FoL’s 2018 programme theme: Overcoming Barriers

How to connect communities severed by physical and artificial boundaries

The challenge of severance in London dates back centuries: slicing through communities with canals, rail viaducts or flyovers was ‘for the greater good’. As the capital runs out of easy places to build, the remaining sites are often in these divided neighbourhoods or straddling neglected or contentious borders. Development and estate regeneration can bring their own challenges, marked out by red lines that can inflate land values and/or divide existing and new residents.

The impact of these barriers is significant. Lack of easy access to work, shops, schools and services plus the pollution that comes with major roadways all affect physical and mental health. It is often vulnerable people who are most at risk.

We know connectivity is vital to help communities thrive, and are keen to avoid past mistakes. We know coherent cross-sector approaches can unlock economic development and housing opportunities, and can bring about increased mobility, inclusion and community cohesion. What is lacking is a coherent approach to tackling this issue. There are very few tools to measure severance; what does exist is limited to the impact of roads and vehicles.

Future of London’s 2018 programme will address two types of severance: physical barriers such as road-, rail- and waterways, and artificial barriers such as borough boundaries and the ‘red lines’ that delineate estates or opportunity areas. We will:

  • Explore whether and how local authorities, infrastructure owners and developers assess the impacts of severance (physical and non-physical).
  • Showcase effective policy, strategy, physical solutions and economic and cultural interventions.
  • Create practical recommendations for housing, planning, regeneration and infrastructure professionals, whether they’re planning new schemes or working with the legacy of old ones.

With initial programme development support from Arup, this work will be delivered through:

  • Two strategic-level roundtables, on physical and administrative barriers, to share senior insight.
  • Six field trips to share innovative ways to knit communities together with tunnels, bridges, public realm, community programmes and use of technology.
  • Proposals for London: short, sharp research from Future London Leaders and Leaders Plus
  • Full-day interactive conference focused on ‘how’, with expert cross-sector speakers and audience of 200+ at the Hilton Tower Bridge (21st June)
  • Supporting desk research on the policy landscape and best practice (UK and overseas)

Overcoming barriers of various kinds will also be the underlying theme of all our 2018 work, including ongoing projects on Crossrail, Ageing Cities and Smarter Cities, our London Plan approach, and of course the Diversity and Alumni network offers.

We hope you’ll join us: this is an opportunity to put cross-sector experience and imagination to work for a more viable, equitable and functional London. 

For information on how to get involved or for programme and conference partnership opportunities contact

severance photo collage

Images top row: Cubitt Town (creative commons credit Fabian Tompsett); indices of multiple deprivation map; King’s Cross
Images bottom row: Mile End Park green bridge (creative commons credit Marathon); Canary Wharf flyover; A12 & subway