Dave Hill | The Guardian: Rolling back the years along the Thames

The thriving London entering 2016 has changed dramatically in recent decades, yet some of its greatest qualities have endured

As Big Ben ushers in 2016, reflect on how the capital has changed. The man astride the statue in the photograph above is Illtyd Harrington, a great servant of the London Labour Party who died during this year. The photograph was taken in 1977 to illustrate a campaign by the London Evening News to smarten up a capital full of friction and discontent whose population was still in post-war decline.

The Look At Life film below takes us back even further, to 1959. It celebrates a River Thames yet to be stripped of its docks and the employment they created – a loss that riverside boroughs in the east of the city are still battling to recover from. Note the bullish pride taken in London’s international reach and flavour. That, unlike the docks, has never died. The film is ten minutes long. It’s a delight.

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Dave Hill | The Guardian: The ‘Paddington Shard’ row shines a light on London’s mayoral choice

The latest outbreak of hostilities over tall buildings in the capital underlines how crucial to the city’s future the next mayor’s planning policies will be

Four days before Christmas Boris Johnson’s right hand man Sir Edward Lister wrote this for City AM:

Not for the first time, tall buildings in the capital are attracting media debate and some criticism. But tall buildings in the right places can be part of the solution. Crucially, if we are genuinely serious about preserving our green belt at the same time as managing London’s population explosion, we will need to continue to build upwards. Tall buildings can create real value and provide the density so badly needed in a rapidly-growing city. They are not just suitable as bases for the thousands of new companies requiring office space in the capital each year, but as homes for Londoners too.

A plot is afoot to race ahead with a “second Shard” in Paddington over the New Year. If built, it would be 72 storeys – one floor shorter than its sister tower – overlooking west London between Bayswater and Maida Vale. The developers could be hoping to avoid adverse publicity over the holiday so as to get planning permission at the beginning of March. At that point major planning decisions are suspended in advance of the mayoral elections. They have the support of the mayor, Boris Johnson, and his tower-hungry deputy, Sir Edward Lister. They cannot trust either of the new mayoral candidates, Zac Goldsmith or Sadiq Khan, to be sympathetic.

Piano claims that if London is not to sprawl “it must build up”. This is rubbish. His towers are luxury market speculations, which is why his Shard is mostly empty. More to the point, 200-300 flats is not dense…the same number of dwellings could be arranged in two dozen seven-storey Victorian terraced houses on half the site. A normal low-rise, high-density development in Paddington should be delivering 600-700 flats. As housing, this tower is a waste of space.

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Dave Hill | The Guardian: London taxi trade: the Knowledge, the Conservatives and the future

A report by one of the capital’s Tory transport experts argues that lighter regulation and enabling reform would help traditional black cabs to survive

It’s been a fractious year for London’s road transport with a range of competing interest groups fighting for political favour and road space preference against a backdrop of rising congestion. Great anger has been expressed by the capital’s famous black taxi drivers about the disruptive insurgence of Uber, with both Transport for London (TfL) bosses and mayor Boris Johnson feeling the lash of cabbies’ tongues.

The issue has placed Johnson uncomfortably astride the classic Conservative cleft stick – an urge to uphold tradition is at odds with a default deference to market forces. Party colleague and London Assembly member Richard Tracey recently produced a report called Saving An Icon which, on behalf of the Tory group, set out an eight-point action plan for lessening the stress of this unhappy straddling and, in its own words, “rescuing London’s black cabs from extinction”. Does it find the solutions London needs?

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