The programme is a great opportunity not only to look back – to see what’s worked well and what hasn’t – but to look to the future and think about how we can all make London a fantastic place to live in the 2020s and beyond. Present Covid challenges aside, there is still much to be positive about.
Thamesmead exemplifies this. It’s a remarkable place, with unique landscapes and valuable natural assets including five lakes, 150 hectares of open space and 5km of Thames River frontage. We’re investing in this, cultivating the natural environment and embedding green principles into some of the more urban parts of the town. All things being equal, the first phase of 534 new homes in South Thamesmead around a rejuvenated lake, arts centre, library will be complete by spring next year.
We’re investing in the existing homes and fabric, the public realm, and the amenities and activities on offer to people living, working or visiting the place. For me, it is about so much more than the physical environment. It’s about making a real difference to people’s lives.
Culture creates communities. I see our role as facilitators and enablers. For culture to be embedded into a community, it needs to be led by the community. This helps to create a place where people want to be and where they feel at home. Culture isn’t an optional extra - it creates jobs, brings a community together, and enhances the sense of civic pride and belonging. Prioritising culture in the same way we plan for housing and transport is imperative, because you cannot create great places to live without cultural infrastructure.
Southmere Lake © Paul Elliott