During this year of recovery, I have enjoyed the turn of the seasons more than ever before. This has been a spectacularly beautiful autumn, with brighter colours going on for longer. London is brimming with beauty and magic: there’s the new bridge by Thomas Heatherwick coming — a kind of Hanging Gardens of Battersea — and a new indoor Jacobean theatre by the Globe, lit only by wax candles, for the long winter nights. But this is also a city being hollowed out by global investors. The pumping-up of house prices by clouds of foreign money is making central London completely unliveable-in for anyone on an ordinary salary. The term ‘residential’ is now a misnomer. I was talking to a developer who had been in Shanghai selling north London apartments. He was worried about empty buildings and asked some purchasers what they intended to do with their new multi-million-pound apartment. They wanted their son to have his education in London. He would come and live in the flat and then they would sell it to pay the fees. Interesting, replied my man. And how old is your son? Nearly six months, they replied.
This kind of behaviour is distorting life in all sorts of unexpected ways. A recent victim is Cork Street, for generations the heart of the commercial British art world. But as Spectator readers may know, it is ceasing to beat. Seven art galleries are going after Christmas, mostly to make way for flats for billionaires. Another four are to go next year. In a few years’ time there will still be galleries here but they will be run by international fashion houses who have the money. A unique part of London life, which grew by accident, will be destroyed by speculative investment.
This is an extract from Andrew Marr’s notebook in the latest issue of the Spectator. Click here to read the full article.