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Boris backtracks on London public spaces

London mayor Boris Johnson has drawn up plans for a new public realm strategy, just months after ditching predecessor Ken Livingstone’s flagship 100 Public Spaces programme

Only weeks ago, Johnson’s right-hand-man Simon Milton ridiculed the ex-mayor’s programme, claiming it had only managed to deliver five projects in its six-year history.

However, after coming under pressure from leading industry figures, Johnson is now backing a new plan called ‘Great Spaces’, which will be officially unveiled later this month and is being hailed as a more ‘qualitative’ approach than Livingstone’s ‘quantitative’ proposals.

It is understood that the new scheme, to be overseen by Design for London (DfL), will partly function as a ‘kitemark’ to reward quality public realm projects. Instead of initiating and delivering projects, DfL will help developers and boroughs to improve their plans and, thanks to a new cash pot, potentially act as design consultant.

Sarah Gaventa of CABE Space is joined by the Architecture Foundation’s Sarah Ichioka and David Lunts of the Homes and Communities Agency on the judging panel, awarding the Great Space stamp of approval to schemes.

Gaventa said: ‘It’s an extremely sensible idea, with the emphasis on quality rather than quantity. Though the 100 number was a beautiful tagline, do we really need 100 new spaces?’

Meanwhile, shadow culture minister Ed Vaizey confirmed that the Conservative party was looking at a national roll-out of the programme, ‘considering whether the model would work in other cities’.

No one from the mayor’s office was available for comment, while DfL’s Paul Harper said exact details of the programme would not be revealed until next month.

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