Search

How Dalston had a lucky escape from a ‘lunatic’ eight-lane motorway ringroad 45 years ago

PUBLISHED: 09:43 13 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:11 14 December 2017

Detailed plans were drawn up for the motorway box junction, which would have stretched from Ridley Road Market to Cecilia Road. Picture: London Metropolitan Archives

Detailed plans were drawn up for the motorway box junction, which would have stretched from Ridley Road Market to Cecilia Road. Picture: London Metropolitan Archives

London Metropolitan Archives

Wayne Asher tells Emma Bartholomew about the ‘lunatic’ ring road scheme that threatened to plough an eight-lane motorway through Hackney – and was only scrapped after 30 years of destroying the local property market

Wayne Asher in Ridley Road. Picture: Polly Hancock Wayne Asher in Ridley Road. Picture: Polly Hancock

Pollution in London already breaches legal limits, and the A10 is a hotspot. So imagine how much worse it could be now if a motorway eight lanes wide had been built over it.

The “ringway” project was mooted in the 1944 Greater London Plan. Astonishingly, the plan hung over east London for three decades.

Its vast set of urban motorways would have transformed London beyond recognition, turning it into a city resembling LA or Houston, according to Wayne Asher.

He has written a chapter about the plans – which he believes would have gridlocked London – in the Hackney Society’s 50th anniversary book, Hackney: Portrait of a Community 1967-2017.

Detailed plans were drawn up for the motorway box junction, which would have stretched from Ridley Road Market to Cecilia Road. Picture: London Metropolitan Archives Detailed plans were drawn up for the motorway box junction, which would have stretched from Ridley Road Market to Cecilia Road. Picture: London Metropolitan Archives

While two of the three proposed ringways do exist to some extent now in the form of the North Circular and the M25, a third – dubbed the Motorway Box – would have walled in inner London.

In Hackney it would have run parallel to the North London Line train tracks, from Hackney Wick to Dalston. An eight-lane flyover would have taken it over Kingsland Road – where the Kingsland shopping centre is now – towards Highbury.

Two huge interchanges would have included a spaghetti junction at Hackney Wick where the East Cross Route now meets the A12. Another at Dalston would have been ringed by a vast gyratory system spanning Kingsland Road, Sandringham Road, Cecilia Road and Dalston Lane. The Dalston Interchange – shown in the artist’s sketch – would have been “particularly devastating” in terms of wholesale demolition, noise, pollution and a divided community.

Parts of the scheme were built, like the West Cross Route near Shepherds Bush, the North Cross Route in Brent Cross, and the East Cross Route at the Bow Interchange.

"Imagine all the junctions that would be leading to get traffic onto this interchange. You can’t solve traffic problems by building roads – it would have been jam-packed with cars and it would have gridlocked the entire capital."

Wayne Asher

“If you have ever driven in those places you will get an idea of how horrible it would have been,” said Wayne, 59, from Stoke Newington.

”Imagine all the junctions that would be leading to get traffic onto this interchange. You can’t solve traffic problems by building roads – it would have been jam-packed with cars and it would have gridlocked the entire capital.”

He added: “Pollution would have become much worse because if you invest in road infrastructure then more people buy cars and take advantage of it.

“Public transport is so good in London but it wouldn’t have been if we built motorways criss-crossing the city. The junctions would have required so much space, it would have been impossible for pedestrians and cyclists.”

Wayne Asher in Ridley Road. Picture: Polly Hancock Wayne Asher in Ridley Road. Picture: Polly Hancock

The ringways would have been Britain’s largest civil engineering project since the war. At £2billion (the equivalent of £28bn today) Wayne reckons they would have cost more than Concorde, the Channel Tunnel and a third London airport put together.

The proposed route was safeguarded by the Greater London Council, resulting in surrounding streets being “blacklisted” by building societies, meaning no one could get mortgages for houses there. Blighted properties fell into short-term use and became dilapidated or derelict. It was estimated that between 60,000 and 100,000 people would have had to be rehoused. The ringways project was finally scrapped due to public opposition in April 1973 when Labour regained control of the GLC.

Wayne, a former financial reporter on a national newspaper, has been inspired to write a whole book about the saga – Rings Around London – which will be published next year.

“There’s been no full history of what we can now call schemes, but they were taken very seriously at the time,” he said.

“If you see the images you can see the detail the engineers worked on. London had a very lucky escape from having them.

“It’s one of those bits of London history that’s worth not forgetting.” Quoting philosopher George Santayana, he added: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat 
it.

“The government still wants to spend money improving roads, but we know that won’t improve congestion.”

Related articles

Latest Hackney Stories

16:18

The overhaul at Arsenal continues with the club appointing Andy Woodman as head of academy goalkeeping.

The 24-year-old praised his Tottenham Hotspur manager ahead of England’s Group G opener with Tunisia

15:39

Read our World Cup blog which will be featuring over the coming weeks. Lane Dias reviews match one on day five of the tournament.

The 48-year-old is impressed with the 23-man squad Gareth Southgate has picked and hopes they can impress in Russia

14:07

An Australian goalkeeping coach credited with the rise of highly-rated England U21 goalkeeper Freddie Woodman has been headhunted from Newcastle to join the Per Mertesacker academy revolution.

The Tottenham Hotspur stars didn’t have it all their own way on Saturday, but managed to claim vital three points

26 minutes ago

More bobbies on the beat paid for out of council tax could soon be coming to Hackney with the creation of a new police command for east London.

12:00

Nigeria’s kit seems the standout design for Russia 2018, but how does it rank against other kits?

PROMOTED CONTENT

To celebrate LGBT history month, Hackney resident Amanda talks about her journey to becoming a foster carer, with the council’s support and training.

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now


Newsletter Sign Up

Hackney Gazette twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists