I read with interest recently, enthusiastic support for London Mayor Boris Johnson as visionary for proposing to sink Park Lane (Mayfair, London) into a tunnel and to build on the land thus freed-up. Oh dear, environmental awareness certainly escapes Boris!
About four years ago, I had read, (when the late Sir Simon Milton became Mr Johnson's Deputy Mayor), that Boris Johnson "first" floated an idea to put Park Lane into a tunnel (but without buildings above). At the time, I read this with interest, as it was a proposal I had first put to my then colleagues, including Simon Milton, in 1990, when I was the Westminster City Councillor for Mayfair and Soho ('West End Ward'). It would have restored more than six acres of trees and grass back to Hyde Park, and reduced traffic noise and pollution in the park, and separated through-traffic from bicycles and local traffic. It had thus been to my pleasant surprise when I had heard that Sir Simon had taken the idea with him to the GLA.
In 1990 I had got the Grosvenor Estate to agree to fund half of the cost of the works. Unfortunately, most of my colleagues lacked vision and were daunted by it, saying it was too big a project for them to envisage! Thus 22 years have been lost during which people could have been benefitting from it.
In 1996, two engineering firms had then picked-up the idea and were going to apply for Lottery funding: however, the costs they proposed were so much higher than the original scheme, that it is perhaps not surprising it did not happen.
If the Mayor of London is to implement the Park Lane Tunnel, then it must be as per the original scheme to restore the extent of Hyde Park, and not to build on at all; not housing, not cafes. We must not allow it to become yet another open space lost to development.
Although the project was stand-alone in itself, it was designed to be able to extend the tunnel the length of the Edgware Road running north to outer London (thus unclogging the town centres along its length, such as Kilburn and Cricklewood, and south past Victoria Station along the congested Vauxhall Bridge Road , and creating a new tunnel crossing of the River Thames, and potentially south to unclog the roads of Lambeth and beyond.
The model could have become extensive in all directions under London which would have created quieter, safer streets, whilst improving traffic flow, instead of 'traffic calming' measures which cause delay and inconvenience and expense to businesses and people alike.
I emphasise though that the Park Lane tunnel is but a small project.
It is to London's loss that it was not implemented - and still should be.
Other transport projects I was proposing around the same time, were to create conduits into which all utilities would run, so as to end the need for digging up roads and causing traffic chaos each time either a new utility needs to go in or an old one needs repairing.
I also advocated that all building projects should have excess parking spaces created underground so that on-street parking could be removed, so as to free-up road space for wider footpaths, cycling and trees. The current Westminster City Council parking debacle would never have happened had this been implemented.
That these have not been implemented yet, means that London is over twenty years behind where it should be on modernising its infrastructure. - Twenty years of a property boom when developers would have gladly donated to new infrastructure projects, have been squandered.