Briefing for Is London growing too big too fast?

Time and location

Tuesday 5 October 2010 from 18:30 to 20:00. (The  Conference Centre bar will be open from 17:30 but there won’t be drinks afterwards.)

Location: British Library Conference Centre, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB

Please can you arrive at the Conference Centre for 18:00. Look for anyone from the Story of London Festival. Ask for us at registration and we will introduce you to your fellow speakers and your chair, and pass on any final updates.

Event on Story of London Festival site.

All debates Future City Keynote Debates

  • Bankers and Bonuses: What has the City ever done for London? on the evening of Monday 4 October
  • Is London growing too big too fast? on the evening of Tuesday 5 October
  • London and the Olympics: Predicting the legacy of the twenty-first century on the evening of Wednesday 6 October
  • Is London missing out on the potential of new technologies? on the evening of Thursday 7 October
  • London and the future: Will we still be a major player in the world in 2050? on the evening of Friday 8 October

More information and booking: British Library Story of London page.


Chris Luebkeman, head of Foresight, Incubation and Innovation, Arup


Chris is the Global Director for Foresight and Innovation at Arup, he spends half of his time travelling the world observing the faces and facets of change.  Because of the places he’s been and people he’s met with Arup, Chris is an eternal optimist who believes in human potential. His insatiable curiosity is reflected in his education as a geologist, structural engineer and architect.  Chris is a fourth generation educator who has taught at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the University of Oregon, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chris specializes as a generalist with a view of being “in league with the future”. He has been described as the “Willy Wonka of the built environment” and was listed as one of the ten future speculators and shapers “Who will change the Way we live”, in Wallpaper Magazine (2002).  He leads a small, globally distributed team at Arup who help focus the firm, its clients and friends on the forces which are, and will be, driving change. 

Sir Terry Farrell, Terry Farrell and Partners, architect and author of Shaping London: The Patterns and Forms That Make the Metropolis


Sir Terry Farrell is principal and founder of architecture practice Terry Farrell & Partners. The practice designed the TV-am studios in Camden Lock, MI6′s Vauxhall headquarters, and the Home Office complex in Marsham Street; it lead the redevelopment of the Comyn Ching Triangle in London’s Covent Garden and Charing Cross Station; and it was responsible for the conversion of the Grade I listed Royal Institution of Great Britain in Albemarle Street. Sir Terry is author of Shaping London: The Patterns and Forms That Make the Metropolis, and in 2008 was appointed by the UK Government as Design and Planning Leader for the Thames Gateway, Europe’s largest regeneration project. He was also appointed by Mayor Boris Johnson to oversee the regeneration of up to five suburban ‘growth hubs’ as part of a new phase of London’s development.

Point of view for this debate

  • I would argue that London is not full up. It doesn’t necessarily mean high rise, can be a good life. Can be better for people and more people can be better for it. London is very sustainable and living
  • We should concentrate on redeveloping existing areas rather than building new towns – architects and engineers are pushing for newness and starting again. It should be about the the regeneration of existing landscapes
  • Better to be consolidated than spread out, though also involved in eco-towns: old towns have most potential as eco-towns as there are more of them and they have more fixed infrastructure.
  • What are the challenges and constraints? Converting old industrial land.
  • I am involved in regeneration of town Southend, Medway etc, all towns should be eco-towns
  • I think we are going to see changes but not necessarily physical. Most designers concentrate on the physical and visual. High streets may be Internet shopping malls, we could recycle buildings as we did with warehouses. Will Canary Wharf be a low energy living place? We’ll have a completely different way of living. Canary Wharf could be recycled by the end of the century.
  • Live-work redefined: see the BL working space outside the Reading Room. Is this a model for towns and villages? 

David Green, director, Civitas


Before founding Civitas in 2000, Dr David Green had been at the Institute of Economic Affairs since 1984, and Director of the IEA Health and Welfare Unit since 1986. He was a Labour councillor in Newcastle upon Tyne from 1976 until 1981, and from 1981 to 1983 was a Research Fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra.

His books include Power and Party in an English City, Allen & Unwin, 1980; Mutual Aid or Welfare State, Allen & Unwin, 1984, with L. Cromwell; Working Class Patients and the Medical Establishment, Temple Smith/Gower, 1985; and The New Right: The Counter Revolution in Political, Economic and Social Thought, Wheatsheaf, 1987; Reinventing Civil Society, IEA, 1993; Community Without Politics: A Market Approach to Welfare Reform, IEA, 1996; Benefit Dependency: How Welfare Undermines Independence (1998); An End to Welfare Rights: The Rediscovery of Independence (1999); Delay, Denial and Dilution (1999) (with Laura Casper); and Stakeholder Health Insurance, London: Civitas, 2000; Crime and Civil Society: Can we become a more law-abiding people?, London: Civitas, 2005; We’re (Nearly) all Victims Now: how political correctness is undermining our liberal culture, London: Civitas, 2006; and Individualists Who Co-operate: Education and welfare reform befitting a free people, London: Civitas, 2009. He contributed the chapter on ‘The Neo-Liberal Perspective’ in Blackwell’s The Student’s Companion to Social Policy (2nd ed, 2003).

He writes occasionally for newspapers, including in recent years pieces in the The Sunday Times, The Times, the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Telegraph. He occasionally broadcasts on programmes such as Newsnight, the Moral Maze and the Today programme. He was a member of the Home Secretary’s Crime Statistics Review Group, which in 2006 recommended improvements in the collection of the crime figures.

Point of view for this debate

  • Talking about immigration
  • Yes – growing too big too fast. It’s a capacity question – you can absorb a lot of people from outside without it leading to trouble and there are benefits but we are close to these limits. 2 million people coming in recent period, vastly more than ever. Compare to Hugenot or Jewish immigration in past centuries.
  • People feel uncomfortable about talking about these questions.
  • The government is getting criticism for cap on immigration for individual companies getting a small quota
  • But there are more difficult issues: pressure on public services, lack of fairness to people from poorer backgrounds, clashes of culture
  • YouGov survey showed 51 percent of immigrants thought immigration should be reduced
  • Impact on housing, particularly acute in London
  • Not just down to immigration, but it’s a major factor
  • The downward pressure on pay is immigration – a fairness problem
  • There’s question about social cohesion
  • Any other solutions? No simple answer. Housing pressure – housing is not being built at any rate that is should be, for example.
  • Until other solutions are found, we should slow down in the meantime.

Peter Bishop, Deputy Chief Executive, London Development Agency


Peter trained in town planning at Manchester University and has spent his entire career working in London.

Over the past 20 years he has been a Planning director in four different Central London Boroughs and has worked in major projects including Canary Wharf, the development of the BBC’s campus at White City and the Kings Cross developments, one of the largest and most complex sites in London.

He was appointed as the first Director of Design for London in 2006 and in 2008 as Group Director of the London Development Agency, responsible for design, land development and its environmental, housing and public space programmes.

Peters lectures and teaches extensively and is a visiting professor at the faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment at the Nottingham Trent University.

Point of view for this debate

  • Challenges: Housing people adequately, move them around, combat climate change. Conundrum is whether continuous economic growth is compatible with climate change. Increasing absence of political consensus, desire for wider debate than in the past.
  • London will continue to grow. Strength in ability to grow and absorb people.
  • High quality contiguous public areas and central public habitation.
  • Becoming more compact: won’t spread outwards: Planning protects green space.
  • More people retiring to the city: better than countryside, better hospitals, etc.
  • Transport is good apart from a few glitches.
  • Flexible working allows better off to live well.
  • Good entertainment, social networking.  Will become more competitive.
  • Increasing pressure? Social equality and social cohesion.
  • Infrastructure? Living off Victorian forbears. Need to put in infrastructure at the appropriate time.

James Heartfield, author  of Let’s Build!


Writer and lecturer James Heartfield is a director of the development think-tank, audacity. He lives in north London with his wife and two daughters.

Point of view for this debate

  • I’m going to rant on that we don’t build enough homes
  • London stretches from London to Hastings to Southend – look at the transport to work area, where the rates of growth are – moved to beyond outer London in the 1960s. No such thing as London, we should talk about the South East.
  • Projected growth is huge
  • I would take away the Green Belt myself, since we don’t have a planning system. We don’t plan ahead and provide the services ahead of time. Rescind all those laws that would go by the name of planning.
  • I’m confident that no-one has a solution. We should get out of the way of planning laws.
  • View on any of the other challenges? There isn’t any problem apart from the fact that we don’t have enough houses to live in. Apart from law and order.
  • Is it growing too big too fast? We can’t support it’s growth. Since the growth is going to happen anyway. Apart from a one-child solution.
  • London should continue to grow outwards.
  • Wealth has stagnated in central London, growth taken place is beyond greater London. Can you turn back that tide?
  • My strong point is that since we don’t had a planning law then remove this things that say they’re planning.
  • London’s got to grow loads. People won’t tolerate the hobbit houses. People live in much smaller households than they used to. Millions of people need more houses, and there’s not enough being built.

Chair: Austin Williams, Future Cities Project

Format and presentations

We would like you to prepare introductory remarks to be presented in five minutes.

After the introductions there will be a short panel debate lead by the chair, and the discussion will then be opened to the audience for questions and points. We hope we will have more than half an hour for this element of the event.

As time will be very limited, we will not be asking for visual presentations, except where visuals are necessary to support an introduction. (If you do want to present we check with the AV staff at the British Library that your presentation will work, and if your time allows work with you on your presentation.)

Marketing and promotion

Online advertising for the Festival has already started. On 23 September the printed guide will be distributed with Time Out (75,000 copies). On 25 September the guide will be included with the Saturday Guardian (230,000 copies). This will be followed by a Tube poster run, and a large screen Tube platform advertising campaign.

If you want to share information about the event or promote it you can use the following text:

Future City: Is London growing too big too fast? 5/10 (British Library) #StoryofLondon

The Mayor’s Story of London Festival 2010 #StoryofLondon

The Twitter handle for the Festival is @StoryofLondon and the hashtag for Tweets is #StoryofLondon.

There is also a Facebook page for the Story of London.


The event may be filmed or otherwise recorded. We may ask you if you will allow us to use these recordings for event documentation.


If you have travel or other expenses please keep your (dated) receipts and we will arrange for you to be reimbursed.


Nico Macdonald: +44 7973 377 897
Laura North: +44 77 7924 0556
[email protected]