If you factor in the number of public buildings which will be lost as a result of the cuts to our emergency services across the whole of Greater London, it swiftly becomes apparent that it is not only the demise of emergency services which will beset London (with more then 12 fire stations under threat of closure; 65 Police station front counters being down graded; and the loss of 8 A&E’s across London). We are also set to lose a plethora of iconic buildings which have served to define an area for many years.
For example, in my own home borough of the City of Westminster, the affect of the cuts set against a backdrop of austerity feel even more acute once you consider plans by the local council and other public authorities to close down various building. Landmarks such as the old Marylebone Town Hall and Marylebone library have already been sold off to London Business School(LBS). We are also set to lose the “one stop” shops at Church Street and Harrow Road; City hall; St James library and the Jubilee Sports Centre. Westminster Adult Education Services are selling off their Amberley and EburyBridge site as well. These losses are incidental to the emergency service closures illustrated in the diagram above which earmarks Westminster fire station, Greycoat Place,SW1 and 3 police stations including Harrow Road, Marylebone & St Johns Wood for closure. The loss to the local community is much greater then first meets the eye.
Also, and though not shown on the map above, there are also plans to move services from The Western Eye Hospital to St Mary’s. Like the other buildings mentioned, it is a historic landmark which means something to the local area and to see it lose its identity would be a great shame. (In this instance, this may be a price worth paying if the move improves clinical outcomes for patients, but we’ll have to wait and see). Let’s not forget also the “walk in” NHS clinic in Victoria.
Therefore, the forgotten victim of the Government’s austerity programme is the loss of a large number of public buildings in the urban landscape of London. A proud legacy of the Victorian & Edwardian era which many look to for inspiration is being sold off. Buildings which are familiar and reassuring to Londoners, defining a neighbourhood and a city are being lost forever to coffee shop and supermarket chains in where we’re being asked to spend even more our lives. We have suffered the blight of recessions in the past, yet the solution did not include the wholesale selling off of the family silver. For me, this smacks more of ideology, not austerity, as the loss of valuable iconic public buildings reflect upon attempts to roll back the influence of the state in our lives.