With a population of 7.5 million, London is growing again after a period of decline. This growth is moderate compared with the other cities in this section: London is the 360th fastest-growing city in the world, adding only 2.3 new residents an hour (less than one-tenth of Shanghai’s rate).

London reached its peak of 8.6 million people in 1939, but declined during the 1970s and 80s. 600,000 more inhabitants are projected in the coming decade. The planning decision to contain this growth within the existing city boundary is driving a period of intense inner city development. Housing and offices are being constructed at higher densities on available urban land – much of it on redundant industrial or ‘brownfield’ sites along the river Thames.

London lies at the heart of south-east England; its regional hinterland contains 17 million people. London itself is the UK’s economic powerhouse, with a GDP equivalent to that of Switzerland; over 80% of its work-force are employed in services. But London’s wealth belies the levels of poverty in inner city areas. High housing costs in relation to income mean that over half the children in some central areas live below the national poverty line.

Project: Congestion charge

Congestion charging is a daily fee for driving a vehicle on public roads within a designated zone (an ovalshaped 22 square kilometres of central London) during weekday peak hours. The scheme is enforced by computer- linked licence plate recognition cameras. The scheme has generally been a success, despite continued opposition from central London businesses, who claim the charge has negatively affected their trade. The charge was increased from £5 to £8 in 2005 and a westward expansion of the regulated zone was implemented in early 2007. The congestion charge has reduced car-use within the zone by over 25% (compared with pre-charging peak-hour levels). Bus passenger numbers have nearly doubled since 2003. Profits are ploughed back into public transport and public space improvements.

Client: Transport for London, Mayor of London Phase One 2003, Phase Two 2007