London policy plans spell more work for designers

London Mayor Boris Johnson is seeking the public’s views on a trio of policy documents that could shape the capital’s growth over the next 20 years, at the same time providing plenty of work for designers.

The draft Mayor’s Transport Strategy, the Economic Development Strategy and the London Plan were all published last week. Taken as a whole, they cover pretty much every policy area that Johnson has control over. All are now open to public consultation on the Greater London Authority’s website until January 2010, after which the measures outlined in them could come into force between now and 2031.

In his introduction to the London Plan, Johnson outlines his aim to make London ‘the best big city on earth’. On the GLA website, the section on the London Plan states that ‘good design is central to all the objectives of this plan’, adding, ‘very high standards of design are needed to make London a better city to live in and one which is healthier, more attractive and green’. With this in mind it is worth noting specific areas in the London Plan, and its related documents, where design is either being used, or will be used.

The main focus of the London Plan is London’s spatial development and urban realm – plans to build 50 000 affordable homes by 2011 are reiterated. With the capital broken down into three sections – outer London, inner London and the central activities zone – it seems much of the interesting activity will take place in the latter.

This area is segmented according to main use, with, for example, ‘state’ use clustered around Westminster and Whitehall, and ‘legal’ around Lincoln’s Inn Fields. ‘Retail’ is centred on the West End Special Retail Policy Area, for which a planning framework is promised.

The same section of the London Plan promises to support the Strategic Cultural Areas along the South Bank, the Kensington Museum Complex, and the Barbican.

Cultural development is also mentioned further into the plan, with measures such as the use of vacant buildings for creative work and providing arts and cultural facilities in mixed-use developments supported.

Aside from the built environment, transport is another key concern. As well as Crossrail plans and potential expansion of the Tube network (which could see the Northern Line extend to Battersea and the Bakerloo Line stretch all the way down to Hays), a key initiative from a design point of view is the New Bus for London.
The bus is being developed from designs that were harvested in a competition won by an entry from Capoco Design and a collaborative entry from Aston Martin and Foster & Partners. This is now set to hit streets in 2011, a year earlier than was planned when the competition winners were announced.

The bike-hire scheme designed by Minale Tattersfield, meanwhile, will start to roll out next year, with around 6000 bikes going on the streets. It is understood that the scheme will be influenced by Applied Information Group’s Legible London wayfinding scheme. The Legible London scheme itself is slated to continue roll-out post-2020.

And all these built environment and infrastructure developments will need their own promotion, as pointed out in the documents, with specific mention made for publications as diverse as promotion of cultural attractions and road safety eduction material. All this work will presumably come under the banner of the new London identity, with a consultancy expected to be appointed to the brief imminently.

The next steps in consultation:

  • The three policy documents are all open to consultation until January 2010
  • A finalised transport strategy is due to be published next spring, although some statutory consultation will be needed for certain policies to take effect
  • The London Plan will go in front of an independent panel, which will report back to the Mayor before the final plan is published in late 2011
  • The final version of the Mayor’s Economic Development Strategy is expected to be published next spring

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