Making London liveable again

Janet Miller | 05 Sep 2016 | Comments

Once again London has been ranked outside of the top 50 most liveable cities by The Economist Intelligence Unit's Global Liveability Ranking 2016 report. London, our capital and the city voted the world’s most influential city by Forbes Magazine in 2014, is trailing behind places such as Melbourne, Vienna and Manchester.

The Global Liveability report ranks cities by weighting scores from five categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure. The top scoring cities share some common themes: they are located within wealthy countries, they are mid-sized and with fairly low population densities, in some cases as little as 3.1 people per kilometre. It seems that size and density present challenges for liveability.

Large cities such as London can offer fantastic culture, healthcare and world class education. But clearly high population density does put a significant strain on infrastructure, with residents and visitors having to live with the implications – crowded and expensive trains, congested roads and unaffordable homes in the centre of London. In fact, perhaps regular commuters in and out of London wouldn’t have been surprised at all to hear the city didn’t make it into the top 50.

With Oxford Economics predicting London’s population will reach 12 million by 2050, 0.7 million more than currently predicted by the GLA and planned for within the London Infrastructure Plan 2050, our infrastructure woes may worsen and we need to act urgently.

Our Atkins’ Future Proofing London report proposes several bold solutions. First, we need to improve the effectiveness of investment in infrastructure to deliver greater economic, social and environmental benefits. London needs to be planned for the benefit of all Londoners and infrastructure –which is about homes, hospitals, and schools, as well as roads, rail and utilities. Second, a major strategic programme is needed to revitalise outer London. This will help tackle the housing crisis and imbalance in London’s economy. A strategic approach to green infrastructure is also vital for a liveable city and a healthy population. London is known for its green and open spaces, and we can’t put these at risk as we build more infrastructure to accommodate the growing population. We also suggest a new approach to the capital’s major development areas, to ensure they are sustainable and flexible to meet the changing needs of communities and businesses.

As engineers and planners we need to work closely with government and developers to create and realise the plans we know are needed and do so quickly. London’s economy is resilient and is clearly still thriving during this time of overburdened infrastructure. But it is the people that make a city and we should aspire to create a capital that’s large, diverse and economically strong, while also a world class place to work, live and play. Let’s rise to the challenge of adapting our infrastructure to not just cope but enhance our lifestyles and make big city living enjoyable rather than stressful.

Read our Future Proofing London Report here.