THE BLOG

This Is The Sound Of The Suburbs

11/08/2017 11:45 BST | Updated 11/08/2017 11:46 BST

I have just been appointed as one of Mayor Sadiq Khan's Design Advocates' to help drive the Good Growth by Design project.

I had been thinking about what Good Growth in London means to me and it came to me during this recent sweltering spell of weather in London when I was struggling to sleep and getting up at 4am and going on long runs with the dog on empty roads, through deserted green spaces and canal tow paths and through eerie industrial estates filled with the tempting smell of freshly baked bread. Each morning I took a route that would take me through the suburbs to an inner borough and then back through another suburban route to our office in a converted suburban home in Wembley Park. The one thing that struck me was how unloved so much of the public realm as you move away from the inner areas. The Grand Union canal tow path is beautiful in Kensal Rise and Ladbroke Grove and absolutely bloody filthy in Park Royal, Stonebridge Park and a proper health hazard by the time your reach Alperton. The lawns of Queens Park are pristine, whilst King Edwards Park in Wembley is littered with broken bottles that regularly cut my dogs pads. Hampstead Heath (4.6 miles from Oxford Circus) is mostly spotless whilst the woods, water and fields of The Welsh Harp (7.2 miles from Oxford Circus ) is only clear of dumped rubbish when local volunteer groups have done their bit for society.

Living and working in suburban Brent I have witnessed public transport come on leaps and bounds whilst also experiencing the gap widen in terms of the quality of public space, quality of places to eat and general liveability of suburban Brent compared to neighbouring boroughs such as Kensington and Camden. I have witnessed Wembley High Road lose its M&S (sad as it sounds, how I miss being able to pop out for M&S chocolate cereal), lose its cool record shops and bars that in the 80s were vibrant hang outs for goths and new romantics and made Wembley a place where it felt natural to base our first business Red or Dead. We could be in our shops in the West End in 20 minutes or on the motorway to our factories in Lancashire in 10 minutes. Whilst Wembley, Harrow, Wealdstone, Hounslow and some other outer boroughs have remained relatively affordable, they are not on the radar of a generation of young Londoners who are saying that London is overheated and there is nowhere for them to live and make their mark in the city. The regular blogs, commentaries and talks at creative conferences that say that London has squeezed out its young and creative and it is time to move to Margate or Berlin have been making me want to scream: "open your eyes, be creative and turn your attention to pebble dashed suburban semi's and 80's corrugated plastic clad car repair shops".

So I am clear what my first mission will be as a London Design Advocate for Good Growth. It is time again for the Sound of the Suburbs. Here's what I am going to shout about:

1. We need to invest in good growth in the suburbs and balance the fact that in the past decade 500,000 jobs have been created in inner London and 8000 in outer London (Paul Hunter: Towards a Suburban Renaissance.

2. There is a need to create a beautiful vernacular for modernising suburban semi's.

3. There needs to be creative thought going into how to make late 20th century industrial units attractive to the creative community (they are doing it in Liverpool.

4. The suburban public realm needs the same love as inner London.

5. Developers should have to put as much design thought into suburban densification as they do in inner London and suburban planning teams need the design skills and teeth to ensure that densification is done well. Planners should be supporting and giving "first mover" options to suburban SME developers who are less likely to "sh*t on their own doorstep" and less likely to seek a greedy 20% return on capital employed.

6. There needs to be more investment in orbital public transport to support the Overland.

7. Suburban planning teams need to be armed with the tools to dismantle suburban streets that consist of four competing bookies, a couple of money lenders and a pawnbroker all cheek to jowl creating suburban streets of misery.

8. There needs to be a communication push about loving London's suburbs. How many people know about the magnificent Capital Ring or Fryent County Park?

David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Siouxie Sioux and the Bromley Contingent, the Lacey Lady Jazz Funk dancers, Kate Moss all came from the suburbs. It's time for the suburbs to rise again.

The Members said it all in 1979, the year I settled in London's suburbia...

Same old boring Sunday morning old mans out washing the car,

Mums in the kitchen cooking Sunday dinner her best meal moaning while it lasts,

Johnnys upstairs in his bedroom sitting in the dark,

Annoying the neighbours with his punk rock electric guitar,

This is the Sound,

This is the Sound of the Suburbs

This is the Sound,

This is the Sound of the Suburbs

Every Lousy Monday Morning Heathrow jets goes crashing over my home,

Ten O'clock Broadmoor siren driving me mad won't leave me alone,

The woman next store just sits and stares outside,

She hasn't come out once ever since her husband died,

This is the Sound,

This is the Sound of the Suburbs

This is the Sound,

This is the Sound of the Suburbs

Youth club Group used to want to be free,

Now they want anarchy,

They play too fast, they play out of tune,

They Practise in the singers bedroom,

The Drums quite good the bass is too loud,

And I... can't hear the words.

This is the Sound,

This is the Sound of the Suburbs

This is the Sound,

This is the Sound of the Suburbs

Saturday morning family shoppers crowding out, the centre of town,

Young blokes sitting on the benches shouting at the young girls walking around,

Johnny stands there at his window looking at the night,

I said, hey what you listening to there's nothing there (that's right)

This is the Sound,

This is the Sound of the Suburbs

This is the Sound,

This is the Sound of the Suburbs