On Thursday 29 June, in collaboration with Concrete Theory and the Urban Design Group, Green Westway organised a brief walking tour between White City and Westbourne Park called #SecretSpace to explore an area that faced with significant historical and present regeneration.
After walking through the White City Opportunity Area, the tour focused on the Westway, one of the main motorways connecting central London to the west, which when built in the 1960s changed the urban, social, economic and environmental fabric of its surroundings for good. We followed the land now administered by the Westway Development Trust, the charity fought for by local residents when the road was built, to the conclusion of our tour on Great Western Road by Regents Canal.
Below are some notes that detail the tour, and may be of interest to both attendees and those interested in local developments between Shepherds Bush and North Westminster:
1. White City
We started the #SecretSpace tour at White City station, the centre point for one London’s biggest on-going regeneration schemes. Since the Westfield shopping centre was completed in 2008 the remaining light-industry sandwiched between Wood Lane and the West Cross Route has come under huge development pressure given rising land values that the new retail behemoth has engendered. In 2011 the Mayor of London identified this space stretching to the elevated A40 stretch as an Opportunity Area because it fit the criteria of being a ‘major source of brownfield land with significant capacity for new housing, commercial and other development linked to existing or potential improvements to public transport accessibility.’
In 2012 the area’s potential for redevelopment was increased by the intentions of two large local landowners. Firstly the BBC sold Television Centre, a Grade II listed building and national landmark opposite the station on Wood Lane, and then the newly promoted local football club Queens Park Rangers signalled its ambitions to harness rising land values and sell their Loftus Road stadium to build a new one elsewhere.
By the end of 2013 the local authority, Hammersmith and Fulham, adopted the White City Opportunity Area Planning Framework to encompass not only the stretch of brownfield sites north of Westfield, but also the BBC buildings, the QPR football stadium, and perhaps most controversially the White City Housing Estate.
Today the new landowners and stakeholders include Imperial College London, Stanhope, Berkley Group’s St James, Westfield, Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, and Soho House. Plans range from creating a hotel and mixed used development at Television Centre, new mixed development and public space north of Westfield, a university quarter and a large sky scraper.
2. West Cross Route – Westfield shoulders to surrounding area
We then walked through some of the remaining light industry up on to the border between Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea. Due to the busy bus routes and entrance to the shopping centre car park the area between Wood Lane and Westfield has a slightly alienating feeling for the pedestrian. But obviously, the complexion of this stretch of road will change dramatically if the developments in White City go ahead.
Once we reached the top of the West Cross Rout crossing, we could observe the recent eco-friendly developments of Talk Talk and Monsoon-Accessorise on the Kensington side of the motorway and newly painted tower blocks of the recently refurbished Edward Woods to south, which now house four luxury penthouses each.
3. Frestonia – famous squat turned into housing – People’s Hall
We then crossed into Kensington entering Frestonia. In slicing this part of North Kensington in half, the Westway left a series of derelict areas in its wake and the southern end of what was Latimer Road became a squatter’s enclave called Frestonia. The area became a centre for culture and alternative politics, and daily life there is captured in Tony Sleep’s wonderful photo reportage Frestonia on his website here: http://www.tonysleep.com/frestonia. We passed the passed their assembly – People’s Hall – where the Frestonian’s declared independence from the UK and appealed to the United Nations to prevent the Greater London Council’s attempts to evict them. Frestonia had its own national theatre, its own newspaper, and a council of ministers including a foreign minister.
We also saw the Bramleys Housing Co-operative buildings established by Frestonian residents in the 1990s to secure of future for the community. Although many of the previous residents have left, the Co-operative still maintains much of the new housing constructed in collaboration with the Notting Hill Housing Trust.
4. Bramley Road / Latimer Road
We then walked by Bramley Road and Latimer Road station, which was the site of the episode that triggered the Notting Hill riots of 1958.
Another video can be seen on this link here.
And then we passed by a new development sandwiched between the railway line and Bramley Road, which is a result of a planning gain measure – Section 106 – to provide some affordable housing in response to the luxury Holland Green development adjacent to the new Design Museum set to open on the site of the former Commonwealth Institute further south in the borough.
5. Westway Sports Centre
We then stopped by the last football pitches built by a slipway connecting the Westway with the West Cross Route. These facilities were established to mitigate the loss of open space caused by the building of the nearby Kensington Academy and Leisure Centre development on Lancaster Green. While the pitches are separated from the highly trafficked road by only a fence, no proper air quality assessment was undertaken as there was no change in land use, and the computer modelling provided by a Kings College App was deemed sufficient.
We then walked by the Stable Way travellers site, one of the most interesting horse-riding facilities in London, and the Westway Sports Centre, one of the UK’s busiest leisure centres.
6. Following Westway to Great Western Road
We then crossed Bramley Road and headed up towards Portobello Road. We noted the disconnected and fragmented green space around Whitstable House that looks over the Westway, and how this adds to a feeling of dead space between Maxilla and Bramley Road – despite a nursery there.
After crossing Ladbroke Grove we walked through the Westway Development Trust’s heartland, where successful public realm interventions under the flyover and in Portobello Green are matched with mixed0use retail, cultural, commercial, and sporting developments along Thorpe Close and Acklam Road.
We noted the mural for to commemorate the importance of Spanish immigration to the area, as well as Banksy mural, framed by the homeowner to preserve its value, and then headed past the skate park towards Westbourne Studios where we stopped to look at the innovative spaces can be created despite a potentially brutal urban environment. The desirability of this area now marks a stark contrast when residents were protesting to be moved following the construction of the Westway.
7. Great Western Road – conclusion
We concluded our SecretSpace tour walking up the Great Western Road observing the Cross Rail development on the tracks by the Westbourne Bus Garage and then by crossing another feat of British Engineering the Regents Canal, which was the in its past one of Europe’s most important arteries for industrial transportation.
What might be worth considering? Here are a few questions, add your own…
– Traffic, as we saw coming out of the White City station, circulation is already stressed what happens when thousands more homes and jobs are created?
– Air Pollution – the junction between the West Cross Route, the Westway, and Wood Lane is already one of the areas in London with the most NO2 emissions, more than two and a half time over the EU legal limit. No plan has included any provisions to mitigate this already extraordinarily high pollution.
– Change of administration. Hammersmith and Fulham’s council changed political hands from Conservative to Labour, will this change the developments and future plans?
– Planning gain – should housing provisions be provided away from the developments themselves? With new technologies could planning gain think about green space provision vertically rather than horizontally?
– Space – why does some space under the Westway feel safe and others not?
Other Westway stuff:
Westway to the World, The Clash documentary:
Under the Westway, Blur
The Heat, Jungle, (filmed under the Westway)
Hell W10, The Clash short film
History of Housing in Notting Hill
Grove Roots, documentary on Ladbroke Grove
A speculative architectural vision of the expansion of the roads on the westway / ladbroke grove area in London