With a global economy, a thriving culture hub, 43 universities and as a global leader in banking and financial services, there’s no wonder London has been chosen as a home by almost 9 million people. While the city has long been a popular place to live, London’s growth has increased exponentially in the last century, with over 3 million of those residents moving to the area in the last 100 years. The capital’s urban centre continues to thrive and now spreads far beyond the city’s official boundary.
But what does the capital’s Megacity status mean for residents whose homes fall under the Greater London umbrella? With the population set to exceed 11 million by 2050, what does the influx of influx of newcomers and young families mean for an already stretched infrastructure?
With the city’s population continually growing, London’s housing has become a key barometer for a problem that is countrywide. Writing as part of Museum of London’s The City is Ours exhibition, CityMetric editor Jonn Elledge argued that London must begin to grow up and out to ensure we can accomodate the incoming generations, but stressed that however the city adapts to growth, difficult decisions are to be made.
He explained: “The key problem facing the housing market is lack of land: put simply, we have run out of places to build. One option for tackling the space shortage would be to extend London outwards: reviewing the green belt which has restrained the city’s growth since the 1950s. There is little political appetite for such a move, however: a majority of the electorate still wants the green belt to be sacrosanct. Moves to relieve the housing crisis, then, are likely to involve densification: knocking down chunks of the existing city and rebuilding at higher density.”
Across the country, housing has been a priority for the Government since the last election, with Theresa May announcing reforms to planning rules on Monday. May hopes the reforms will open up the property ladder to those who do not have access to “the bank of Mum and Dad” and create space for more housing, but insisted that “tearing up” the Green Belt was not the answer to the UK’s housing crisis.
TFL are investing billions to transform the Capital’s transport network over the coming years. Their proposals include improving suburban railways and the cycling infrastructure and tackling vehicle emissions, along with the already in motion plans for the Elizabeth Line, Bakerloo Line extensions, Crossrail and Crossrail 2.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has had transport at the centre of his vision for a better London since he took up office in 2016. His proposals focus on a Healthy Streets initiative designed to tackle the physical inactivity crisis, reduced traffic on London’s streets, better air quality and work aimed at making London a zero-carbon city, a reliable public transport system that can cope with more passengers, an accessible, affordable and safe transport network and investment into transport to support the creation of new homes and jobs within the city.
As the city continues to evolve, attracting and retaining residents is more important than ever. Businesses working out of the capital need to ensure they are attracting and retaining the best talent for the job, thus pushing London lifestyle to the top of the agenda. While it’s all well and good improving homes and transport, if the city is an unpleasant place to be, fewer people will stay.
Martin Crookston, a director at town planner Tribal Urban Studio explained: ‘People are moving through London at a faster rate because it’s a lot harder to live here,’ According to a report by TimeOut In 2007, 20,000 professionals went in search of a better work-life balance and cheaper property and moved to Leeds (where one in 20 walk to work) from London (where it’s one in 500). ‘If you up the rate of churn, you put more pressure on the people who keep things ticking over: the schools, the shops,’ says Crookston.
‘So London needs more public services and gets more expensive to operate. That’s not something the government has taken seriously. There needs to be an attempt to say that these are the costs that go with the sort of London we’ve got.
London is arguably a global leader in many ways, but as the city evolves, so do it’s residents’ needs and the demands placed upon the city’s infrastructure. For the fourth in our Midtown Big Ideas Exchange series of debates we’ll be exploring how London can hold onto its status as one of the best places to live in the world.
Join us as we discuss London’s future on Wednesday 14th March from 6.30pm at wallacespace Clerkenwell. Register for your free tickets now.