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Crossrail 2 requires London and Londoners to think big on development

A friend once told me I dressed like I’d gone through charity shop rejects – and done it in the dark.

Part of the reason was I used to buy my clothes from weird and wonderful shops at one end of London’s famous King’s Road – the end where Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm Maclaren had their famous Sex boutique in the 1970s.

These days, with the constraints of time, if I’m ever on King’s Road I tend to make it out of the tube at the far end and head into the shops round there, which are rather more sensible chain outlets.

There’s no time to make the journey to the other end of the road and, as a consequence, I look much more sensible now.

Minority opposition still prevails

So imagine my sartorial joy when Transport for London proposed a Crossrail 2 station near where Westwood and Maclaren once sold their wares. Peruvian llama wool ponchos looked back within my grasp.

“The naysayers are in the minority, but that’s plenty to cause the whole project a serious headache”

Unfortunately, that joy was short-lived as the consultation came back showing “Kensington and Chelsea…stands out as having a much higher level of opposition than in other areas”.

Both the idea of a station and accompanying development are the problem.

The naysayers are in the minority – 16 per cent of respondents here strongly oppose Crossrail 2 and a further 3 per cent oppose it – but that’s plenty to cause the whole project a serious headache.

That headache would quickly spread to the whole of London.

In a city growing by more than 100,000 people a year we need to run to stand still when it comes to infrastructure. Crossrail 2 will be a huge help in reducing the appalling overcrowding that is forecast on many lines into the capital.

Second consultation offers lesson

TfL and Network Rail have just launched a second consultation on Crossrail 2 to address concerns that cropped up in the original exercise (which, incidentally, received overwhelming support in the round from Londoners).

At the launch of the new consultation the deputy mayor for transport Isabel Dedring said: “The consequences for Crossrail 2 would go well beyond transport, to regeneration and housing benefits.”

This is the key: Crossrail 2 is not just about transport; it’s about new homes, offices, shops and jobs.

“It means taking a look at the green belt to see where new public transport-led housing development could take place”

So, when TfL suggests – as it has in the new consultation – that the King’s Road station could be dropped, this should be a salutary lesson to other councils and communities.

There are two boxes to be ticked here: not only do councils and communities need to support the line, they need to accept the accompanying development as well.

Fresher thinking

In practical terms this means we need a willingness to build higher around some of Crossrail 2’s central London stations.

We need to take a fresh look at existing industrial land uses and perhaps re-designating tired old industrial estates near new stations for residential use.

And, yes – heresy! – it means taking a look at the green belt to see where new public transport-led housing development could take place.

The debate must not be solely about what Crossrail 2 can do for existing inhabitants in areas it passes through.

We must also be asking what those areas can do to enable the development along the route that will support London’s growth.

Even if the result is fewer llama-based products on my shopping list.

Jo Valentine is chief executive for London First

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