New London Architecture (NLA) at The Building Centre is an exhibition centre dedicated to the future of the built environment in London that is open to the public free of charge six days a week. The capital is undergoing a period of massive change and NLA is a place where everyone - professionals, politicians and the public - can find out more and get involved in what is happening to the city. NLA has over 2500 visitors a week to the public exhibitions, events, talks and lectures that are organised to encourage constant debate, learning and networking across the profession and local communities - www.newlondonarchitecture.org