Memories of Future London



At a recent JLL event, we asked attendees to participate in a short survey and share their memories and thoughts about London.  This blog captures the themes from their responses.

Most people have a unique first memory of London. It might be a childhood visit to one of the city’s famous landmarks, like the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, the Cutty Sark or the Science Museum.  It could be the journey itself – whether circling high above the city flying into Heathrow, riding one of the city’s iconic red buses, or taking the Underground for the first time.

It could also be a fleeting sensory experience that has always remained – the blistering summer sun in Hyde Park in 1976, the smell of the underground or the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus.

More recently, the 2012 London Olympics has clearly made its mark, with more than one in five respondents citing the Games as a memory of London that will still be important to them even in 2030. Others allude to London’s vibrancy – its mix of the modern and the historic; its cultural institutions – such as the Globe and the National Theatre; the buzz in terms of shopping, leisure and restaurants; its diversity; and its green and open spaces.

London is transforming.

Looking forward fifteen years to 2030, many see London continuing to expand – upwards and outwards, as well as in terms of population – with a new skyline, more skyscrapers, and increased densification. One respondent even speculated that London will become more like Singapore or Hong Kong. The spatial lay-out will change, with areas currently on the fringes of Central London such as Battersea, Vauxhall, Kings Cross and Victoria already undergoing huge transformation.

The other big theme is transport – with some heralding improved transport links that will solve London’s congestion issues, with more bikes, pedestrianized areas, electric cars, new airport capacity and all-round better connectivity in the capital. Others, however, seem to be living more in hope than expectation that this will be a reality by 2030.

Many of those taking part in the survey are clearly concerned about the impact of London’s next mayor – with 40% mentioning the role of the mayor as a major influencer on the city’s future. Some see foreign money and investors coming into the city as a major driver of change, while others feel it will be architects, developers and landowners who will design and plan London’s future. London’s population – whether it be skilled migrants, the ageing population or the city’s youth – is also a driver of change. Others think that London’s development over the next 15 years will be driven by changes in technology, sustainability and infrastructure.

Where will this change occur?

Many see massive change already occurring right the way across the city, not least due to the impact of Crossrail on London’s geography. There is also an expectation that East London’s revival will continue, while new developments will transform areas south of the river. Meanwhile, a large number expect dramatic changes on London’s fringes – with the phrases such as suburbs, outer boroughs, outskirts, emerging areas and ‘beyond Zone 1’ coming up again and again. There are mentions of Croydon, Reading, Heathrow, Stratford, Tottenham and Bexley, for example. However, there are still a reasonable number anticipating great changes in London’s centre. One response perhaps summed this up, giving the simple answer of change will be ‘everywhere’.

The city faces a myriad of challenges. Perhaps unsurprisingly, affordable housing provision, traffic and congestion problems, coping with a growing population and investment into infrastructure come up as key issues facing London.  However, there are also a number of less tangible issues – for example, foreign investors creating ‘ghost’ developments and tackling how London intends to retain its competitive edge as a financial and business centre and position itself as a global pioneer, along with more general concerns about the economy, politics and the environment.

What will be missing from London in 2030?

Well, nothing, according to nearly 20% of our guests. Others, perhaps less optimistic, fear a loss of a sense of collectiveness, homogenisation and a lack of coherent forward planning – while, predictably, airport capacity, pressure on transport infrastructure and affordable housing emerge as issues once again.


About the Author

Born and bred in Liverpool, Rosemary understood at an early age that cities have very distinct characters. As a town planner and market strategist her personal interest in what makes cities work, grew into a career and a passion. She is now an International Director and Head of JLL’s Cities Research Programme which she set up 12 years ago. Cities are constantly evolving, she says, models and urban personalities change, technology is always pushing forward and the choice of cities in which to invest, develop, shop and live continues to extend. Analysing, tracking and interpreting and anticipating the nature of the New World of Cities is as important as it is fascinating. Rosemary is a Trustee of the Urban Land Institute and serves on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Cities.

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