Westway and the Planned Ring Road
In the nineteen-sixties a new motorway ring road was planned for London. Westway had been started, to run from White City to the Harrow Road. From there it would continue through the East End, Denmark Hill and back to Paddington in a great sweep, connecting with other major routes on its way. It was planned, where possible, to run over railway land and open spaces, but often the effect on local neighbourhoods was devastating. The neighbourhood was scarred with the raw ends of old terraces, damaged and going nowhere. People were cut off from familiar shops and deafened by unceasing traffic, protest meetings and bad publicity.
People in other areas along the proposed route could see what was coming and wanted none of it. Because the route was not finally settled, the planners had set aside much more land than they would eventually need. This meant that building work all along the route came to a halt. Nobody would build if their houses might be torn down in a few years time. No bank would lend money. No council could obtain grants to improve properties. Camden Town for example, already suffering from the movement of industry out of London and losing factories and jobs every year, was to become a huge roundabout. As a result, the whole district decayed and became derelict.1
Leslie Ginsberg, who had lately been head of the Post Graduate Planning Department of the Architects' Association and soon to become Planning Advisor to the Civic Trust, was Chairman of the Paddington Society. He prepared a case against the road and was ably supported by Malcolm MacEwen in Hampstead, and many others. He led a wide public protest. He said that no work had been done on the environmental effects of the motorway. No thought had been given to the local communities. No public transport was being improved. The motorway would attract and increase traffic, not reduce it. The plan should be scrapped.
The protest did not stop the building of Westway, but the Ring Road concept was aborted. Today Westway ends at Edgware Road and the rest of London was saved from a mass of Spaghetti Junctions.