London’s Towns urged: rise to demographic design challenge

Wednesday 11 October 2017

London’s towns must put the best possible design standards at the tops of their agendas if the capital’s steep rise in population can be successfully accommodated and the city be allowed to flourish.

That was the view of TfL director of property development Lester Hampson as he opened London’s Towns: Shaping the polycentric city at a packed NLA last night.

‘It’s so important, as London goes through probably the largest housing surge since the Second World War, that we have an absolute responsibility to ensure that we create an outstanding architectural legacy’, he said. ‘That is a challenge that we must all rise to.’

The projected population rise to 11 million by 2050 represents a serious challenge, said Hampson, not least in preserving the individual character of each of London’s Towns whilst allowing them to stay connected at the same time. But TfL will itself make a ‘material difference’ to London’s housing challenge with its pledge to build 10,000 new homes by 2021. Last year TfL brought through 1,000 homes to market at 50% affordable housing – this year that figure will be 3,000 at the same ratio. But it is also interested in the polycentric city because much of London’s growth will come in its outer areas. Because of this interest it was keen to support the idea of a charrette, which it undertook alongside NLA looking into the potential of station sites across London in supporting growth - exploring conceptual design responses to unlocking such complex sites. What impressed Hampson and gave him confidence that London might rise to the challenges was the energy and creativity that came out of that charrette process, across a wide range of interdisciplinary teams. ‘They produced, I think, something quite outstanding’, said Hampson.

The exhibition explores the key role that town centres are playing in accommodating London's population growth, and showcases the results from NLA’s latest Insight Study - showing how they are being reshaped to provide not only great places to live, but also to work, to serve the needs of local communities while supporting London as a whole. To ensure good growth the study makes a number of recommendations, including the need for more orbital links in public transport, so that people do not have to travel in and out of the centre and better use of local character as the foundation for new development.

The exhibition also features developments, ideas and initiatives currently underway across outer London - from masterplans, mixed-use buildings, workspaces and public realm improvements, to retail, leisure and community interventions.

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