Plans afoot for London's great squares

A radical plan to pedestrianise Trafalgar and Parliament squares, London's two greatest squares, has been revived by ministers in the face of criticism over the deteriorating environment in the capital.

A meeting of Sir George Young, the Secretary of State for Transport, and John Gummer, the Secretary of State for the Environment, on Tuesday, decided to reactivate the plans first drawn up in the 1980s. Civil servants have been given a year to come up with clear proposals.

Ministers are determined that this time the objections which led to their rejection in the late 1980s - such as concern that a more accessible Parliament Square would attract drunks - should be overruled.

One Tory source said: "There is very widespread recognition that something needs to be done. These beautiful squares are being ruined by the traffic and are a very bad advertisement for London."

For Trafalgar Square, the idea would be to pedestrianise the northern side to allow visitors to the National Gallery access to the central square without having to cross a road. Two way traffic would be restored on the other three sides. Similarly, on Parliament Square, the western side adjoining Westminster Abbey would be pedestrianised.

However, the plans will not be seen as radical enough by environmentalists who say the full pedestrianisation of Leicester Square has been a success.

Ministers have apparently been influenced by the public meetings on the future of London organised by the Architectural Foundation, attended by thousands of Londoners and Tony Blair, the Labour leader.

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