Metropolitan Governance and Spatial Planning: Comparative Case Studies of European City-Regions

By Willem Salet; Andy Thornley et al. | Go to book overview

3

London

Institutional turbulence but enduring nation-state control

Andy Thornley

In exploring the relationship between strategic planning and governance in London over the last 20 years, two issues stand out. The first is the lack of any regional level of government. Here, region means the travel-to-work catchment area of the city - the south-east region - which covers an area within a 60-mile radius from the centre of the city and had in 2000 a population of 18.1 million people. The second issue has been the instability in the government of the metropolitan core, that is, the built-up area of the city within the green belt - usually referred to as Greater London - which contains 7.4 million people. This vacuum or uncertainty in governance at a strategic scale has led to the national government taking a dominant role in strategic planning for London. However, with the establishment of the Greater London Authority for the metropolitan area in 2000 a new era has begun. It might be hypothesised that this has brought about a shift in governmental control over planning from the nation-state to the metropolitan level. We will explore these themes in more detail.


The spatial economy of the London region

A brief historical review is necessary to explain the current spatial pattern of London's urban fabric. Past trends have created a city with relatively low-density, low-rise housing surrounded by a green belt that is mainly farmland with a few villages that existed before the ban on development, and which have been bought by the wealthy population. Beyond the green belt, the region contains a large population, many of whom commute into the city. The physical fabric of London was largely established during the nineteenth century. In 1800 the population of the city was about 1 million and this rose to 6.5 million by the end of the century. As the population of the city within the green belt is currently estimated to be 7.4 million, it can be seen that this nineteenth-century legacy has an important influence on the structure of the city. During the first part of the nineteenth century the population increase was largely established within a confined area with increasing densities. This was a period when there was much concern and publicity about the

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