Thursday, 6 August 2015

What Is The Hammersmith Society And What Does It Do?

1950s London saw a great expansion of road building, with multi-lane highways blasting their way through the city. The Great West Road opened in 1955, and was closely followed by the Hammersmith Flyover in 1961, severing Hammersmith in two and smashing much elegant Victorian housing.

The Hammersmith Society was founded in 1962 by local residents who had fought the roads, seeking to oppose any further destruction of their neighbourhood. Chairman Tom Ryland explains why its work still matters and where the new battle lines are drawn.

The Hammersmith Flyover - dividing Hammersmith in two.  Photo: Wikimedia Commons

What is the Hammersmith Society and What Does It Do?

Tom Ryland: The Hammersmith Society is the over arching amenity society covering the northern half of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. This is defined by the old Metropolitan Borough of Hammersmith and includes Barons Court to the south and College Park and part of Old Oak Common to the north.

The Society was founded in 1962 by residents who had protested to the construction of the new Great West Road (opened in 1955) and the Hammersmith Flyover (opened in 1961) which had cut a huge swathe through the middle of Hammersmith, severing it from its riverside.

The Hammersmith Society seeks to promote excellence in the built environment and architecture in the borough, and preserve and enhance the historic environment and assets where they exist. We seek to improve the urban environment in Hammersmith by promoting public interest in townscape, by campaigning and working with the private developers, local and national authorities. Our membership includes both individuals and local groups concerned about the built and natural environment in Hammersmith.

The Society achieves these goals by :
  • We analyse and comment upon new and proposed planning policies whether produced by the Council, Mayor of London, the Government or any other agency with planning powers – such as the Mayor’s Development Corporation for Old Oak Common and Park Royal. 
  • We will attend and speak at Public Inquiries held on planning related topics. 
  • We monitor, review and comment on all the major planning applications. 
  • We liaise with other amenity groups over applications. 
  • We act as a support group for smaller local groups when requested. 
  • We occasionally arrange discussion meetings for our members and other amenity groups on topics of local relevance or interest. 
  • We publish a formal newsletter twice a year. 
  • The Chairman will issue news bulletins roughly monthly. 

What are the society's biggest concerns right now?

Tom Ryland: There is a risk that Hammersmith will be overtaken by high-rise strips along the main through routes: not only Westway and the West Cross Route, but potentially King Street too. Residential development has overtaken office development as the most lucrative, but there is no motivation and little enforcement to provide adequate open space alongside ever denser construction. A generation of young people is growing up in Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush for whom the principal recreational space is Westfield Shopping Centre.

Westfield - big, and getting bigger
Hammersmith, like many other areas in London is being redeveloped and potentially completely transformed at a phenomenal pace, and without any real vision as to where this will lead or what the resultant quality of life will be like for its future inhabitants.

In the majority of new residential developments, the proportion of genuinely affordable housing is either non-­‐existent or minimal. Housing units are being marketed overseas so that it is increasingly difficult for young local residents, often key workers, can afford to either buy or rent property with the Borough.

The Hammersmith Society attempts to put some order to this breakneck change. Unfortunately we have no control of the economics of this. We question whether particular developments are appropriate and how they will fit into the existing or even future fabric of the town. We ask whether the supporting infrastructure of schools, doctors’ surgeries, transport have been considered and are part of the overall plans for a particular area.

How do we make things better?

Tom Ryland: In addition to our role of monitoring and commenting upon planning policy and applications, we try to promote good architecture, design and the environment through our annual Environment Award. These are nominated by members and the Society’s Committee visits each scheme and make the final decision.
Apollo Theatre, Hammersmith, received a special
award in 2015. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Awards are given to a wide range of projects and have included planting and lighting schemes, large and small buildings. Usually they are what can be seen on the outside, but sometimes we issue special awards: this year to the restored interiors of the Eventim Apollo Theatre.

To see all our recent awards please visit our website:

How can local residents get involved?

Tom Ryland: First of all residents should join the Society as members. Membership fees are very modest at £15 for organisations : £8 for families or couples : £6 for individuals : £5 concessions (seniors, students, unwaged)

Secondly, any resident who feels that they have something to contribute to the Society in the way of enthusiasm, interest or some sort of relevant skill would be very welcome to join our executive committee. We meet about 10 times a year. Meetings are usually held at The barn in Cross Keys Pub on a Monday evening.

If you are not yet a member, please come to one of meetings and specifically our Annual General Meeting held in June where we present our Environment Awards for the year.

Why not nominate a recently completed project for an Award – or if you think it is particularly bad – A Wooden Spoon!

For more information on how to join (including downloadable form) and contribute to making Hammersmith a Better Place – Please visit our website:

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