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Festival of Britain

Sixty-six years ago, you may well have been planning your visit to the Festival of Britain. If you fancied making the journey to London, you would have joined the 8.5 million visitors to the South Bank of the River Thames who encountered thirty pavilions showcasing various aspects of Britain’s life that had been constructed around the new Festival Hall.

The Festival of Britain was a celebration of Britain’s dominant position in the arts, science, technology and industry and provided visitors with the opportunity to be educated, bask in Britain’s culture and history and see the very best in modern industrial and decorative design. The government had allocated £14 million as a budget and the Deputy Prime Minister, Herbert Morrison, had appointed Gerald Barry to spearhead the project. He turned to Hugh Casson Continue reading →

Living Over The Shop

Twenty odd years ago, the government sponsored a scheme to convert the empty space on the floors above shops in town centres into homes. At that time, it was estimated that at least 250,000 homes could be created from these vacant areas. This would be a simple way to utilise the existing infrastructure of retail premises and, at the same time, repopulate urban areas that had become places only to go to work or to shop  and during evenings and at weekends, they were often empty and desolate.

The scheme known as “Living Over The Shop” coincided with a time when old warehouse and industrial properties were being snapped up by developers and converted into loft style residential accommodation. These properties, however, tended to be around the edges of the town centres whilst the vacant upper floors of shops were often right in the centre. Both types of developments proved popular with young occupiers who were keen to buy into the new wave of urban living but neither attracted the variety of demographic groups that are needed to build areas into vibrant and sustainable communities. Continue reading →

On Yer Bike

The bicycle is one of the most potent symbols of freedom. Just ask some older children who have been given a bike and can suddenly set out to go where they want, when they want on a route of their own choice, at a pace that they set themselves and in the company of whomsoever they choose.

If you need further evidence, take a look at the classic 1948 Italian film “Bicycle Thieves.” A man needs a bicycle to move around Rome pasting up billboard advertisements which provides just enough income to support his struggling family. His bicycle is stolen jeopardising his family’s survival and he sets out with his son to find the thief.

If you’re still not convinced, remember that 43% of London’s residents have no access to a motor car which may help to explain why the introduction of the “Boris Bikes” has been so successful. In cities like York and Hull, the common sight of cycles has not diminished and is generally recognised as the speediest and most economical way of travelling around town. This is hardly surprising as the number of cars on Britain’s roads has increased ten fold since the start of the Queen’s reign with ever more difficult and expensive parking arrangements the inevitable corollary.     Continue reading →

Check Your Home

Start a conversation with people who live in flats and it won’t be long before they’re complaining about the high service charges and shared maintenance costs. They want to enjoy the benefit of shared facilities and not having to deal with things themselves but they simply cannot accept that costs go up and are often far more than just a few years ago.

There is an acceptance that building insurance costs may have increased and that the upkeep of gardens, lifts, window cleaning and lighting communal areas all cost more than in previous years but there is a strong reluctance to have to pay for it. You’ll soon hear the inevitable, woeful exclamation “If I lived in my own house, I wouldn’t have to pay all these expenses and, even if I did have to pay some of them, I’d be in control of them any way.”
Continue reading →

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