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Spelling out a strategy for Wormwood Scrubs

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Cullinan and Buck Architects Limited (cabal) has been commissioned by the White City Partnership to prepare a development strategy for Wormwood Scrubs. The commission follows the practice's involvement in the Architecture Foundation's 1998 roadshow at the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (aj 11.6.98). Phase 1, which includes work on the Woodman's Mews play area and the Scrubs cycle path has been completed by cabal, Groundwork West London and lbhf Direct Services. Designed to enable the Council to pursue a coherent, strategic approach to future development of the Scrubs, the masterplan is divided into twenty-five inter-related but distinct projects set up at conceptual stage, so that work can progress as funding is obtained.

Having identified the needs and desires of those who use the Scrubs through on-going public events, exhibitions and meetings, cabal and the lbhf Environment Department, identified relevant 'constituencies' for each specific project - those who might be advocates or users, or a potential source of organisation and funds. These include such diverse groups as the London Nigerian Rugby Club, Hammersmith Hospital, dog-walkers, the London Ecology Unit and the Ministry of Defence.

Each proposal has been allocated a cost band (which is necessarily broad at this early concept stage). At the top end of the scale, there are projects costed simply as 'over £5 million', such as a proposed new Central Line Station opposite Hammersmith Hospital on Du Cane Road - for a facility of its size, public transport links are surprisingly poor. cabal has recommended some projects, such as the redevelopment of the Linford Christie stadium and the masterplanning of Hammersmith Hospital, for early development, but its primary concern is to kick-start work, and it has been at pains to include low-cost initiatives. A proposal to turn a patch of derelict land into an outdoor exercise arena for the adjacent riding school has been priced in the £20,000-£50,000 bracket - much of the development strategy involves changing the control or ownership of land, or moving existing facilities to a more appropriate place in what Dominic Cullinan describes as a 'Mad Hatter's tea party'.

Other aspects of the development plan are simpler to implement. The strategy of defining cycle routes by wrapping handle-bar tape around streetlights is described by Cullinan as 'deliciously cheap'. cabal hopes that the council will use the tape for all its cycle paths 'so that the Scrubs begins to infiltrate the borough'. The proposal for a series of 'outposts' signalling points in the city which offer unexpected views of the park, needn't cost anything at all. Chosen to coincide with existing streetlights, the plan is simply that 'every time they change a lightbulb, a white one will go in'. Over time, people will realise that a white light means a park view. The beauty of the scheme, says Cullinan, is that 'the only thing you're nailing anybody down to doing, is changing a lightbulb'.

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