Our columnist believes it’s time to make Clerkenwell roads safer for cyclists, by revisiting some ideas from the past.
The splendid renovation of the Old Sessions House on Clerkenwell Green got me thinking. Thanks to the Grebelius Brothers, the ubercool developers behind the restoration project, I can now enjoy the fantastic view of the Grade II listed facade as I cycle down the western bank of the River Fleet. At the same time, I seethe with anger at the bizarre road configuration of the Vine Street and Clerkenwell Road bridges, where the narrow roadway endangers the lives of some 7000 cyclists a day.
It might be timely, I thought, to pull the drawings of the ‘Farringdon Square Project’ out of the cabinet. Quite a few local architects have had a go at decking over of the tracks from Vine Street all the way up to Pear Tree Court. James Gorst Architects designed a new public space here for the Festival of Architecture in 2004; more recently Sir Terry Farrell proposed an office development for the ING Bank on part of the site which would have paid for a new square on the rest of it.
Revisiting the project is also timely in that the Mayor has told TfL that they have to start developing around their stations, both to provide more homes for Londoners, but also to put some cash back into running the trains and buses.
Historically TfL have hated anyone building over its lines in case they delayed the trains, but now they are turning into one of the capital’s biggest property developers themselves, decking over is very much on their agenda. It’s not that hard to do and can be paid for by developing a piece of adjoining land, as well as asking for a contribution from neighbouring owners whose buildings will rocket in value when Farrngdon Square is completed.
Peter Murray is Chairman of NLA: London’s Centre for the Built Environment. www.newlondonarchitecture.org