Letter: Does London need central rule?

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Sir: Hamish McRae fired blanks in his broadside on a strategic authority for London. Office permits, tower blocks and traffic-free housing zones were more the product of national and local governments than the GLC or LCC, which implemented rather than instigated them.

The case for a new-style GLC rests on successfully integrating jobs, housing and transport in the built-up metropolis. That was never achieved in the GLC - I know, I was in policy development - and the prospect is becoming ever more remote because forecasts of employment are becoming more divergent and less reliable as the UK economy adjusts to a fast-changing world.

Strategy for London over 50 years has been best when facing clear and finite problems: clean air; green belts; slum clearance; industrial dispersal; population overspill. Even then, juggernaut bureaucracies could push policy too far.

The strategic issue is this: what is London's future as its growth industries stop growing and provincial industrial cities become service oriented and competitive? The best the planners can offer at the moment, it seems, is to bring back manufacturing. London needs strategic thinking more than a strategic authority, the latter being neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for the former. More good ideas about London have been generated since the demise of the GLC.

Yours etc,


Purley, London

6 May