Ian Scott International


Strand, Temple and Aldwych: the Northbank’s new master plan to rival London’s South Bank

Set for a revamp: the crowded area around Charing Cross is targeted for improvement under the Northbank master plan. Image: Alamy

A Northbank master plan is shaking up this historic slice of central London with a master plan for a revamp and fabulous new homes in the mix.

These areas have been urban since the Middle Ages, when bishops and royal courtiers built mansions with boat landings on the banks of the Thames between the City of London and the Palace of Westminster — then two separate settlements. 

Apart from rebuilt Somerset House, the palaces have long since perished. Aristocrats departed for more fashionable Mayfair and the district became known for its lively coffee houses, rowdy taverns and cheap women.

In the 19th century, along with slum clearance and road improvements, much of Strand was rebuilt. A revamp of this major stretch of central London has long been overdue, but now the Northbank initiative — a rebranding exercise that aims to create a rival to the now-vibrant South Bank in terms of inward investment, spending and  visitor numbers — is giving it a facelift by upgrading 40 public spaces.

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Ruth Duston, chief executive of the Northbank Business Improvement District, says Strand will again be worthy of the ceremonial route it once was.

“The area combines all the elements that make London a great global city, yet the public realm has let it down. Collectively, the changes will be the most significant in the area for more than a century,” she adds.

Improvements will include a new riverside promenade; a decluttering of key areas such as Charing Cross station forecourt; improving historic lanes, and introducing lighting schemes to help celebrate the architecture.

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