Leccy, legacy and lager
File under 'Expensive and in short supply'
West London needs to put more money in the meter
Last week we found out that, during the heatwave certain parts of London came remarkably close to a blackout.
On Wednesday 20th there was a surge in demand and the power couldn’t be sourced from elsewhere in the country because years of underinvestment had left the system (some of which is 30 or 40 years old and in dire need of updating) had left it unable to cope.
This wasn’t a freak occurrence. According to Bloomberg we are in danger of “sleepwalking into more blackouts” and that danger is likely weeks away, not years. The heatwave and the current drought Europe is experiencing is not helping matters.
Then, at the end of last week, the news got even worse when the FT reported that property developers in west London were facing a ban on building any new houses, “because the electricity grid has run out of capacity to support new homes”.
The boroughs of Hillingdon, Ealing and Hounslow could be looking at a ban on new houses until 2035, because that’s how long the GLA thinks it will take to get the grid up to scratch.
That’s around 11% of London’s potential new housing supply wiped off the map for the next thirteen years.
And why is there so much pressure on the electricity grid in west London?
According to the GLA, “a number of data centres have been built nearby in recent years, taking advantage of fibre optic cables that run along the M4 corridor, before crossing the Atlantic.”
Over at the optimistically named Data Center Dynamics, someone got hold of a spokesperson for the mayor, who told them “Sadiq wrote to the Government weeks ago requesting a meeting to discuss electricity capacity in west London but the request was declined. In the midst of a housing crisis, he is calling on ministers to work with him to resolve this issue urgently.” Which is basically the same response the mayor gives when any problem arises that he doesn’t have the (ahem) power to do anything about.
Coming up on Wednesday… 🎥
In our mid-week issue it’s the first edition of ‘Electric Theatre’, our new, rotating column where we invite some of our favourite people to write about London on film.
For the first issue we have an award-winning screenwriter, writer and graphic novelist remembering a 60s comic caper which led to a real life break in at the Tower of London.
Sign up for a 30-day free trial and that will be your inbox first thing on Wednesday:
What did the Olympics ever do for us?
Writing in the Independent last week, Tom Peck noted that, over the last ten years a veritable “cottage industry,” has sprung up around analysis of the London Olympics, but, “one imagines, hopes even, that this 10-year anniversary might be the point at which that too may be permitted to subside into history.”
Fat chance. Last week, the press went into overdrive in order to tell us all how we should feel about the 2012 Olympics, with the result that anyone who read more than one article only came away feeling utterly confused.
The Olympics gave us loads of great stuff says The Guardian’s architecture critic, Rowan Moore. Never mind the “226-hectare park that attracts six million visitors a year,” and the “magnificent sporting facilities”; what about “the tens of thousands of new jobs, the decontamination and opening up of ex-industrial land, the schools, the cultural institutions currently under construction, the new homes, some of which are affordable in a meaningful sense”?
Case closed? Not so fast. Because here’s a completely opposing point of view from (awkwardly) The Guardian’s other architecture critic, Oliver Wainwright. “A massive betrayal,” screams the headline, which points out that, of the 30-40,000 homes that were promised, only 13,000 have been built and “only 11% are genuinely affordable to people on average local incomes.”
On top of that there’s the London Stadium, which cost £320m to convert into a home for West Ham and which still costs taxpayers around £8m-10m a year to run.
What abut the sporting legacy though? All those inspired kids who were going to lace up their trainers and avoid becoming medically obese in the process? Unfortunately, the government’s Taking Part survey shows that, ten years on, the number of children taking up sport has not grown and there’s only been a small increase in the number of adults.
Alright, but surely we can hang on to the glory of that incredible opening ceremony?
“Parts of the opening ceremony have aged like fine milk,” says the Telegraph’s sketch writer, Madeline Grant before pointing out that “the health service is in a worse state than ever,” (which is rich for a Telegraph columnist) before gleefully declaring that the ceremony lionised JK Rowling (“shamefully traduced by a liberal-Left”) and that “even Shakespeare now comes with a trigger-warning.”
It’s a very Telegraphy argument, but it’s one that is (kind of) echoed by the Guardian’s culture critic who traces the fault lines back to the 2008 financial crisis, which set in motion “far-reaching changes to British society” including generational inequality and identity politics.
The real knife in the back though comes from Suna Eerdem, writing in The New European, who reminds us that the 2012 Games acted as a stage for “the newish London mayor, Boris Johnson [who] basked in the glory of the Games, famously dangling from a zipwire waving flags, hijacking Britain’s first gold medal win and burnishing his image as a jovial, fun figure.”
We can’t leave you on that ugly note, so here’s our favourite 2012 retrospective from last week, courtesy of The Fence:
Just to state the obvious, this is not normal. The FT recently worked out that, if prices had solely followed inflation between 2008 and 2022, the cost of a pint would be around £3.35. But Ukraine just happens to be the world’s fourth largest producer of barley which has contributed to ingredient costs going up by 10%, then you’ve ‘wage inflation’ at around 7%, and electricity inflation (see above) at around 100%.
Even the recent heatwave has contributed. As the Standard reported last week, one pub chain felt needed to put drink prices up after they saw a drop in the sales of roast dinners, because not a lot of people want a meal swimming in gravy when it’s forty degrees outside.
The ‘good’ news? The boss of that same chain doesn’t think we’ll see a £10 pint in London anytime soon. We’ll come back in another nine months and see how well that prediction has aged.
5 little bits
A last bit of heatwave news: IT servers at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals cut out last Tuesday “due to the extreme temperatures” causing the hospitals to move to a “paper system” and declare a critical incident.
The new ‘mega Greggs’ in Leicester Square has been denied a move to extend its opening hours to 24 hours after the Met argued that the application would lead to further “crime and disorder” in the area. Yes, someone did describe the plans as “half baked”.
Barnes Bridge in Richmond, has been left derelict and unused for 125 years, but now an official bid has been launched to turn the bridge into a “new art and garden space” that would serve as a pedestrian walkway between Barnes and Chiswick. Just don’t call it a ‘garden bridge’
The Camden Fringe starts today and runs through the whole of August. There’s huge range of offbeat theatre, comedy, music and dance offerings to choose from, including a comedy set amongst the carnage of ‘partygate’, a stand up set based entirely around beer and a play set inside an arcade on Brighton Pier.