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Changing roads policy in London - 1981

Getting some sense into roads policy

The London Amenity & Transport Association (LATA) had been successfully fighting roadbuilding schemes in London since the late 1960s. The battle of the motorways (ringways) is the subject of a separate topic on this website. The final gasp of the pro-roads culture at the Greater London Council (GLC) came when, in May 1981, the Conservatives were swept aside by Ken Livingstone's first administration.

The incoming Labour administration needed to quickly review the many road schemes - large and small - that they had inherited. Tim Pharoah (who was secretary of LATA during the motorway fight) produced criteria to help them carry out this review. Pragmatism and speed were crucial.

Following discussions at County Hall, these criteria were adopted by the GLC at the Transport Committee meeting on 21st July 1981. This was a gratifying moment after more than a decade of trying to inject some rationality into London's transport planning process. In a way it was of greater significance than the victory in getting the Ringways scrapped in 1974. That was won on the basis of political realities born of the oil crisis and fiscal constraints. This was won on the strength of argument, and went to the core of the planning process.

For the document drawn up by Tim Pharoah "Criteria for a Review of GLC Highway Schemes, June 1981, see pdf in right sidebar.

How the mighty are fallen

A short time after the highway review, Tim Pharoah joined a cycle planning panel at the GLC. Across the table was a GLC officer he knew well. The last time they had met, the officer had been the main protagonist at the public inquiry into a proposed highway underpass at Millbank, Victoria - a flagship Tory scheme. Tim Pharoah had been the objector for LATA. Now, this highway engineer was at the cycle planning meeting, to present different designs of bollards. Sweet!

LocationLondon England


Highway policy, roads policy, transport policy, political process, scrapping road schemes, appraisal criteria, road programme, political change, 1981 GLC, Greater London Council, Tim Pharoah, Paul Moore

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