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Back to the past: ideas for London that never took off

Written by
Robert Lordan

When Doc Brown and Marty McFly took the DeLorean to October 21 2015 in Back to the Future Part II, they encountered a world of flying cars, power lace shoes and hoverboards. Such predictions may seem a tad far-fetched now we’re in 2015 for real (except for the laces – that's really happening), but they’re nothing compared to these barmy visions dreamt up by Londoners in days gone by:

Monorail over Regent StreetLondon as it might have been

 Roads? Where we're going, we don’t need roads

Monorails are pretty nifty. Shame then that London has turned down a number of schemes in the past including a high-speed ‘magic carpet’ from Victoria to Heathrow and an ‘aerial omnibus’ which would’ve soared high over Regent Street. Oh well, there’s always the shuttle at Gatwick Airport. 

Architect's model of a dystopian Piccadilly CircusPathe News

 Neo Piccadilly

In the 1960s Piccadilly Circus was on course to become a concrete tangle worthy of Escher. Broad traffic lanes and imposing tower blocks were set to dominate the area with pedestrians banished to subterranean passages and overhead walkways. Thank Eros they saw sense.

The Pyramid of death...

 Primrose Pyramid

Standing at 90 stories tall, this nod to Egyptian grandeur was intended to be a vast mausoleum capable of stashing some 5 million corpses. Plonked on top of Primrose Hill, its pointy visage would’ve dominated the skyline, acting as a grim reminder of the ultimate fate which awaits us all. Can’t think why it was never built. 

 Inner-city runways

Boris Island was nothing. Back in the day, planners drew up plans for a mighty aviation deck right beside Parliament. A direct flight to Westminster? Try sticking that on expenses. A bizarre plan to build an airport on top of King’s Cross station was also mooted.

Trafalgar Square car park

Trafalgar Garage

When traffic is stationary, Trafalgar Square certainly resembles a giant car park. In the 1930s, one planner took this comparison a little too literally and envisioned this multi-storey monstrosity. Oh the horror, the horror…


19th century proposals for the potential Wembley Tower

Wembley Tower

When Paris bagged the Eiffel Tower, Londoners developed a real case of spire envy, so much so they held a contest to find an even loftier design. When construction began on the winning entry however, the ground was found to be too boggy and the project quickly flopped. Wembley stadium now covers the site.  

Artist's impression of Battersea theme park

Battersea Theme Park

In the 1980s plans were drawn up to transform Battersea Power Station into an ambitious theme park complete with indoor gardens, stomach churning rides and a mini-submarine experience. Say what you like, but I’d rather that than a cluster of unaffordable luxury apartments.

But we can still dream - here's ten sci-fi movie inventions we wish were real.

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