Futures Past - Failed Plans Down The Ages
It's well known that London is a city that has grown in fits and starts without the benefit of too much in the way of grandiose planning schemes.
Indeed, even many of those schemes that get as far as the drawing board are often ripped up before brick has been introduced to mortar. As early as 1580, local authorities set the conservative tone of future years by banning building on new foundations within three miles of the city. But some brave souls down the ages have nevertheless tried to impose their visions on an unwilling city.
Indeed, London's haphazard development style was nearly put on the back burner in favour of a grand scheme some 300 years ago. Devastated by the Great Fire of 1666, central London was ripe for redevelopment and the leading architect of the day, Christopher Wren, designer of St Paul's Cathedral, tried to get a classical style unified scheme approved.
However, Wren had reckoned without the petty rivalries of the many private landowners who ruled the London roost and his much praised plans bit the builders dust.
A broadly similar opportunity for a city makeover presented itself after the Second World War with parts of London laid to waste by the Blitz. But, once again, private landowners effectively stalled local government plans.
Throughout the century, new roads have been built in London but at nothing like the rate seen in other big cities. Many road schemes have fallen foul of both government parsimony and local resident protest, including the once much vaunted inner ring road, the extension of motorways into the centre of town and the plan to build a motorway right across London, under the River Thames.
London's one true unifying planning marvel, the Underground system, has seen some of its more fringe schemes go down the tube. In the 70s there were plans to extend the Victoria Line south to Croydon and in the 80s Croydon was the focus again as advanced plans were made to split the Northern Line in two in order to extend to the south London borough. Now Croydon, apparently fed up with waiting for a train, is building its own tramlink service.
But the animals of London Zoo, at least, may have reason to be grateful for London's lack of planning zeal. Not so long ago, the Zoo was earmarked for a theme park make-over, a beastly travesty that fortunately foundered through lack of funds.