Earth man cometh
Sunday Times 11 May 1980
NIGEL TUERSLEY is the new generation of property developer. Along with architect Tom Hancock, who redesigned Peterborough, and Dr Kit Pedler, the author of Doomwatch, and with the backing of Shirley Williams and John Silkin, Tuersley wants to redevelop the Surrey Docks as 'Earthlife Centre.
Earthlife Centre would be a fairly far-out development by present standards, a clutch of glass pyramids surrounded by a wildlife park, a forest and botanical gardens. It would be energy efficient and have a participation science museum, as well as houses, shops, offices, a hotel and even a camping site.
The locals in Southwark have already found it hard to accept, particularly the council. One councillor actually said: " But we've got a park already."
Earthlife Centre is not one of the four proposals short listed. Its only hope of survival - and that only in a partial form - is as amelioration for the Associated Dairies Group plans. Asda's ideas are sufficiently conventional not to frighten the traditional minds of Southwark City Hall boss O'Grady and others of his ilk. Indeed, they are so uninspired Asda has been told to include elements of other more imaginative schemes, of which Earthlife is one.
I have no particular brief for Tuersley, a zoologist and ecologist who paid his way through the University of North Wales by buying up cheap property and renting it out to his fellow students in Bangor. Nor am I qualified to judge the feasibility of Earthlife Centre. But I do think there is a need for radical solutions in our inner cities.
One argument in particular seems worth considering. Successive governments have spent the last quarter century persuading, people and industry to relocate outside London. The vacuum that has appeared in our inner cities can be viewed as proof that this policy has succeeded. It does not appear logical to try and fill the hole with more of the same.