London Calling – Splashes of scarlet

Back to the future
In a recent report, ‘futurologist’ Dr Ian Pearson has predicted an exciting future for London with spaceports and 18-mile-high skyscrapers, all to be delivered by 2045 – a mere 30 years away! The scientist who claims that he usually gets it right says the UK capital will have pavement-powered cycles, driverless cars and colossal buildings constructed by ‘super-human’ builders wearing robotic exoskeletons. Servant robots will be helping us around the house and buildings will have integral ‘nervous systems’.

These predictions may all appear a flight of fancy when you consider the impressive Shard on London’s south bank, the tallest building in Europe, is just 0.2 miles high. However, Pearson correctly predicted interactive TV and search engines. And, as you dodge the wheeled ‘hoverboards’ on London’s pavements, watch drones bombing our enemies and make Facetime calls, just remember the fanciful predictions of Back to the Future Part 2. But then Jaws 19 never happened, did it!

Magic beans
Who needs them when you have coffee? There is a great start-up company based in south east London called ‘bio-bean’ which collects used coffee grounds and turns these into energy pellets. Currently they collect the waste which would otherwise go into landfill from around 100 cafes around the city. The pellets are burnt in biomass boilers to generate power and, by the end of this year, enough energy will be produced to heat 15,000 homes!

Co-founder and CEO of bio-bean, Arthur Kay, has been listed in the London Evening Standard’s league of the 25 most influential Londoners under the age of 25 and also crowned as Sustainable Business Leader of the Year 2015. After coming up with the idea at university in London, this visionary young entrepreneur has raised millions in private financing for this great idea. Kay points out that within the next 30 years 75% of the world’s population will live in cities and he hopes this innovation will help them to become more green and efficient.

The company is also working with the Mayor of London and the Sustainable Development Commission to use the fuel to heat and power London buses. As Sir Richard Branson says, “a superb business idea”. Those big red buses will never smell the same again!

Back to black
The red carpet and red flags were unfurled in London for a state visit to the UK from President Xi of China last month. The man in charge of the world’s second largest economy was offered the unusual honour of a sleepover at Buckingham Palace and brought with him trade deals galore.

Amongst these was an interesting revamp for London’s famous black taxi cabs. By 2018, new rules come into force which state that taxis have to be zero-emission capable. Chinese car manufacturer Geely, which owns the London Taxi Company, will be ready a whole year early with the new six passenger TX5 hybrid vehicle. Maintaining the classic lines of the traditional London cab but with a longer wheel base the car will be made in Coventry, have built-in wifi and charging points and incorporate a panoramic glass roof enabling passengers to enjoy the capital’s fantastic sights.

Each year in London the wearing of poppies to remember those who gave so much for the freedoms we enjoy today seems to start earlier and earlier. From early October onwards it seems disrespectful to turn up at a meeting without the splash of scarlet adorning your clothing and so we have a full month of remembrance which in many ways seems fitting. This year, London had its own Poppy Day on October 29 with servicemen and women selling poppies on the streets, military bands playing and even a genuine Spitfire parked on the cobbles in Covent Garden!

But it is not widely known the majority of poppies are still made at a factory employing mostly disabled, ex-service men and women in London. The original poppy factory was in the Old Kent Road, south east London but moved to Richmond in 1932. It is now run by the Royal British Legion and employs around 40 people on-site with around another 90 people working from home within a 10 mile radius of the factory. Together, they produce an astonishing 36 million poppies each year and around 80,000 wreaths, including those laid by the Queen and the Prime Minister at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday.

Going underground
In the smart areas of west London, the fashion for digging out huge basement extensions to properties continues unabated – much to the annoyance of long-suffering neighbours. In one small Chelsea street, there are no less than six schemes either underway or in the pipeline. But Seymour Walk is not alone and it seems that the rush is driven by new council regulations which come into force in 2016 to further tighten planning legislation on underground extensions.
The plans range from modest cycle stores to more ambitious projects which include underground cinemas, swimming pools, gyms and meditation rooms. Local council officers, currently limited in their powers, have recommended that all current plans are approved so it seems that the street which was once the home of Iggy Pop will become quite lively once again!

I don’t like cricket…I love it!
And so will a good many more people now that the latest plans to expand Lord’s cricket ground have been approved. An ambitious £200 million expansion plan will see the capacity at the north London venue increase to 29,500. There will be a new stand and 5,200 retractable seats on match days so it should all get a little more comfortable too.

Various outdated stands will be demolished and replaced but, of course, the fantastic Grade II* listed Pavilion will be retained and refurbished to include smarter dressing rooms and a gym. The intention is to create a world class venue according to the famous Marylebone Cricket Club who said last month that they were delighted their plans had been approved and were looking forward to working with Westminster Council on the project. Don’t hold your breath though – work is unlikely to start until 2020!

By Richard Lamberth