21 places that could really do with not being part of Greater London

Happy Valley, near Coulsdon, which really doesn't make me very happy at all. Image: GanMed64/creative commons.

Greater London is a big beast. It’s 606sq miles, and has 32 boroughs and the City of London. The Greater London Authority runs it from City Hall in Southwark, and like all decent cities it has a mayor, Sadiq Khan.

What it also has – which doesn’t seem to fit its proud city status – is a load of random fields, farms, and tiny villages that really don’t need to be there.

There are plenty of perfectly good counties all around the place that could take these chunks of land and do something with them, while real London could get on with its important business of, you know, actually being a city.

Here, in a torrent of unashamed bitterness, are 21 of those places.

1) North Ockenden, Upminster

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

Look at all that green. It’s the wrong side of M25, for a start, and it’s the most easterly and most outlying settlement in Greater London (as rightly measured by distance from Charing Cross). Somebody in 1992 had the bright idea of giving everything east of the M25 to Essex, but a bunch of NIMBYs said no, obviously, and so here we are.

2) Puddledock Farm Fisheries, Upminster

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

These guys run fishing matches on ‘the Snake Lake’ every Sunday, so that’s nice. There are four lakes – including a purpose built competition lake, a specimen lake, and a peg lake. Whatever any of that means. All I’m seeing is a whole lot of green and a whole lot of wrong side of the M25.

3) Fairlop Plain, Barkingside

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

This is Redbridge, so it’s not even one of the hard-core, middle-of-nowhere boroughs, and yet here we are. There’s a tube station right next to a huge load of random green, including (but not limited to) a Country Park, a golf course, a large lake, another golf club, and a whole load of empty fields. Honestly. Three tube stations in one screenshot and a whole load of green. Immoral.

4) Turkey Brook and Clay Hill, Enfield

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Ignoring the Museum of Transport up in the top left – everyone loves a museum of transport – this is just a whole load of green countryside that does not need to be in London.

5) Botany Bay, Enfield Chase

Lovely and green. Image: Christine Matthews/creative commons.

Get back to Sydney where you belong, and stop being so ridiculous, Enfield. It’s about a mile away from the nearest train station, and it has a farm shop. This is not the future liberals want.

6) Trent Park, Enfield

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

If there were a triple lock designed to annoy CityMetric readers as much as the real one annoys the youth, this one has it. It’s in the Green Belt, lies within a conservation area, and also gets a spot in the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. This sounds like a lovely place, but it’s just empty fields from here to the M25 and beyond into Hertfordshire, so why not just give them the thing.

7) The road between Totteridge and Highwood Hill

Not London. Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

This stretch of winding road has acres and acres of green space on either side, and has a pretty open path out to the countryside of Hertfordshire. What need for it to be in London?

8) Hill End, Hillingdon

I've always wanted to live in a big city like London. Image: Nigel Cox/creative commons.

Part of a charming park – the Colne Valley Regional Park – that really doesn’t need to be in London, and is a 57-minute trudge away from the nearest train station, Rickmansworth on the Metropolitan line. Or if you want to be in Zone 6, it’s an hour and ten to walk to Northwood. Your choice.

9) Malden Rushett, near Epsom

The long shadow of urbanisation. Image: Nigel Cox/creative commons.

You know that bit where London pokes out to the south west, like an accusatory pointing finger? It’s the Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames, and I’d always assumed there was something important there that needed to be included in Greater London. But no. There’s just this village. It even has a sad dribble of a railway line that they started building south of Chessington South station, on the branch line from Motspur Park, before the Green Belt was introduced and they realised that there was no point taking the line any further south. Thanks, Green Belt. You gave us this pointless village on the udder of London.

 

10) Happy Valley & The Devil’s Den, Coulsdon

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

I’m not happy about the fact that this is in the Borough of Croydon when it could just as easily be in Surrey.

 

11) Kings Wood, near Warlingham

Look at the density of that wood. Crazy.

 

12) Addington Hills, Addington

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Swathes and swathes of countryside, green things, and another golf course. What is it with all the golf courses.

 

13) Layhams Farm, Layhams Cattery, and the Metropolitan Police Dog Training Establishment, Bromley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Not making any of this up.

 

14) Shepherds Shaw, Tatsfield

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

So many fields, so little need to be in the urban area of Greater London.

 

15) Buckhurst, near Biggin Hill

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Most Londoners wouldn’t know what to do with this much green even if you put it in a bag of toasted kale chips and charged four quid for it.

16) Horns Green, Bromley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

A trio of charming villages here.

17) Berry’s Green, Bromley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

I know it’s not good to quote from Wikipedia, but the entry here is too good. It's apparently “a fairly wooded rural area with a scattering of farmland”.

18) Downe, Bromley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

Charles Darwin lived here, and that’s it. That’s literally all they’ve got.

19) Hockenden, near Swanley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

This *hamlet* isn’t even on a bus route.

20) Rainham Marshes

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Drain the swamp, drain the swamp, drain the swamp.

21) Hacton, Havering

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Surrounded by the – you guessed it – green belt.


Of course the alternative to chucking all of these places out of Greater London would just be to build some bloody houses on them, but let’s not push the boat out too far. 

Jack May is a regular contributor to CityMetric and tweets as @JackO_May.

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Barnet council has decided a name for its new mainline station. Exciting!

Artist's impression of the new Brent Cross. Image: Hammerson.

I’ve ranted before about the horror of naming stations after the lines that they’re served by (screw you, City Thameslink). So, keeping things in perspective as ever, I’ve been quietly dreading the opening of the proposed new station in north London which has been going by the name of Brent Cross Thameslink.

I’ve been cheered, then, by the news that station wouldn’t be called that at all, but will instead go by the much better name Brent Cross West. It’s hardly the cancellation of Brexit, I’ll grant, but in 2017 I’ll take my relief wherever I can find it.

Some background on this. When the Brent Cross shopping centre opened besides the A406 North Circular Road in 1976, it was only the third large shopping mall to arrive in Britain, and the first in London. (The Elephant & Castle one was earlier, but smaller.) Four decades later, though, it’s decidedly titchy compared to newer, shinier malls such as those thrown up by Westfield – so for some years now, its owners, Hammerson, have wanted to extend the place.

That, through the vagaries of the planning process, got folded into a much bigger regeneration scheme, known as Brent Cross Cricklewood (because, basically, it extends that far). A new bigger shopping centre will be connected, via a green bridge over the A406, to another site to the south. There you’ll find a whole new town centre, 200 more shops, four parks, 4m square feet of offices space and 7,500 homes.

This is all obviously tremendously exciting, if you’re into shops and homes and offices and not into depressing, car-based industrial wastelands, which is what the area largely consists of at the moment.

The Brent Cross site. Image: Google.

One element of the new development is the new station, which’ll sit between Hendon and Cricklewood on the Thameslink route. New stations are almost as exciting as new shops/homes/offices, so on balance I'm pro.

What I’ve not been pro is the name. For a long time, the proposed station has been colloquially referred to as Brent Cross Thameslink, which annoys me for two reasons:

1) Route names make rubbish modifiers because what if the route name changes? And:

2) It’s confusing, because it’s nearly a mile from Brent Cross tube station. West Hampstead Thameslink (euch), by contrast, is right next to West Hampstead tube.

Various other names have been proposed for the station. In one newsletter, it was Brent Cross Parkway; on Wikipedia, it’s currently Brent Cross South, apparently through confusion about the name of the new town centre development.

This week, though, Barnet council quietly confirmed it’d be Brent Cross West:

Whilst the marketing and branding of BXS needs to be developed further, all parties agree that the station name should build upon the Brent Cross identity already established. Given the station is located to the west of Brent Cross, it is considered that the station should be named Brent Cross West. Network Rail have confirmed that this name is acceptable for operational purposes. Consequently, the Committee is asked to approve that the new station be named Brent Cross West.

Where the new station will appear on the map, marked by a silly red arrow. Image: TfL.

That will introduce another irritating anomaly to the map, giving the impression that the existing Brent Cross station is somehow more central than the new one, when in fact they’re either side of the development. And so:

Consideration has also been given as to whether to pursue a name change for the tube station from “Brent Cross” to “Brent Cross East”.

Which would sort of make sense, wouldn’t it? But alas:

However owing to the very high cost of changing maps and signage London-wide this is not currently being pursued.

This is probably for the best. Only a handful of tube stations have been renamed since 1950: the last was Shepherd’s Bush Market, which was until 2008 was simply Shepherd's Bush, despite being quite a long way from the Shepherd's Bush station on the Central line. That, to me, suggests that one of the two Bethnal Green stations might be a more plausible candidate for an early rename.


At any rate: it seems unlikely that TfL will be renaming its Brent Cross station to encourage more people to use the new national rail one any time soon. But at least it won’t be Brent Cross Thameslink.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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