It is a depressing sign of the times that Ken Livingstone's £100 billion draft vision for the development of London garnered fewer column inches than whether he had three or more glasses of wine at a private party and what happened next. But the London Plan is well worth close inspection, if only to see a kind of Lord Rogers Urban Task Force report for the 32 London boroughs and Corporation of London being worked slowly into reality.
Rogers, as Livingstone's adviser, is getting his chance to put his urban renaissance/brownfield/sustainable/ transport nodes thinking into action, where Blair's New Labour lacked conviction and real drive to take his vision nationally.As Rogers says in his foreword, co-written with deputy mayor Nicky Gavron, a city cannot be sustainable without good urban design, and it is design that makes the difference between density and cramming.
Much is familiar. Improving the public realm, the streets, the places between buildings.Encouraging office development at 'opportunity areas'near transport interchanges, and shifting activity east to take advantage of the Channel Tunnel rail link.But there's a new acceptance that well-designed tall buildings have their place in London, with public access to their upper floors.
This is the big picture - an attempt to nourish the capital via desperately needed transport improvements, better education, health care and housing.And with design, they say, central to all objectives.With the 460,000 new homes needed, architects can wrestle housing design away from the developers, or at least join them in creating a better product.Small practices could take that requirement and make it their own, working from a new matrix the plan provides on required density levels.
But, as ever, deliverability is key, with Livingstone admitting that most of the funding will have to come from the private sector - it is difficult, for example, to see many of the 130 schools going any way other than PFI.
The 400-page document is the first statutory strategic plan for London for two decades, in the tradition of Wren's 17th century masterplan and Abercrombie's 1944 Greater London Plan.Encouraging, then, that an architect is still at the helm.Now comes the hard part.