Green Sky Thinking Launch 2015 – Sir Edward Lister on London’s infrastructure challenges to 2050

As we prepare for our Green Sky Thinking event next Thursday “Towards a Happy Healthy Workplace”, we were delighted to be invited to the launch event at London’s Living Room at City Hall.

The 2015 programme of events launched with a keynote speech from Sir Edward Lister – Boris Johnson’s Deputy Mayor for Planning and Policy – on the need to deliver a resilient, efficient and green infrastructure for Europe’s fastest growing city.

Taking the decisions necessary in a metropolis with 34 planning authorities is a challenge that demands new thinking. The Greater London Authority’s 2050 London Infrastructure Plan is an important start, and as Lister emphasised, for the first time it identifies the total cost of the infrastructure needed to support London’s growth. Armed with this data the city can now explore new ways to finance an infrastructure renaissance for future generations of Londoners.

With a population set to reach 11 million by 2050 London’s creaking ‘hard’ infrastructure, its roads, rail, power, water and waste systems will need to be transformed. To take just one example, today our sewage systems still rely on the foresight of Victorian engineering that was designed for a population of just two million.

Lister argued that this growth – and the 50,000 new homes each year that will be needed to accommodate it – need not and must not be at the expense of our ‘green’ infrastructure. In fact it depends upon it. When talking with international companies about why they invest in London Sir Edward emphasised their consistent focus on our capital’s quality of life – maintained in large part by its network of parks, green spaces, trees and gardens.

Beyond its transport challenges, he summarised London’s key infrastructure priorities:

Green infrastructure

  • London is one of the world’s greenest cities – we’ve got to keep, protect and enhance our green infrastructure
  • We can preserve our green belt – space has already been identified for over 450,000 dwellings that can be built on brownfield land available today
  • We’re building pocket parks, planting trees, with London’s green roofs now equivalent to 25 football pitches
  • A key part of making London resilient in the face of climate change, managing flood risk, and biodiversity


  • London’s demand exceeds its level of sustainable supply, a gap that is widening
  • By 2050 the daily water deficit for London will by half a billion litres per day
  • Our sewage system designed by Joseph Bazalgette in the nineteenth century was built for a population of two million, a system that we are still reliant upon today with a population of nine million
  • The Thames barrier is an asset but not a total solution to flood risk – it cannot prevent groundwater flooding that we have seen in recent years
  • We need to raise awareness, tackle leakage, maximise our wastewater reuse


  • A 1950s network that is creaking, supplying a stock of buildings of which 78% are inefficient, and a majority will still be with us in 2050
  • Energy poverty is a growing concern, being tackled by programmes to refit and refurbish existing buildings and the GLA’s policy on higher energy standards for new constructions
  • Decentralised and district energy networks are needed to meet growing demands, lower carbon emissions and create a resilient network
  • Today six locations in London face major energy deficiency, each needing investment of c.£50m to address their shortfall
    We need to make existing capacity stretch further by shifting demands off-peak

Resource Consumption and Waste

  • By 2026 London will need 40 new waste management or treatment plants– and they’re not the neighbour that everybody wants
  • Some of the lowest recycling rates in the country – caused by space limitations from a city of flat dwellers
  • Transition from take-make-dispose to a circular economy

View a presentation on the 2050 Infrastructure Plan here

Date(s): April 1, 2015