In praise of town planners…

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I know that heading feels oxymoronic, doesn’t it? Prince Charles perhaps sums up a lot of people’s attitudes to Town Planners when he said this about a scheme they were minded to approve in central London back in the 1980s

“You have to give this much to the Luftwaffe,” he told the Corporation of London Planning and Communication Committee’s annual dinner at Mansion House. “When it knocked down our buildings, it didn’t replace them with anything more offensive than rubble.”

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When I worked in the City at the start of the 1980s I helped out on a site assembly for a major office development of the sort much loathed by Charles. ‘Glass stump’ ‘Old 1930s radio set’ ‘ a carbuncle on the face of a favourite friend’ these were some of his sneering compliments. You would imagine therefore that the planners would be all for the client’s scheme. But no, it foundered for one reason.

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The old medieval street pattern. London is riddled with lanes and passages.

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No cars, not even a bike can get down some of these little cut throughs.

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And the planners will not allow that character to disappear by letting clients such as mine enclose them into a new building.

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And I’m glad.

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Today I headed for a hiking shop in Covent Garden. My current pair of boots have worn through the heel after a few thousand miles in the last three years.

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After buying a new pair – like waterproof slippers – I headed for Neal’s Yard off Shorts Gardens in Covent Garden.

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26 Grains is a tiny cafe that sells, erm grains and, especially the best porridge a man can buy. Nordic Spice if you’re interested.

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but they are all amazing.

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After that I headed south taking in a variety of lanes and passages. It’s Dickens but not as he knew it. At the end of my wander was Somerset House, once upon a time the home of the Inland Revenue and repository of all the Birth, Marriages and Deaths records. Now it is a public space used in winter for ice skating and summer fountains for children to run through. The buildings house galleries and eateries. One gallery had an exhibition about Tintin’s author, Georges Remi. My perambulations were complete.

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About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in London, miscellany, walking and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to In praise of town planners…

  1. I love those passages, byways and twisty lanes that insisted on taking me somewhere other than I intended – I had many adventures getting lost in London’s side alleys. These are beautiful and intriguing glimpses shown in your photos – love the colour that has appeared on some buildings.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A great set, Geoff. I recognise a few

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sacha Black says:

    You have reminded me of a must I need to do for research. One of the settings in one of my books is in a place with narrow paths and walkways so tight barely two people can walk side by side. I had almost forgotten London has some of these beauties. Maybe u can take me on a tour – bring Mylo and I’ll bring atlas and a camera!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lucciagray says:

    I love Nell Gwyne’s Tavern! Such a Dickensian place in the heart of 21st century London. There must be many more…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Charli Mills says:

    Oh, how I love these walks about town! In Helena, Montana the streets narrow and the buildings oddly shaped because all was built upon the gold claims along the creek that is now paved over, built and free of its treasure. I think building, rebuilding, art and architecture speaks of history and character. I’m happy London looks like no other place!

    In the US, black tea is often labeled “English Breakfast” or “Irish Breakfast.” What is Assam? Are we missing on on the goods?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. davidprosser says:

    No wonder you need hiking boots.
    Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jools says:

    I too love those narrow lanes and passageways, both in central London and elsewhere. And being a lover of porridge too, I’m going to have to make time to try that Nordic Spice!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A lovely virtual walk, thanks! Got me thinking about that Dickensian thing on BBC. I am not sure whether to like it or not. Some of the characters seem much unpleasant than the originals, but the idea of their lives pre-Dickens treatment is fascinating, e.g. Honoria Barbary.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Norah says:

    Covent Garden. I don’t recognise anything, but is that where we went when I was in town? I love the colourful shops and the sunflower on the wall reminds me of the SMAG badge. 🙂

    Like

  10. jan says:

    Those are charming neighborhoods if you don’t mind getting lost every now and then! (like we did!)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Rachel M says:

    I love all those little lanes. They’re beautiful, mostly, because there are no cars.

    Liked by 1 person

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