The commitments

A shorter version of Lisa Taylor’s article, titled ‘A month in the life’, appeared in the June 2014 edition of Campbell Tickell’s CT Brief [PDF].


It’s been a jam-packed few weeks at Future of London, with new partnerships, the conclusion of our first Leaders Plus course, the London Festival of Architecture and a slew of events, including our own London 2050: Grow up or grow out? at City Hall.

Our session asked whether densifying within the Capital’s current footprint or expanding into the Green Belt and beyond GLA boundaries would serve Londoners best, and went on to ask how we can deliver sustainable growth in the most viable places.

The cross-sector speakers and audience included senior decision-makers, budget-holders and innovators from across London’s built-environment sphere. Infill and densification won the show-of-hands vote, and there were excellent recommendations on delivery, from reframing what density can look like to re-assessing London’s thousands of small sites for development, to tackling supply-chain gaps.

Future of London will take these ideas forward through delivery-focused events, briefings and visits, and we invite you to participate. Programming aside, one thing that struck me anew after the debate – and in conversations throughout these hectic weeks – is that we seem to have the answers for most of London’s growth challenges.

The problem appears to be putting those answers into practice. Local policy initiatives in particular face countless hurdles, from councillor buy-in to lack of central government support to staff shortages. Housing associations struggle with culture change and regulatory constraints. Developers want consistency. Risk aversion can hobble any big organisation, but innovative independents can lose the will to live in the face of bureaucracy and financing.

That being said, people are taking steps to get things done. Here’s a recent sampling:

  • Councils calling for tougher penalties for rogue landlords
  • The work of boroughs like Redbridge to leverage Crossrail’s local potential
  • GVA’s case for infill, including small-site portfolios and rethinking estate renewal
  • The GLA’s launch of 20 housing zones and the impending London Housing Bank
  • The thinkcities campaign for increased devolution to UK cities
  • TfL’s London Orbital feasibility study – could more roads be ‘flyunders’?
  • A proposal for water boulevards, part of the London Royal Docks Ideas Competition

It’s true that not all of the above may deliver, but these organisations and individuals are doing things, in spite of challenges and criticisms. It’s partly a question of choosing something – a task, decision or conversation – and committing to it.

With that in mind, I’ve committed to mentor for The Girls’ Network, work with thinkcities, and add a staffer for our growing Future London Leaders programme. None of that will deliver a new affordable home or improved rail service to Enfield in the near future, but it can’t hurt – and it beats feeling powerless.

What will you commit to?