Radical plan to improve Whitehall

Whitehall on a Sunday morning
We took advantage of an encouraging weather forecast to take my toddler daughter into London for the first time on Sunday. We read her the Paddington Bear story on the train in, and after hugging the statue by Krispy Kreme, we headed down to Westminster to show her where Daddy sometimes works.
As luck would have it, we caught the end of some military/veterans parade or other, making its way up Whitehall. Judging by the black, yellow and red flags, I’m guessing it was Belgium Day or something. (Help! – JonW?)
Then something really odd happened. The parade continued up towards Trafalgar Square. In the few moments before Whitehall was reopened to traffic, it was one huge pedestrianised area. And it was beautiful. People went to look at the Cenotaph and ‘Women of WW2’ memorials up close, briefly lifting their status above that of a ‘keep left’ island. Quiet, gentle milling-about, as opposed to the usual game of Human Frogger. And no scrum by the Horse Guards’ sentry boxes.
Right now, Whitehall’s a right mess. Noisy, messy building work up both sides. The panels tell you it’s all about infrastructure improvements, and removing street clutter (?). But I can’t help wondering how much if it is because of the introduction of big security bollards outside some of the main departmental buildings. It would have been wonderful if they’d gone a step further, and closed the whole lot to traffic.
Would we get more done if we could adopt a bit of pavement café culture?

6 thoughts on “Radical plan to improve Whitehall”

  1. Hmmm. 13th July is nothing in Belgium, but it might be to do with 11th July which is the Flemish Community’s official holiday. The Flemish flag is a black lion on a yellow background.
    The main Belgian national holiday is 21st July – independence day – and it’s quite fun actually with some silly military parades and good fireworks.
    As for the rest of the stuff on Whitehall – I hate those smarmy signs explaining what the work is for. Essentially all the works are to create a massive anti-terrorist barrier, dressed up as street improvements.

  2. She absolutely adored it. We spent the day going past all the landmarks, so she could get some idea of context and scale. She was worn out by the end… but then again, so were Mummy and Daddy. 🙂
    (I highly recommend the Thames Clipper trips up the river, by the way. Must be a lovely way to commute.)

  3. Hmm. Try to convince them it’s to give better access to pedestrians and they’ll shut the door in your face. Tell them it’s for security…

  4. The previous weekend several roads were closed for Pride London. Regent Street was shut to traffic between Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus; Oxford Street was closed heading up towards Bond Street.
    Once the march had gone past (rather entertaining in itself), it was an absolute pleasure to be able to walk down traffic-free roads. It even made shopping on Oxford Street an almost-pleasant experience.
    They should do this every weekend. Or even permanently. Boris, are you listening?

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