Piccadilly Circus

Letter to The Times 05-05-1972

Westminster City Council planned a futuristic lay-out for Piccadilly Circus that would have turned ordinary people into performing animals in order to enjoy its charms...

From Mr C. A. Long


Once and for all let us realise that the character, atmosphere, associations and charm of places like Piccadilly Circus attract people because they are the result of mutation, change and development over hundreds of years. The sort of Piccadilly Circus sought by Westminster City Council will never materialise if 'created' in one fell swoop, totally, inclusively and for good – these must evolve, change and develop to suit the needs and conditions of the future.

Piccadilly Circus has become shabby and rather down-at-heel in recent years; indeed, this may be part of its charm. But it will never become the "desirable amenity centre" intended if the traffic continues to pour round it. People will not walk along ramps and cat-walks to get to the centre and 'enjoy' themselves. People hate purpose-built recreation centres, shopping precincts and amenity centres if they feel that a paternal master-mind, having decided what the people need, tries to convince them that they want it. These designers should visit the empty, draughty expanses of concrete flag-stones surrounded by concrete cliffs like the South Bank promenade and then realise that things must evolve.

There is no hurry and, one gathers, plenty of money. Let us make Piccadilly Circus a better place by listening to specific objections, particular proposals of improvements rather than presenting people with a choice of preordained plans drawn up by people who perhaps never use it and who are not representative of all the people of today or tomorrow.

Yours sincerely,

C. A. Long

The East India & Sports Club,
16 St James's Square, SW1.

Happily the radical plan was later abandoned and, roughly along the lines suggested above, some real improvements were eventually made. Also, for reasons unknown, The Times added an extra 'e' to my surname in the letter it published!

© (1972) Christopher Long. Copyright, Syndication & All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
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Christopher Long

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