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Historic Clerkenwell Green is dominated by multi-headed traffic menace

29 September, 2017

• ISLINGTON Council’s proposals for the improvement of Clerkenwell Green represent a very welcome and exciting opportunity to rejuvenate one of London’s oldest public spaces.

Decades of decline and neglect have left the Green’s character and history compromised and concealed. The abiding impression of any visitor today is of a space dominated by traffic; for it has become little more than a glorified rat-run, roundabout and car park.

Not only is the constant intrusion of traffic a multi-headed menace for residents, but it also robs the Green of its very great potential as a calm place of rest and recreation, set slightly apart from the city’s roar.

Creating a space that invites visitors to stop and relax, rather than dodge cars and hurry through, should enable a much greater understanding and appreciation of the fascinating history of the Green and its immediate vicinity.

Concealed beneath the current grime are rich threads that take the visitor back in time via remaining landmarks to forgotten chapters of the area’s long and remarkable history.

The Clerk’s Well traces back to the area’s origins as a pleasure ground outside London’s Roman walls. Existing St James’s Church links back to the area’s monastic traditions.

The Karl Marx Memorial Library evokes the area’s important history as the seat of political radicalism, with resonances to the present day. The Sessions House (now beautifully restored by its current owners) speaks to the area’s role in the administration of justice.

And there is much more; all that should become more evident with the Green’s renewal. While the proposals are positive, there are significant issues that will require careful consideration and management by the council in the course of implementation.

The reimagining of the Green as a public space may well prove the catalyst for rapid commercialisation, with potentially negative consequences in terms of noise, litter, drinking and anti-social behaviour.

The displacement of traffic from the Green and relocation of parking to neighbouring streets may well exacerbate the existing acute nuisance of cars sitting in parking bays with engines idling. Ultimately, these are issues that the council can address with thoughtful planning.

Friends of Clerkenwell Green


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