Friday, 12 March 2010

Why Wornington Green could become Portobello Bottom

You may not have seen this image before, or you may be very familiar with it. Do you know why it fills me with dread? The crossroads at bottom middle is Portobello Road and Golborne Road, and going north you are heading to the 'exciting new urban quarter' that KHT and the Council imagine will solve all the ills of the world, improve health and education and give everyone a job.

For many of us, however, it looks like a slum of the future.

In this scheme the density of Wornington Green has been doubled, with no accompanying increase in park space, play space, community space, health or education facilities. Athlone Gardens is destroyed, beautiful mature trees all around the estate have been chopped down, with just a few left in the 'posh bit', the new Wheatstone Road, where the rather dreary town houses are hoped to be the salvation of the whole project. They aren't, and sadly the rest of the design is grim and forbidding, and simply bad planning and bad architecture.

The mews houses in the new Munro Mews have a bizarre non-family-friendly interior design with no redeeming features, and are single aspect, more or less 'back to backs'. Who will spend £1m on these miserable pokey houselets? The blocks behind them are oversized, monolithic and have full basement bedrooms and floor to ceiling windows, meaning that many residents will have their curtains shut 24/7. The courtyards are narrow and sunless. The mega-block down Wornington Green is just frightful.

And what of the Portobello Road frontage? Nearly two additional storeys, built up to the building line where it is now set back, with balconies peering into their neighbours, and no trees allowed, it will form an ugly canyon and Portobello will be bookended with horrors, All Saints at one end, 'Portobello Bottom' with empty shops at the other.

All this will kill the area, which is a settled friendly neighbourhood where people who have originated all over the world know each other, and many have been there for three or four generations and have established their identity with Portuguese, Spanish and Moroccan shops and restaurants, which are what give the character that visitors love.

If the scheme were strong and would genuinely solve overcrowding etc, I would support it. It isn't. We hope this project - which is architecturally weak and characterless, financially disastrous, socially catastrophic, and will actually make overcrowding worse - will not prevail. There are other and better ways to improve and regenerate, and there is a real will to make them reality.

More details and archive material:

Wornington Green


  1. Excellent post Emma!

  2. Well said Emma, this plan is monstrous and needs scrapping.

  3. My experience of recent developments like this in SE London is that they are largely bought up by buy-to-let invetsors, so the project doesn't actually help many local people get on the property ladder either, despite being higher density than the buildings they replace or regenerations of brownfield sites.

  4. Where is the adventure playground which all my children are members of?

  5. Hi Ric, this is exactly our concern, and local families will be moved out.

    Good question SChenery. They say the Venture Centre will be 'reprovided', but most of the building will be above shops, and the playground will be in shadow most of the day, overlooked on four sides by flats. NOT what any local parent would want. It will be devalued and ultimately destroyed. We put a 1,500 petition in to Council about this, and it has been all but ignored. So much for local democracy.


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