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The Pool of London Partnership
About the Pool of London Partnership

Tower Environs Scheme

Public Realm

Walking routes

Open Spaces
Today – Promoting the arts
Today – Community


 

About the Pool of London Partnership

 

In 1996 the Pool of London Partnership (PLP) was established as the regeneration agency for the area from London Bridge to just past Tower Bridge, encompassing both sides of the River Thames.  Local landowners had become increasingly concerned with the poor state of the environment and sought to engage the support of other stakeholders and the three local authorities with responsibilities in the area to do something about it. The partnership recognised the area’s enormous potential and were keen to have the necessary infrastructure, plans and investment in place to capitalise on the earlier decision taken to extend the Jubilee Line through Southwark in time for the new millennium.  This was highlighted by Samantha Hardingham in her 1999 publication London – A guide to recent architecture, she wrote, “The imminent opening of the Jubilee Line Extension will unquestionably have the most significant impact on the way London grows and changes demographically, economically, socially and architecturally as we embrace a new millennium.  There is also potential in the Government’s proposals to institute an elected mayor for London.  Watch this space…” 

Hardingham couldn’t have been more right.  These two significant developments - City Hall, the new landmark building for the capital and home to London’s new government, and the new transport links - brought a new spotlight on the Pool of London and provided the necessary catalyst for change. 

The funding secured by the PLP through the Government’s Single Regeneration Budget was to see a new vision for the Pool of London realised - a vision to create to a new quarter of the capital which would:

  • be an attractive and enjoyable place for residents, workers and visitors alike;
  • provide opportunities for employment, training and business development for local people;
  • contribute to London’s success as a world class visitor destination; and
  • become the administrative centre for London Government

The PLP successfully secured £31 million of government funding to invest in the Pool of London over 10 years (1996 - 2007). This money, plus an extra £120 - 150 million from new organisations the PLP's programme helped to attract to the area, was used in delivering their vision for the Pool of London.

 

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Tower Environs Scheme

 

In the beginning the PLP’s work focussed on their first flagship programme, the Tower Environs Scheme (TES).  Through a series of phased improvements TES tackled issues of access, appearance and safety around the Tower of London which, when the PLP began, was one of only two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in London - though the setting for the palace was far from befitting to this status.

 

Between 1996 and 2004 the five major projects collectively known as TES were successfully completed.  The individual projects were:

 

The Western Approaches - this element of the scheme encompassed a complete transformation of the area to the west of the Tower. It provided a new pedestrianised open space almost as large as Trafalgar Square with seating and a natural route towards the river, new ticketing facilities, a two-storey shop, a new Welcome Centre providing information on the Tower and the area, and improved access from Tower Hill station. A new educational suite for the local community was the final phase of TES and was officially opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II in July 2004.

 

Tower Wharf and Tower Pier – founded on the PLP’s objective that the river should be a public space that everyone can enjoy, this element of the scheme saw the restoration of Tower Wharf with the removal of the obsolete flood defence wall and a car park.  Today, it is a large riverside open space in which to enjoy the iconic views of the Pool of London.  The old pier underwent significant investment to provide a higher quality facility which would attract larger modern boats and offer a greater capacity. 

 

Tower Hill Underpass and Links to St Katharine Docks – both these projects aimed to help link the Tower to its surrounding area.  The Tower Hill underpass was transformed from a dark and grimy subway into a clean walkway decorated with bright and colourful artwork by Stephen Whatley.  At the same time, new safer pedestrian routes to the nearby St Katharine Docks and Royal Mint were established to encourage visitors, residents, and workers to explore more of the area on foot.

 

Tower of London Education Centre – this purpose-built facility was designed to provide a high quality learning environment for the many thousands of children and students of all ages who both already have and will benefit in the future from Historic Royal Palaces’ award-winning educational services.

 

 

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Public Realm

 

In comparison with other parts of central London such as Soho, Bloomsbury or the City, the Pool of London offers an overwhelming perception of having more open space; much of this is by virtue of it encompassing both banks of the River Thames.  However, the Pool of London is an historic area and thereby suffers many of the same problems as other parts of London caused by a traditional narrow street pattern.  To ‘open out’ the area and give visitors, workers and residents more room to go about their business the PLP devised a Public Realm Strategy. 

 

The public realm can be defined as being private or public land that is available for everyone to use.  Within the PLP area 65% could be classified as public realm including the river, riverside, roads, pavements, subways, parks, stations and other public buildings.

 

The PLP’s Public Realm Strategy provided the context for improving the open spaces, the links between open spaces and residential, business and leisure districts, and importantly, realising the potential of redundant spaces that were left around old developments.  Although the strategy was new and ambitious, the concepts it was based on were well established.  In 1921 The London Society speculated on a London of the Future* and in a section on ‘Smaller Open Spaces’ they wrote,

 

“London, as the Mother City of millions owes to itself the provision and maintenance in the most useful form of as much open space as possible…In certain semi-suburban districts where there are neglected corner sites and odd pieces of land…these, with ingenuity, could very well be planted and prepared as playing grounds for little children and resting places for their elders.”

 

With the said ingenuity, the PLP’s Public Realm Strategy has led to the delivery of many specific new and renovated open spaces and walking routes that are referred to later, but its overall achievement has been to provide a framework for delivering a high quality public realm that is smart, safe and sustainable.  This has been achieved by funding projects to beautify the environment, utilise disused or underused spaces, install more efficient and aesthetic lighting, and provide clearer signage to encourage walking, while working in partnership with landowners and local agencies responsible for maintaining the environment to ensure the benefits can be sustained in the long-term.

 

*  Webb, Sir Aston (Ed.), London of the Future by The London Society, 1921

 

 

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Walking routes

 

With its aging infrastructure and transport issues, moving around the capital has long been a cause of consternation, making navigating the Pool of London’s blossoming business, leisure and residential district on foot a particularly attractive aspect of being based in this compact neighbourhood. For this reason, the PLP’s Public Realm Strategy focused heavily on improving walking routes around the area.     

 

The river path:

 

Waterside pathways have been deemed desirable as far back as the seventeenth century. “One of the great themes of… town planning was the idea of re-orientating cities so that visitors, instead of turning their back on the port, could promenade on open quaysides [lined] with public buildings.”* Unfortunately it took a lot longer for these designs to come to fruition in London. 

 

Fortunately today the capital has the Thames Path which attempts to provide a continuous route alongside the city’s great river, although due to land ownership issues and development the path sometimes meanders away from the water’s edge

 

The 1990’s saw the PLP work hard to negotiate with landowners and invest in the creation of a circular riverside path around the Pool of London. Ensuring safe public access to the river, its piers and the iconic views afforded on both banks, the river path has become a well-used resource for workers, residents and visitors alike, while ten annual charity runs and bikes rides have incorporated it into their route. 

 

* Michael Hebbert  London  (1998)

 

Tooley Street:

 

Running parallel to the river path on the south side of the Pool of London, the busy highway of Tooley Street dates back to the seventeenth century when it was an important east-west route across London. As with many thoroughfares, the car became king and the needs of pedestrians were overlooked. In setting up the Tooley Street Enhancement project, the PLP successfully addressed this problem with initiates including widening and upgrading pavements, helping to improve access to local businesses such as the new Unicorn Theatre, specialised pedestrian- and vehicle-focused lighting, and welcome features such as new litter bins, cycle racks and pedestrian crossings. As a result, the street is now a pleasure to explore on foot and home to many thriving businesses.    

 

Tunnels:


Built in 1836 and encompassing seven road tunnels and archways in the PLP area alone, the London Bridge viaduct provides the greatest barrier to pedestrians wanting to move between the north and south of the district. Changing these uninviting, unsafe spaces beneath the busy railway line into clean, safe and well-used walkways was quite a challenge, but the PLP’s Tunnels and Arches Improvement Strategy did just that. A total of eight projects have overseen the restoration of original brick and metalwork, the resurfacing of roads and footpaths, and the introduction of pioneering lighting solutions to reduce the fear of crime. In addition, an underused tunnel at Whites Grounds was transformed into an innovative leisure area and skate park for young people.


Guy’s Approaches:

 

In another move to prioritise pedestrian’s needs over traffic and reduce the potential for crime, the PLP’s Guy’s Approaches Masterplan delivered improvements to the area occupied by King’s College London and Guy’s Hospital - a site visited by 15,000 people every day with an additional 3,500 traversing it on their daily journey to and from the station.

 

In a state of decline, this harsh urban environment was made safe and attractive for all its users through a program of pavement widening, road resurfacing, improved lighting, and new signage and artwork. 

 

 

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Open Spaces              

 

From sweeping urban parklands to historic garden squares, London’s open spaces make the capital one of the world’s greenest cities. Mirroring these qualities, the Pool of London area boasts twenty-eight open public spaces within its 2sq km (1.25sq miles) boundary. 

 

One of the most prized of these spaces is Potters Fields Park.  Established in the 1970s, it is one of central London’s few remaining Thames-side green spaces.  In its enviable location adjacent to two of the most famous structures in the world – Tower Bridge and the Tower of London – the park has unsurprisingly featured in many photographs, paintings and feature films. 

 

Currently over one million people use the park each year, while increasing visitor numbers and an influx of businesses to the Pool of London area mean this figure will continue to rise.  For this reason the PLP, working with More London and Southwark Council, renovated the entire park to achieve a standard of excellence befitting this unique location while addressing the challenge of catering for the park’s variety of users through state-of-the-art design. A new café, a tranquil seasonal garden, unimpeded river views and extensive, hard-wearing lawns capable of hosting events now benefit both local residents and visitors alike, while an iron gateway at the Tooley Street entrance and a new twenty metre stone bench display Delftware patterns as a link to the park’s history.

 

The Pool of London also has a wealth of smaller parks that remain vitally important to local residents, many of whom do not have private gardens. The PLP has put considerable investment into improving the quality of these public areas to provide local people with green spaces in which to relax and socialise.

 

Previously run down, unsafe and therefore underused, Guy Street Park is but one example of how the PLP has pumped life into community parks. To increase use of the park and provide a ‘green link’ pedestrian route to the hospital and station, the project undertook the renovation of  the entire space, including a new playground and footpaths, a picnic area, community garden and extra lighting, incorporating five lightboxes for displaying community artwork. 

 

Over the river at the Royal Mint Estate the PLP transformed another rundown local park and its surrounds, unlocking a much-needed community open space in an area of high density housing and offices while providing safer pedestrian walking routes. A major component of the PLP’s long-term Public Realm Masterplan, the Royal Mint project is a testimonial to how creative use of limited open spaces in mixed-use areas can help break down physical barriers between residents and the business community.

 

Additional quality open spaces have been provided along the riverside and at Tower Hill as part of the triple-award-winning Tower Environs Scheme.

 

Further westwards, the historic 202ft stone Monument commissioned by Charles II was originally located in a courtyard designed by Sir Christopher Wren, but over the years this public space was eroded to make way for roads.  Working with the City of London, the PLP’s Monument project has restored the area to provide a safer and more welcoming pedestrianised piazza.

 

Along with other famous structures such as HMS Belfast, All Hallows Church, Southwark Cathedral and London Bridge, the Monument also benefited from the PLP’s award-winning Lighting Strategy with a new illuminations installed to accentuate its dramatic appearance.  Using practical, innovative and aesthetic lighting has been crucial to the success of the PLP’s improvements to open spaces and walking routes.

 

 

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Today – Promoting the arts

 

Recognising the valuable role that arts-related projects have to play in regenerating areas, the PLP undertook a diverse body of work including both public art installations and the creation of performing arts throughout its ten years. 

                                                                                

The four principal benefits public art can provide are:

  • a means of beautifying and adding interest to the environment
  • providing historical interpretation for the area 
  • a vehicle for social inclusion to build confidence and self-esteem regardless of age or ability
  • a way of actively engaging the community while instilling local pride and ownership in a wider environmental project

The beauty of arts initiatives are that they can deliver many of these benefits during one project, the perfect example of this being the creation of the new home for the Unicorn Theatre. The PLP provided essential support for the capital works, and equally importantly, for the theatre’s education outreach programme throughout the development years and launch. The Unicorn team worked with pupils at nearby Tower Bridge Primary School to ensure the theatre’s design met the children’s needs and aspirations.  The project, called The Young Consultants, showed children the value of their ideas whilst at the same time giving them a sense of ownership of the new cultural resource.  The Unicorn continues to stimulate young minds in local schools through performances and creative workshops.

 

The PLP funded outreach projects that formed part of the seven-year ENO Baylis Programme were further successes. Guided by the English National Opera’s education team, school children and those at risk of social exclusion showed a marked increase in their confidence and development having participated in high quality performance related activities such as singing, dance, and photography as well as technical skills including filming and sound.

 

Continuing this approach of harnessing the ideas, enthusiasm and creativity of local people, artist Mark Haywood worked with young people to produce displays for the new illuminated lightboxes at Guy Street Park and the Royal Mint.  Through a series of workshops, local youngsters contributed towards a changing display of artwork that now fosters pride in the community around the Guy Street Park site as well as physically disguising the unattractive view of a multi-storey car-park, while the lightboxes at the Royal Mint were used to illuminate and beautify a key residential pedestrian route

 

Colourful images reflecting the area’s history provided the solution to brightening up a dark, unsafe walkway as part of the Tower Environs Scheme, and visitors to St Johns Churchyard now have simple, engaging artwork to help them explore the park. The PLP has also supported more conventional outdoor artwork to add interest to the area around More London, while at night the area’s iconic cityscape is transformed into a striking night scene courtesy of the PLP’s work to add feature lighting to monuments and key buildings.

 

 

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Today – community

 

The modern day Pool of London is a vibrant melting pot of cultures, languages and lifestyles. This enviably diverse resident community boasts a myriad of different languages and life experiences, while the area’s ever growing business community is equally as varied.  Numerous large multi-national companies sit alongside the public sector organisations of Guy’s NHS Trust and the Greater London Authority, with King’s College London, twenty-five visitor attractions, long-standing and newer small businesses and an abundance of cafés, bars and restaurants creating a broad mix of local enterprises.

 

To truly regenerate an area any psychological barriers that exist within the community must be broken down while keeping local character intact, allowing its mix of people to interact as a whole.  Although this may sound somewhat Utopian the PLP has made huge steps towards achieving this by supporting community outreach projects.

 

The PLP’s two citizenship programmes, Business Responsibility and Southwark Students (BRASS) and Southwark Movers and Shakers (SMASH), provide a mutually beneficial two-way learning process for children and businesses to interact..  The BRASS programme teaches students about the day-to-day challenges of running a business and the social responsibility they have towards their staff, stakeholders and the community, while SMASH focuses on teaching the way society works. Through SMASH students learn about legal processes, democracy and most importantly, how to be an active and committed citizen, formulating ideas and effecting change through confident and effective communication.

 

Although the two citizenship programmes differ in many ways their success is attributable to tapping into children’s natural desire by using creative teaching methods.  Being away from the classroom in a real working environment allows students to interact with professional adults and enables a more autonomous learning process, helping them to gain confidence and value their own abilities in an adult world.

 

Innovative teaching methods have also been the cornerstone of success in the PLP’s Access to Medicine programme.  This project, delivered through King’s College London, has sought to encourage and enable young people from the PLP’s diverse neighbourhoods to pursue a career in medicine or the wider health sector. Able and enthusiastic students who would not ordinarily be admitted onto a standard medical degree course are given the opportunity to join the Extended Medical Degree Programme, while outreach work with students, parents and teachers raises awareness about the range of careers available in the health sector and how to gain the skills to get these jobs.

 

Through providing new teaching resources such as using the expertise of medical students in classroom activities, as well as offering focussed careers advice, the Access to Medicine outreach work has benefited over 6,500 young people since its inception.

 

One measure of the well documented success enjoyed by Access to Medicine is the collaborative work now being undertaken with other universities who want to implement similar schemes.

 

 

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