The London Government Act of 1963 established the Greater London Council (GLC) as a strategic planning authority with responsibility for an area extending to approximately 22 km from Central London. A draft Greater London Development Plan (GLDP) was published in 1969,’ and the plan was finally approved by the Minister on 9 July 1976. With regard to open space, the main sections of the plan were th’e Green Belt, Metropolitan Open Land, and Open Lands.
The Green Belt occupied 36423 ha (90 000 acres) within the GLC area, This was only 15 per cent of the Green Belt at that time, but it was 23 per cent of the GLC area. The GLC evaluated the scope for residential development on 3237.6 ha (8000 acres) of Green Belt land, and then rejected the idea ‘on principle’. One wonders why the principle did not exclude the evaluation.
‘Metropolitan Open Land’ was introduced in the GLDP as a protective designation for open land within the urban area. It was recommended that parks, woodlands, golf courses, nursery gardens, cemeteries and other open land which might be developed should receive this designation.
The most interesting open space proposals in the GLDP concerned ‘Open Lands’, which meant public parks. Earlier open space proposals had been based on opinion and guesswork. The GLDP was based on the Surveys of the Use of Open Space. This research challenged the old idea of open space standards. They were described as ‘an over-simplification which is unable to deal with the complexity of recreational demand’.
An open space hierarchy was proposed instead of the old standards. When applied to London, the hierarchy identified a number of substantial areas which were deficient in metropolitan parks (Fig.). But, for reasons which are unclear to the author, only three of these areas were considered to be ‘without reasonable access to an existing open space of 60.7 ha (150 acres) or more’ and action was recommended at only two of these sites, one south of the Thames and one north. Neither recommendation carries the slightest conviction.
In South London, ‘the extension of the Crystal Palace Park and the provision of more facilities there’ was proposed. In North London, ‘improvements should be concentrated in the Dagenham Corridor, where linkage or extension of two existing large parks would provide means of eliminating the deficiency.’ The logic of both these proposals rests on the irregular relationship between park size and park catchment. Common sense suggests that a few extra acres was unlikely to double the catchment of the Crystal Palace, although money spent on qualitative improvements to the park might have done so. Nor was a link between two parks in Dagenham with a catchment of 1.21km in the least likely to increase their catchment to 3.22 km.