Greater London Council

My first job at the GLC in 1980was working on the Flood Defences at Thamesmead. The defence there was provided by sheet piling which was tied back to concrete foundations some 20 feet back. On top of this was a walkway at low level with a balustrade along the river, and then a higher wall which provided a higher flood defence on the landward side. My job was the design the walkways, planting and the balustrade along the river.

Lower walkway under construction with the new balustrade formed from cast iron staunchions and mild steel infill railing panels. The handrails are made from Iroco.

The new brick wall with designs included to break up the appearance. This wall provided the upper flood defence.

At various points along the walkway, there is a cross over point where users can move from the lower walkway to the upper walkway, crossing the high flood defence point

This picture shows the balustrade installed, which had to be the first landscape contract, and the walkway at this point is poured concrete panels with expansion joints concealing the tie beams beneath.

This shows the completed balustrade, the concrete capping over the tie beams, then some planting boxes, then the upper flood defence wall and high walkway behind.

After completing two sections of the walkway in hard paving, the GLC pioneered the use of a clay core instead of sheet plies with tie beams. The core was enormous in diameter and snaked along the river’s edge. The huge advantage that you did not know it was there. My job was to landscape it, with subsoil and topsoil deposited on top, and shaped to creat a natural looking landscape. Ths I then planted with native trees and shrubs, and created a meandering footpath with occasional viewing points out along the river. Last time i saw it in 2018 some 38 years after its construction, it looked like a natural landscape.

This is my original drawing of the design for the landscaping of the clay core

Carrying out the designs of these contracts was a fantastic opportunity for a newly qualified Landscape Architect. It included hard and soft landscape, paving, brickwork and metal work, and was done to the highest standards. The GLC was a centre of excellence for design at the time. it led the way internationally on the design of brick walls, retaining walls, flood defences, the use of timber and other street furniture. It had a Scientific Branch which produce the definitive Specification clauses for controls for the design and installation of these works.

The abolition of the GLC was the greatest act of political vandalism carried out for ideological reasons by a British government, and when I worked for Docklands and Hackney I spent a lot of time putting right the expensive costs created by this act of stupidity.

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