The Future of London report has identified physical infrastructure in our towns and cities as a barrier to the way people live, affecting health and economic well-being. This comes despite it being vital for connecting places, communities, jobs and amenities.

The report, entitled ‘Overcoming London’s Barriers’ uses Burgess Park in Southwark as an example. Although it is well used during the daytime by both locals and commuters, it is not lit up at night and is therefore unlikely to be used by people during that time.

Other main routes involve travelling along busy roads, waterways which lack light, space to manoeuvre, and in some cases bridges, all preventing access to amenities.

Future of London is an independent network for regeneration, housing, infrastructure and economic development practitioners. Its report also considers administrative and organisational barriers, with zones and organisations overlapping one another, and roles and responsibilities sitting within or between one authority or another.

Working across these structures “often reveals frustrating and costly conflicts”. Different priorities and practices can slow or stop projects and policies.

The study features the results of a year long programme that included field trips, seminars and workshops with the public, private and community sectors sharing good and bad experiences.

In response, it sets out a number of recommendations for planning, regeneration and infrastructure professionals:

  • Increase their understanding of how barriers compound one another and how different people will be affected in different ways;
  • Acknowledge that administrative borders exert an active influence on things like service delivery and how people engage with multiple administrative bodies;
  • Engage with local groups trying to fix barriers, for example, by bringing derelict spaces back into community use;
  • Talk to a wide range of people from different demographics to learn their experiences of physical and administrative barriers, and use it to inform scheme and develop impact metrics;
  • Hold special planning committees in which dedicated projects officers and elected members oversee a project throughout its lifetime, ensuring both public and private stakeholders have in-depth understanding of the scheme and consistent points of contact, helping to secure buy-in;
  • Work with neighbourhood forums seeking to develop cross-borough neighbourhood plans.

The chief executive at Future of London, Lisa Taylor, said “We’ve always wanted to assess the impact of, and the response to, these physical and service or planning barriers. Ironically, they’re so pervasive that it’s been hard to bring them forward as a distinct topic. Once we got started, the stories of divided communities and of ways to reconnect them, flooded in. That’s what we’ve captured here”.

“Often the solutions, from punching through closed railway arches or building a footbridge to lobbying for air-quality interventions, are obvious and often there is funding. What gets in the way are the organisational or cultural barriers between sectors and professions. That sort of ‘silo-busting’ is what Future of London exists to do, and on that front in particular, this project has been really heartening”.

15 January 2019