Global Network

London, Great Britain

COORDINATORS

One of the Mega-Cities Co-Coordinators for London is a Professor of Social Policy at the Host Institution. Before that post, she taught and researched at Birbeck College, London for many years and was Professor of Sociology in the University of London. She received her first degree in Social Anthropology from the University of Edinburgh where she also completed her Doctorate, focusing on political participation in the city. Some of her publications include: The Politics of Poverty (1981), Dealing with Drug Misuse: Crisis Intervention in the City (1984), Drugs and British Society (1989), Tackling the Inner Cities (1991), and The Other City: People and Politics in New York and London (1995). Her latest projects include Transforming Cities: Contested Governance and New Spatial Divisions (1997) and Social Issues and Party Politics (1998).

The other Co-Coordinator is a writer, consultant and film-maker. A recipient of a UN "Global 500 Award for Outstanding Environmental Achievements," his main focus is sustainable development and new business opportunities, and the challenges of the urban age. He has consulted or advised for Channel 4 of London, the Town and Country Planning Association of London, the Vienna International Futures Conference, and the Habitat II Conference ("The UN City Summit") of June 1996.

Since the 1980s he has written extensively in the national and international press. He frequently lectures to diverse audiences in the UK and at conferences in many countries. His collection of 8000 slides from all over the world enables him to illustrate his lectures.

Among his numerous publications are books and reports on environmental issues. His television work includes many documentaries on cultural and ecological themes.

 

HOST INSTITUTION

The Mega-Cities Project in London is based at one of London's largest higher education institutions. Located at this university is a key site for applied social science research and teaching in the London area.

 

STEERING COMMITTEE

  • Giampi Alhadeff, War on Want
  • Sue Balloch, National Institute of Social Work
  • Sue Barber, Gender 21
  • Jim Barry, East London Business School
  • Rose Bridger, London Ecology Centre
  • Jake Brown, Architect
  • Maria Clancy, The Big Issue
  • Max Dixon, Vision for London
  • Herb Girardet, Writer, Film Maker and Broadcaster
  • David Hutchinson, London Research Centre
  • Arther Lipow, Michael Harrington Centre
  • Cathrine O'Donnel, Low Pay Unit
  • Dennis Parker, International Association of Geographers
  • Chris Pond, Low Pay Unit
  • Julian Stanyer, Divercities

 

  LONDON AT-A-GLANCE

London is the capital city of England and of the United Kingdom; it is the largest city in Britain and one of the largest in the world. Historical and geographical circumstances have made London one of the world's most important commercial and cultural centers. The administrative area of Greater London is made up of 32 London Boroughs and the City of London.

Twelve years ago Prime Minister Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council, London's city government. On May 7, 1998, Londoners voted in a referendum for a new elected government and a mayor for London. The task ahead is to forge a world class democratic city government and turn London from a marketocracy into an active urban democracy. The recent government Green Paper on London states that decision-making needs to be brought closer to the people, "bridging the gap between community-level government and national government… [to] create a new model of government, appropriate for a great capital city in the new Millennium."

The new government will be in place by 2000, taking the place of the Government Office for London (GOL) as the city's main administrator. Unlike its predecessor, the GLC, the GOL will primarily be a strategic authority which will dovetail with the existing 33 Borough Councils whose roles were greatly strengthened since the abolition of the GLC.

The two most important new roles for the new GLA (Greater London Authority) will be 1) strategic planning and coordination, and 2) representing London to the outside world. Strategic planning has been all but absent in recent years; revival of run-down areas, transportation planning, and economic development have all been left largely to market forces and London has been left to drift in a haphazard fashion. Public housing came to a grinding halt during the conservative administration. Only now we are seeing the beginning of change, particularly with the development of brown field sites.

London's representation vis-à-vis the outside world has been very inadequate. For instance, at Habitat II, London had no spokesperson because neither the Government Office for London nor representatives from the London boroughs, nor the Lord Mayor of the City of London, could claim to speak for London or Londoners as a whole.

Population
The City of London covers an area of 1579 square kilometers, or 610 square miles, with a population of some 6.77 million. However, studies carried out by The Mega-Cities Project indicate that population densities remain at an 'urban' level over a much wider area than that generally regarded as Greater London. The London urban agglomeration extends from Reading in the west to Southend in the east and has a population of 10.45 million.

Economy
London's share of the UK's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is about 14% but it generates 33% of the GDP arising from insurance, banking, and other financial services. In contrast, some 24% of the national GDP is generated from manufacturing whereas this sector only accounts for 14% in London.

Overall, London's share of the national GDP is falling, but this has generally been seen as a function of the declining population. GDP per head of the population has recently been maintained at about 13% above the national average, due at least in part to the fact that many people who help to generate London's GDP live outside the metropolis and commute in.

Infrastructure and Social Services
Transportation- Nearly 1.1 million people travel into the center of London, over 80% of them by public transportation. The first passenger-carrying Underground railway in the world was opened in London in 1863. Today, the system covers a total length of over 404 kilometers (251 miles), with 9 different lines. London is the first focal point for the InterCity services radiating around the country and for the SouthEast network, a system that is the world's most complex suburban railway network.

London has two main international airports, Heathrow and Gatwick. A heliport has been in operation at Battersea on the south bank of the Thames and a Stolport (Short Take-Off and Landing Airport) has been built in the Royal Docks.

Culture and Educational Infrastructure- London has been pre-eminent in the world of theater and opera. There are now about 100 theaters and two opera companies (the Royal Opera at Covent Garden and the English National Opera at the Coliseum). London has four institutions of University status: the University of London, City University, Brunel University, and the London Graduate School of Business Studies.

Recreational Infrastructure- The city is famous for its parks and open spaces, the best known of which are the Royal Parks: St James' Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, and Regent's Park. For sports at the national and international levels, there are a large number of facilities such as the international football stadium at Wembley, the international rugby stadium at Twickenham, and a national sports center at Crystal Palace.

The River Thames is London's best-known landmark. Attention has more recently been focused on its shore-line, and the Government is re-assessing planning policies with the London boroughs to ensure that development close to the Thames blends with the river and does not restrict public access. An area of land near the Thames has become available for development and regeneration, mainly due to the gradual closure of the older London docks. This area of some 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres), known as Docklands, had attracted over 300 companies by 1986. Among the developments are the London Industrial Park, the Limehouse Studios, the Docklands Sports Arena, and British Telecom and Mercury's new stations. Over 11,400 new homes and a new bridge across the Thames were built, and road, rail, and air links to the area were improved by various agencies.

Participation and Sustainable Development
London is extraordinarily rich in citizens groups, which number in the hundreds. Londoners feel strongly that their voices must be heard by a future city government, and that their knowledge of local and issue-related matters must feed directly into the process of governance.

The new Greater London Authority will need to address key issues such as poverty, traffic congestion, the need for infrastructure, and the utter lack of strategic planning. But much more is at stake. A key principle in the recent Green Paper on London is sustainable development. Eco- and people-friendly urban development is perhaps the greatest challenge of the twenty-first century, as the majority of the world's people become urbanized. It must be a central concern for a new London government to assure that its policies focus on environmentally sustainable development, even though it will be a great challenge for a city as vast as London.

 

INNOVATIONS

The Big Issue
Perhaps the world's best known street paper, The Big Issue started in 1991 with a monthly circulation of 30,000 in London. It now sells 280,000 copies a week, not just in London, but in cities across the UK, with a total readership of 1.2 million. It has become the UK's most popular current affairs magazine among 15 to 24 year olds. The secret of its success is that it is highly readable as well as socially committed. It is politically and commercially independent, allowing it to be opinionated and enabling it to publish stories without fear or favor.

The paper's coverage of music, clubs, fashion, films, and the arts is on the cutting edge of what is happening throughout the UK. Its editorial coverage also extends to news, features, and political stories, yet it has not lost touch with the 'big issues' that are its main underlying concern: homelessness, unemployment and inequality. Most articles are written by professional journalists, but there are also regular contributions from homeless people, as well as articles from people searching for friends or family members who have gone missing.

The Big Issue is exclusively sold by street vendors who are homeless or vulnerably housed in short term accommodation. Buying the paper from them gives the purchaser a sense of being of help without feeling embarrassed. The magazine is certainly not intended to make buyers feel guilty, but to offer a good read while helping underprivileged people help themselves. For many vendors the Big Issue has become a crucial lifeline. In total there are 3,000 in London, and 10,000 nationwide. Two thirds of the vendors were unemployed for over a year, a quarter for over 5 years, before starting to sell the paper. The majority are male, between the ages of 17 and 72. They are retailers in their own right, responsible for their own tax and national insurance contributions.

An important part of the Big Issue's work is its international department, which was launched in 1994. It organizes meetings with its sister papers around the world. It provides an advisory service for other street papers on producing a quality paper, on self-help agendas, on investing profits for the benefit of homeless people, on setting up a socially responsible business, and on providing homeless people with a media voice. Sister papers have now been established in Cape Town, Melbourne, and Los Angeles. Several others are in the pipeline.

The Big Issue Foundation, launched in 1995, is another important aspect of the papers' work. It raised £ 675,000 in 1997, with most going to services for homeless people. The Big Issue organizes training courses for people going into work and a new home. The paper tries to act as a life raft or stepping stone. Many vendors want to move on after selling the Big Issue for a while, but for some this is a difficult step to achieve.

Citigen C-H-P station
London's seven million people burn the equivalent of 20 million tons of oil per year, or two super tankers a week, discharging some 60 million tons of C02 into the atmosphere in the process. With appropriate energy efficiency measures, and using new energy supply technologies, this figure could be brought down by two thirds without affecting current living standards. Combined-heat-and-power systems, as widely used in Scandinavia, Austria, and Germany, could help London become much more energy efficient. One such station is now up and running: Citigen is a C-H-P station that fits the bill. For London this is an important project because virtually all its electricity currently comes in along overhead power lines from power stations usually more than 100 miles away, with great transmission losses along the way.

Citigen was built in a former cold store adjoining Smithfield meat market in central London. Burning oil and natural gas in two huge engines normally used for powering large ships, the station produces 30 megawatts of electricity as well as hot and chilled water. The waste gases from the engines are cleaned in scrubbers built into the chimney, which releases only C02 into the atmosphere. Citigen's fuel conversion efficiency is 85 per cent, compared with around 35 per cent for conventional power stations. Two famous buildings, Guildhall and Mansion House, are powered by Citigen. In addition, several nearby office and apartment buildings are heated and cooled by it through a system of highly insulated pipes. The electricity is distributed via London's electricity grid.

Citigen has an interesting history: it was initiated by City Corporation which controls London's financial district and wants to enhance its green credentials. It was built jointly by a French company, Utilicom, and British Gas, now the sole owner of the power station. After some initial problems, Citigen has become the first of a new generation of highly efficient stations that are built close to their customers in central city locations.

Citigen is setting an important example for the future. Smaller C-H-P stations are now in operation in Whitehall, London's government district, and in individual hotels and office buildings. Buckingham Palace has recently been fitted with its own C-H-P system, making it more energy efficient as well as independent from outside supplies. There are plans to install C-H-P systems in housing estates across London, but inertia has so far prevented this.

Citigen has proved to be cost effective despite initial problems with the technology and the limited space available. The passer-by, walking along the pavement outside, would never notice that inside the historic facade two huge engines are running day and night. Power stations, banned because of pollution and noise, are making their way back into the inner city.

 

NARRATIVE OVERVIEW

The most critical issues facing London at the turn of the millennium are:

  1. Creating a new democratic city government.
  2. Turning London into a more sustainable city.

Twelve years ago Mrs. Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council, London's city government. On May 7, 1998, Londoners voted in a referendum for a new elected government and a mayor for London. The task ahead is to forge a world class democratic city government and turn London from a marketocracy into an active urban democracy. The recent government Green Paper on London states that decision making needs to be brought closer to the people, "bridging the gap between community-level government and national government… [to] create a new model of government, appropriate for a great capital city in the new Millennium."

The new government will be in place by 2000, taking the place of the Government Office for London (GOL) as the city's main administrator. Unlike its predecessor, the GLC, it will primarily be a strategic authority which will dovetail with the existing 33 Borough Councils whose roles were greatly strengthened since the abolition of the GLC.

The two most important new roles for the new GLA (Greater London Authority) will be 1) strategic planning and coordination, and 2) representing London to the outside world. Strategic planning has been all but absent in recent years; revival of run-down areas, transport planning, and economic development have all been left largely to market forces and London has been left to drift in a haphazard fashion. Public housing came to a grinding halt during the conservative administration, and now we are seeing the beginning of change, particularly with development on brown field sites.

London's representation vis-à-vis the outside world has been very inadequate. For instance, at Habitat II, London had no spokesperson because neither the Government Office for London nor representatives from the London boroughs or the Lord Mayor of the City of London could claim to speak for London, or Londoners, as a whole.

Participation and Sustainable Development
London is extraordinarily rich in citizens groups, which number in the hundreds. Londoners feel strongly that their voices must be heard by a future city government, and that their expertise on local and issue related matters must feed directly into the process of governance.

The new Greater London Authority will need to address key issues such as poverty, traffic congestion, creaking infrastructure, and the utter lack of strategic planning. But much more is at stake. A key principle in the recent Green Paper on London is sustainable development. Eco- and people-friendly urban development is perhaps the greatest challenge of the twenty-first century, the age of the city, with the majority of the world's people becoming urbanized. It must be a central concern for a new London government to assure that its policies focus on environmentally sustainable development, though this is a great challenge for a vast city such as London.

An integrated transport policy, alone, encouraging fuel efficient low emission vehicles wherever possible, will be a major task for a new London authority. Another key issue is energy: London's per capita consumption is among the highest in Europe. 7 million Londoners use 20 million tonnes of oil equivalent per year, two supertankers a week, and discharge 60 million tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere. Under a new elected authority, London should strive to become a pioneer in energy efficiency, using new technologies such as combined heat-and-power systems, heat pumps, fuel cells, and photovoltaic modules incorporated into leading-edge architectural design. The know-how exists to reduce London's energy use by half.

And new waste recycling technologies could greatly improve the efficiency in London's use of resources. A policy based on high resource productivity would enhance job creation in the building trade, in environmental technology industries, and in the electronics sector. All in all, tens of thousands of jobs could be created in the coming years from policies linking environmental and social sustainability, more often than not from self-financing investment in end use efficiency, reducing resource use whilst generating new jobs and business opportunities.

Another issue to be addressed is London's ecological footprint. This covers two categories - the land areas required to supply London with food and timber products, and the surfaces needed to re-absorb its carbon dioxide output. In a recent study we found that London's total ecological footprint extends to 125 times its own surface area of 159,000 hectares, to nearly 20 million hectares. With 12 per cent of the UK's population, London requires the equivalent of most of Britain's productive land. In reality, of course, this stretches to far-flung places such as the wheat prairies of Kansas, the tea gardens of Assam or Kenya, the orange groves of Spain and California, and the forests of Scandinavia and Amazonia. In an urban age, when cities the world over are staking claim to an increasingly global hinterland, they may have to curtail their demand for land resources.

How can London, an international trading centre, create a sustainable relationship with the global environment whilst meeting the aspirations of its people? Today Londoners, including its businessmen, certainly have the desire to be sustainable - to continue. The key issue to be addressed is how London can accommodate their aspirations whilst achieving compatibility with the living systems of the biosphere on whose continuity it ultimately depends.

Information technologies, too, have a major role to play in sustainable development. So far they have been used primarily to extend London's financial power. Today they should also be used to monitor and reduce the impacts of our investment decisions and lifestyles elsewhere. Sustainable development for a vast city such as London implies changes not only in external impacts, but also in its inner workings. Intranet systems could improve the communication flow between the disparate sectors of London society. Electronic sampling of opinions should be used to enhance decision making, enhancing the dialogue between Londoners concerned about the continuity of their city.

London, the "mother of megacities," set patterns of unsustainable development that have been replicated world-wide. All the more important for a new democratic government to get to grips with these issues. Londoners themselves have a vital role to play in sustainable development - policies imposed from above are not enough. London needs the regular, active participation of its people, drawing on their rich knowledge and reducing its environmental impact whilst enhancing the lives of Londoners and the ambience of the city.

We need to revive the vision of London as a place of creativity and conviviality and of sedentary living. Londoners want a place of beauty, with new public spaces, bridges, and parks, and new eco-friendly housing built on derelict land. London can be resource efficient, people friendly, and culturally and architecturally rich, with inward investment contributing significantly to securing adequate employment, improving London's infrastructure while enhancing living conditions. But none of this will happen unless the creativity of Londoners is utilized to the full, assuring an active dialogue between the government and its people.

 

The Mega-Cities Project is a non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) tax status.
Founder and President: Janice Perlman, PhD. Information: mail@mega-cities.net
Copyright 2000-2007 The Mega-Cities Project. All rights reserved.