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Victoria Embankment
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Everybody’s angry about Victoria Embankment Gardens

James Manning

Victoria Embankment Gardens? Do I even know where that is?

Maybe not. It’s one of the most tucked-away green spaces in central London. Lying between the river and the Strand, it’s a precious secluded spot with all the good park things: lawns, flowerbeds, fountains and statues, a bandstand and deckchairs. It’s even got a frilly Italianesque stone water gate – the last surviving fragment of York House, which was knocked down in the seventeenth century. We’re talking max ‘hidden gem’ points.

So what’s the big deal?

Those lush lawns were being eyed by Underbelly, an events company best known for pitching a massive purple cow on the South Bank every year. They wanted to pop their travelling Spiegeltent venue in the park to stage the musical ‘Five Guys Named Moe’ for nine months. But locals started kicking off, and Historic England said it would ‘cause some harm to the significance of the Grade II* registered landscape’. (Classic Historic England.)

Do the NIMBYs have a point?

Well, there are plenty of theatres in the West End and not all that many parks – and a private company profiting from shutting off a big chunk of public garden isn’t a great look. On the one hand, Underbelly would have paid Westminster council a packet – much needed cash to maintain council services despite massive government cuts. And, y’know, culture! Anyway, it’s academic: last week they scrapped their plans and said they’ll look elsewhere, so the gardens are safe… for now.

In other news, there's a campaign to stop a Stratford skyscraper 'destroying' a view of St Paul’s Cathedral.


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