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  1. ITV Report

How developers in 1950s and 60s wanted London to look

From Covent Garden to Piccadilly Circus, Soho to Battersea Power Station, many of London's most treasured historic buildings and areas were once threatened with demolition.

Aerial view of the proposed Carlton House Terrace Credit: English Heritage

Several proposals over the last century would have irreversibly changed the face of the capital, including a 1950s conceptual scheme for a giant conservatory supporting tower blocks over Soho.

A decade later there were proposals to 'replan' Whitehall by demolishing virtually all the Edwardian and Victorian buildings around Parliament Square.

Using the latest digital technology, English Heritage has created 'the London that might have been'.

1964 proposal for Whitehall and demolition on three sides of Parliament Square

A monolithic set of government offices, built in concrete was planned between the river and St James' Park, accompanied by smaller office blocks to the west, while opposite, across a pedestrianised square a long housing block, sliced through to the river gardens next to the Houses of Parliament.

The scheme also proposed the creation of a new riverside square to the left of Big Ben Credit: English Heritage

The 1968 draft plan for Covent Garden, called 'Covent Garden's moving'

The plan contained very few complete, legible views of what was proposed. This view shows the south-western corner of the Covent Garden area. Much concrete terracing would have been used, with the area pedestrianised. Apart from St Martin's in the Field, no other buildings in the area would have been retained.

Covent Garden, called 'Covent Garden's moving' from 1968 Credit: English Heritage

In 1962, a new proposal was put forward for Piccadilly Circus

The plan reconciled growing traffic needs with pedestrian requirements. The scheme was thought to improve the social, commercial and tourist values of the area but, although approved by the LCC [London County Council] was rejected by the Ministry of Transport because of insufficient increases to traffic flow. After a decade of revisions and new proposals it was finally shelved in 1972.

The 1962 plans for Piccadilly Circus Credit: English Heritage

The 1954 conceptual scheme for Soho

The idea was commissioned by Pilkington's Glass Age Development Committee which had been set up in the 1930s to stimulate new ideas in architecture and glass. The scheme used Soho to explore new structural possibilities and issues of housing density, traffic growth and the depopulation of city centres.

1954 Soho scheme by Geoffrey Jellicoe, Ove Arup and Edward Mills Credit: English Heritage

Here we see the tops of the Soho towers peeping over the National Gallery, when viewed from the centre of Trafalgar Square.

View of towers from Trafalgar Square Credit: English Heritage