Opinion

"Doing More Damage To London Than The Luftwaffe Did" Is Never An Apt Comparison

"Doing More Damage To London Than The Luftwaffe Did" Is Never An Apt Comparison

Cycle superhighways are causing more damage to London than the Luftwaffe did. Cue overdramatic spit-take. Who in their right mind could possibly believe that a handy piece of cycling infrastructure could be more harmful than bombs?

Well a couple of people. Firstly Father Mike Dunne, a church leader in Chiswick, argued that a dreaded cycle superhighway outside would disrupt funeral processions. Don't you see, disrupted funeral processions are far worse than killing 430 people in a single day.

Father Dunne went so far as to ask his parishioners to pray for a change in the plans to the proposed CS9. Because it's not like there are any other causes in the world today that needs people's prayers.

Then there's former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Lawson. He went for a slightly more reasonable line of attack: cycle superhighways are doing more damage to London than almost anything since the Blitz. It doesn't put the cycle lanes on quite the same level as a bombing campaign that reduced much of London to rubble, but they're in the same conversation.

Look at how sinister they are. Photo: Ben Kelly

Cycle superhighways aren't the only thing bringing so much destruction to London apparently. Also on the list of offenders is the board of West Ham United Football Club.

West Ham moved stadium — as followers of the beautiful game will know, this is something that rarely goes off without a hitch. Then their board failed to properly invest in the squad as the fans expected over the past few transfer windows, despite getting said new stadium — which the fans now hate — at an almighty bargain. It's a bit of a mess.

Is it as messy as bombs destroying swathes of London's East End as this banner suggests, however? Hmmmmm. Approximately 30,000 people died in London because of the Blitz. No one has died because of West Ham's poor form — admittedly though, the corner flag at the London Stadium might not be in a great state.

A memorial to the Bethnal Green tube disaster from the second world war, in which 173 civilians died. But the West Ham board have done more damage to the East End apparently... Photo: Matt

I've also spotted someone on my Facebook feed compare what property developers are doing in London as worse than the Blitz. An obsessive fixation with building needless luxury flats is a tad annoying, but is it as vexing as damaging and destroying over 1.7 million buildings in the city?

So who do we have to thank for these nonsense comparisons becoming common parlance? We lay the blame at the feet of none other that Prince Charles. *Gasp*

The originator. Photo: Dan Marsh

In the 1980s, Charles spent his time firing shots at the modernist designs of the City of London. In one 1987 speech he said of Paternoster Square: "You have to give this much to the Luftwaffe, when it knocked down our buildings, it didn't replace them with anything more offensive than rubble."

That's exactly the same thing as saying that architects are doing more damage to London than the Luftwaffe, he's just a bit poncier with his phrasing. Also, you're wrong Charles. Brutalism and modernism are fantastic. So there.

Well Charles — perhaps because he's the heir to throne — and his moaning got further than anyone else in this article. Paternoster Square had a redesign in 2003, and is now a tame neo-classical space, designed to offend nobody. Here at Londonist Towers, we firmly believe that anyone knocking down brutalist masterpieces is doing more damage to London than the Luft... wait a minute?!

Last Updated 14 March 2018

Juno

As far as Prince Charles goes, you might like to tot up how many postwar blocks we've put up and then pulled down again. Or those like Ronan Point and Grenfell that have come down of their own accord. Or the vast number of pleasant buildings that have been replaced because someone thought they weren't making enough money, giving us that eyesore at No 1 Poultry, for instance.

You might still argue that architects have done more good than harm, but it's not beyond debate. Charles (who certainly didn't originate the phrase) is on to something.

Melvyn Windebank

Sounds like pesky cycle lanes by reducing deaths is putting Father Dunne out of business re less funerals ...

Geoff Lumley

There were two tragedies in London in the 20th Century. The destruction by the Luftwaffe and the rebuilding by 60s architects.