Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Maps Mania: Living, Breathing Cities

Maps Mania: Living, Breathing Cities: Earlier this year Mark Evans created a wonderful mapped visualization of commuting flows in the USA. These hypnotic animated maps show wor...

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Shadows of Towers, Bishopsgate Goodsyard and 22 Bishopsgate

Proposed Bishopsgate Goodsyard towers will potentially plunge the Boundary Estate into peipetual gloom... ...

....but if they can have that much effect, how much more will the tall buildings in the City of London condemn the northern half of the City also

Proposed tower at 22 Bishopsgate and [insert] view from The Momnument looking north [image: Hayes Davidson]
Proposed tower at 22 Bishopsgate and [insert] view from The Momnument looking north [image: Hayes Davidson]

Monday, 15 June 2015

church bells ring out the route of King John to Runnymede, to sign Magna Carta

There was bell ringing along the line of King John's progression from Odiham to Windsor and Runnymede.  Odiham ringers organised a ripple of ringing along the route King John may have taken.  The (church) towers along the way include Odiham, Rotherwick, Heckfield, Eversley, Yateley, Sandhurst, Hawley, Yorktown (Camberley), Bagshot, Egham, Old Windsor and Wraysbury. To hear the Odiham bells click on (BBC iPlayer, there may be some issues in some countries)

The event marks the commemoration of 800 years since the signing of the Great Charter (Magna Carta)   King John was compelled to sign the charter after the citizens of London had opened the city to rebellious barons

File:Church of All Saints, Odiham 1.JPG
Odiham church, wikkimedia commons  
Although conceived of as a bell-ringing occasion and not an art event, in fact this was very much a site-specific sound installation on a landscape scale. It follows an event that was very-much conceived as art (and publicity), the "Wall of Sound" , live music relay across Hadrian's Wall. Click for pictures.  The key elements to both were distance, linearity and relay.

BBC Music Day at Hadrian's Wall of Sound
Susan Lambert with clarsach, photo BBC

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Housing Minister attacks "council estates" in London

“although London’s population topped its previous 1939 all-time high earlier this year, inner London boroughs still house fewer people than they did in the prewar period — owing in part to relatively low densities on housing estates.”

Housing minister Brandon Lewis who called for the demolition and redevelopment of council estates across London 

“Overcrowding was already a cause for concern in the public health and social reforms of the 19th century. By 1891 more than 10 per cent of the population were living at densities of more than two people to a room. Families huddled in damp basements consisting of one small room without drainage and little or no natural light. In these overcrowded conditions cholera and tuberculosis ran rampant and child mortality was high. The introduction of overcrowding standards for the first time in 1935 reflected two key concerns: decency through the separation of the sexes; and provision of adequate space. These form the basis of the current overcrowding standard. The standards are set out in Part 10 of the Housing Act 1985. “….    London Borough of Tower Hamlets Overcrowding and Under Occupation Statement

However, overcrowding was not the only factor in the disease environment that counted. The continuous urban fabric was thought to encourage disease transmission and postwar planning was for a series of “villages” with open space between   The legacy of which is Mile End Park    

In a recent oral history session I had at St Dunstan’s Stepney, 2 of the 4 participants had spent long periods of their childhood in sanitoriums with tuberculosis, 1 met her sister “on the gate” ( waiting to die - she survived).

the problem with slab-sided blocks of flats (of whatever tenure) is the well documented “Urban Canyon Effect”, (image from )

In London our proportion of the 29,000 people a year who die from diesel particulates (government figures for 2008),  is 4,000+ . Multiply that figure tens, hundreds or thousands of times to measure the morbidity, ill-health or health effects of air pollution. The mechanism being an increase in stress hormones that flood the blood stream with cholesterol, leading to heart disease and heart failure, as well as diabetes. This is a higher mortality per year then obesity, or alcohol, or even obesity and alcohol combined.

So what could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Effects of sound pollution in London - as measured by the shrinking map of Cockneys

I recently spotted this map that I  thought tells a tale. It was originally from the Times Atlas of London and was reproduced in a  Daily Mail Article  

There was a saying that a "true Cockney" was one born within the sound of Bow Bells, that is within the sound of the bells of St Mary le Bow church on Cheapside in the City of London.

The outer margin purports to be the area they heard in 1851, whilst the inner is that of today. The difference accounted for by noise pollution, much of it traffic noise  

Friday, 30 January 2015


...can be just an expression of joy, an attempt to provide an eye-catching adornment to the landscape, or they can convey coded political messages.  London follies might include the King's Cross Lighthouse and the Hyde Park Temple (amongst many others). See the searchable map below for follies in Britain and Ireland
The Lighthouse Block, 297 Pentonville Road
The Lighthouse Block, 297 Pentonville Road
© Copyright Oxyman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Hyde Park - Temple Lodge
Hyde Park - Temple Lodge
© Copyright Peter Whatley and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
A semi-circle of yew hedging with niches containing statuary and sphinxes. The statuary has been restored as part of a £12 million restoration of the grounds completed in June 2010. Credit: Richard Bryant©: Richard Bryant
The Exedra at Chiswick House (an intriguing and multi-layered designed landscape) once declared loyalty to democracy with figures of the poets Horace, Homer and Virgil, the philosopher Socrates, and the leaders Lucius Verus and Lycurgus.
(© Richard Bryant) 

Political folly is on a far larger scale than that of landscapes - although it can scar landscapes for generations

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Trees in London + European Tree of the Year + Save Southwark Woods

Wild Daffodills Lesnes Abbey Woods
Trees play an important part in making the the character of the London Landscape, as individual standards and specimen trees in parks, and in historic woods with uniquely managed woodland flora such as Lesnes Abbey (above, my photo).

This year London must miss out, but Nottinghamshire's Major Oak is a worthy contender for European Tree of the Year. Please vote

Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire
Save Southwark Woods MEANWHILE, residents of Southwark are campaigning to save mature woodland that has grown in Camberwell Old and new cemeteries.

"Southwark Council is planning to destroy the woods of Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries,", they say "...including felling over 30 mature trees, to make way for more than 2,000 new burial plots. Woodlands are the lungs of London. We want the cemeteries turned into local Nature Reserves, as with Nunhead Cemetery. Both cemeteries are part of the London Green Chain Walk and Camberwell Old Cemetery is a Grade 1 Site of Borough Importance for Nature Conservation. These wonderful woodlands are home to protected species, a wild tangle of trees and undergrowth, a haven of habitats and they are valuable to nature, to people and to the future."

"These woodlands provide many valuable benefits locally, cleaning the air, absorbing and filtering storm water, keeping the neighbourhood cool in summer, and providing beautiful, natural places for our mental and physical well-being."

Camberwell Old Cemetery Wood

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Fish Island, Olympic Legacy and democracy

It was the creation of conservation areas that introduced the concept of "character" into UK planning legislation.

And most people are familiar with local councils acting as the "Planning Authority" which draws up local plans, policies and Conservation Area proposals.

But there are several areas and times that are taken out of the democratic process and handed over to unelected, appointed "Qualgos" (Quasi-autonomous LOCAL Government Organisations).

One such is the LONDON LEGACY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION  given responsibility for regeneration of a much wider area than just the Olympic "park"

It has drawn up proposals for Fish Island, a formerly industrial area, on the banks of the River Lea (arguably the first designated "Navigation" in England), which has become a hub for a great many art organisations, galleries and studios that have created a vibrant and flourishing commercially successful arts hub. And the area hosts one of the largest arts festivals in Europe

The LLDC has drawn up proposals for Fish Island that the East End Preservation Society strongly object to ( Press Release below).

The trouble with this whole process is that local participation in the planning procedures have been denied, local policies ignored and that the democratic process which mediates disputes and balances competing interests ignored. The Olympic Legacy is characterised by a poverty of imagine - the quintessence of bureaucratic incomprehension. It hangs like an albatross across the nations capital.

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East End Preservation Society PRESS RELEASE

Despite extending the 'industrial' conservation areas in Hackney Wick (LB Hackney) and Fish Island (LB Tower Hamlets) and identifying industrial buildings and structures both inside and outside the conservation areas as non-designated heritage assets, the LONDON LEGACY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION is implementing its Local Plan 2015-2031 policy to restore and reuse buildings of heritage value for employment uses by allowing developers to either demolish such buildings or, at best, keep a few original outer walls as decoration for an oversized replacement building.

An application to simply retain two outer walls of an Edwardian multi-storey stable block at Swan Wharf, Dace Road, London E3 attracted over seventy individual objections, including representations from English Heritage, The Victorian Society, East End Waterway Group, Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society, The Hackney Wick and Fish Island Planning and Development Unit, The East End Preservation Society, Heritage of London Trust, SAVE Britain's Heritage. Also 1,041 signatures to an online petition (see below). The Legacy Corporation postponed the determination of the application to discuss amendments with the applicant. The main amendment now being consulted on is the reduction of the proposed oversized replacement block from six to five storeys.

Both the Legacy Corporation and the applicant are ignoring all the objections and the strong advice from English Heritage. And the LLDC's Fish Island & White Post Lane CA Character Appraisal and Management Guidelines (adopted by the Board in April 2014, final version November 2014). And the LLDC's Local Plan 2015-2031 (submitted to Secretary of State November 2014). They are also ignoring all other relevant planning policies: National Planning Policy Framework, London Plan, LBTH Core Strategy and LBTH Fish Island Area Action Plan. (My emphasis, D.S.)

Obviously, should planning application 14/00262/FUL be given planning permission by the LLDC's Planning Committee (at its February 2015 meeting?) and the proposed demolitions in Wallis Road Hackney Wick are allowed, precedents would be set for the demolition of substantial demolition of all the other non-designated heritage assets (unlisted buildings) in and outside the LLDC's four conservation areas. In which case, the designation of the two extended conservation areas and all the LLDC's planning policy documents would have been a complete waste of time, effort and money. And the people of London (Tower Hamlets and Hackney in particular) would not only lose the one really substantial remaining historic area of the Lower Lea Valley (which was London's largest industrial area when London was the world's largest industrial city and greatest port) but also the social and economic benefits of properly retaining and reusing its representative buildings.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Thames in Spring and Thames in Winter - "Sweet Thames Flow Softly"

I met my girl at Woolwich Pier
Beneath a big crane standing
And oh, the love I felt for her
It passed all understanding
Took her sailing on the river,
Flow, sweet river, flow
London town was mine to give her,
Sweet Thames, flow softly

Made the Thames into a crown,
Flow, sweet river, flow
Made a brooch of Silvertown,
Sweet Thames, flow softly
At London Yard I held her hand
At Blackwall Point I faced her
At the Isle of Dogs I kissed her mouth
And tenderly embraced her
Heard the bells of Greenwich ringing,
Flow, sweet river, flow
All the time my heart was singing,
Sweet Thames, flow softly

Limehouse Reach I gave her there,
Flow, sweet river, flow
As a ribbon for her hair,
Sweet Thames, flow softly

From Shadwell dock to Nine Elms Reach
We cheek to cheek were dancing
Her necklace made of London Bridge
Her beauty was enhancing
Kissed her once again at Wapping,
Flow, sweet river, flow
After that there was no stopping,
Sweet Thames, flow softly

Richmond Park it was her ring,
Flow, sweet river, flow
I'd have given her anything,
Sweet Thames, flow softly
From Rotherhithe to Putney Bridge
My love I was declaring
And she, from Kew to Isleworth,
Her love for me was swearing.
Love had set my heart a-burning,
Flow, sweet river, flow
Never saw the tide was turning,
Sweet Thames, flow softly

Gave her Hampton Court to twist,
Flow, sweet river, flow
Into a bracelet for her wrist,
Sweet Thames, flow softly
But now alas the tide has changed
My love she has gone from me
And winter's frost has touched my heart
And put a blight upon me
Creeping fog is on the river,
Flow, sweet river, flow
Sun and moon and stars gone with her,
Sweet Thames, flow softly

Swift the Thames runs to the sea,
Flow, sweet river, flow
Bearing ships and part of me,
Sweet Thames, flow softly

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