Greening Aldwych Stop 8: The Future of Aldwych
Click here to return to Stop 7: Somerset House.
Get comfy, find a place to sit (perhaps along the river at Somerset House, or in the Courtyard) and read more about the proposed future of Aldwych. And fire up your creativity! We'd love to hear your ideas for the new space.
We are grateful to King’s and LDA Design and Westminster Council for providing us with images to show during our London History Day 2019 tour.
By Fran Allfrey
A new pedestrian space
St Mary le Strand is currently marooned in the middle of the Strand, between Bush House to the north, and Somerset House and King's College London to the South. However, plans are afoot to completely change the area.
Westminster Council launched their 'Strand Aldwych' redesign project in 2017. But, this isn't the first time someone has thought of changing this busy thoroughfare (14 million people pass through the area per year) into something more pedestrian friendly. And I've been around King's for a while, and I remember folks managing the College estates dreamily discussing their unofficial ambitions to create a fancy front courtyard for the university
Westminster revealed design options in April 2018, and ideas were put to people living and working in the area. A further consultation ran from 30 January 2019 and until 13 March 2019. Another consultation in planned for late 2019. Work could potentially start in 2020, and will be funded by £28m council investment. Keep eyes on the Strand Aldwych website for updates.
Westminster Council says that key improvements include:
- Making it easier and safer to get around by removing the gyratory, having two-way traffic in Aldwych and removing it from part of the Strand.
- Improving public spaces across the whole area with an amazing new plaza proposed around St Mary Le Strand Church.
- Improving connections to South Bank, Covent Garden and the West End.
- Creating a cultural and learning quarter by joining up the world-renowned organisations and institutions in the area and supporting them to showcase their amazing offer.
- Tackling air quality issues as well as improving facilities for walking and cycling.
During our London History Day tour, Strandlines shared some plans of the project (unfortunately we can't share all of them here, but, again, have a poke around on the Strand Aldwych site).
We then invited our London History Day participants to discuss the plans, and give their own proposals.
Everyone was very keen that the space should be as green as possible, and the idea of quiet areas to read, eat lunch, or just given over to wild planting for bees were popular.
Redirecting the traffic was also a well received idea, although participants had questions about accessibility: would people who use wheelchairs, parents with buggies, or people who cannot walk for longer distances be disadvantaged by bus stops being removed from directly outside Somerset House, King's College, or the church?
A truly public space?
Some questions arose that we can't quite find the answers to in the plans provided to us, or anywhere online. The biggest question is whether the new design will be a truly public park. As the Guardian revealed in 2017, private security firms have control of these spaces, and activities such as gathering in groups, cycling, or protesting are restricted. Their map reveals just how much of the city is affected. Last year, the Royal Geographical Society also released their report on the 'creeping privatisation' of public spaces.
The Strand Aldwych plans say the space will be 'truly democratic', but there is also plenty of mention of turning Aldwych into a 'cultural quarter', with events and stages. Our participants asked: how many events would they be every year? Would they be free? Who would get to programme them?
It would be a shame if Londoners and visitors were unable to have unlimited enjoyment of Aldwych at the greenest that it will have been for 400 years. If anyone at Westminster council, or anyone else, knows more about this, please be in touch!
We will keep an eye on the plans, and share updates on Strandlines.
Share your ideas
Strandlines invites anyone who has worked, lived, or studied on the Strand, or visited the area, to reimagine Aldwych.
We adapted Westminster Council's proposal to make a colouring-in sheet (we hope they don't mind).
Download, colour, and add in any trees, furniture, or other elements (digitally or using the traditional pen and pencil!).
Your 'Green Aldwych'
We'd also love to see any photos you've taken on your self-guided Greening Aldwych Tour. Make sure you tag any pictures, on whatever social media, with #MyStrand.