London in 2050 could be a city where 3D printers have brought on a manufacturing renaissance and parcels are delivered by flying drones to a population of over 11 million, the London Assembly heard yesterday.
Speaking at a meeting of the Assembly’s Planning Committee, a group of infrastructure experts and ‘futurologists’ highlighted the many ways in which the city could change over the 40 years and how much can be done now, to plan for the future.
Guests stressed the difficulty of predicting what the future may hold and pointed out how much the city has changed since 1976, when the internet was unknown and Britain in the grip of the cold war.
Professor Michael Mainelli, Executive Chairman of think tank Z/Yen, highlighted the importance of flexibility and importance of localised planning, warning that a more modular approach to town planning could help people travel shorter distances to work and leisure opportunities rather than always into the centre of London.
Sir John Armitt, former Chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority, stressed the importance of forward planning from a solid evidence base and the importance of political consensus in making the difficult decisions about future growth.
Asked for three key challenges facing infrastructure planning, James Goodman, Director of Futures at Forum for the Future listed extreme weather caused by climate change, food security and the risk of a city polarised between a global super-rich centre and the rest.
Michael Liebreich, Chief Executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance highlighted the need to incentivise water companies to invest in sustainable water management systems – that allow heavy rainfall to drain away slowly – rather than costly new hard infrastructure of sewers and storm drains.
Fiona Fletcher-Smith, the GLA’s Executive Director for Development, Enterprise & Environment told the Committee that funding was the big unknown unless the government accepts the recommendations of the London Finance Commission and give London more power to spend money raised in the city.
Guests went on discuss a range of potential income streams, including new ways to discourage land banking and ways of funding infrastructure by taxing land owners who benefit from the increased property value the project creates.
Nicky Gavron AM, Chair of the Planning Committee, said:
“Work has begun on a long term infrastructure plan for London, and the Committee heard today about some of the future thinking and new approaches that must inform this plan and how it can avoid locking us into the wrong infrastructure.
“Of course, nobody knows what the future may hold, but without some sort of planning London will become an increasingly crowded and uncomfortable place to live and work. Our work today will feed into the Assembly’s contribution to the Mayor’s emerging Infrastructure Plan.”
Notes for Editors:
- Watch a webcast of the meeting and more information about the guests
- The Mayor started work on a long term infrastructure plan in mid-2013 and intends to have a draft ready for London First’s Infrastructure Summit in March 2014, with the final plan published in summer 2014. The plan will build on the work of the London Finance Commission and the Mayor’s 2020 Vision.
- The Chair of the Planning Committee, Nicky Gavron AM, is available for interview. See contact details below.
- As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.