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Building the Westway 1964-1970

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Angry, banner waving local residents surround Michael Heseltine, Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Transport, during the tape cutting ceremony at Paddington Green to open the 2.5 mile long Western Avenue Extension, Britain's longest elevated road. The demonstrators, who disrupted the ceremony, were protesting about the effects of the road on their living conditions, and demanding to be rehoused. The elevated dual carriageway section of the A40 route in west London runs from Paddington to North Kensington and was built to relieve congestion at Shepherd's Bush caused by traffic from Western Avenue.

Angry, banner waving local residents surround Michael Heseltine, Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Transport, during the tape cutting ceremony at Paddington Green to open the 2.5 mile long Western Avenue Extension, Britain’s longest elevated road. The demonstrators, who disrupted the ceremony, were protesting about the effects of the road on their living conditions, and demanding to be rehoused. The elevated dual carriageway section of the A40 route in west London runs from Paddington to North Kensington and was built to relieve congestion at Shepherd’s Bush caused by traffic from Western Avenue.

 

On the 28th July 1970, Michael Heseltine, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport couldn’t fail to hear shouts of “philistine!” while he was trying to cut a white ribbon that would mark the opening of, at the time, the longest elevated motorway in Britain. Begun in 1964, the Greater London Council had decided to build this state-​​of-​​the-​​art motorway through the North Kensington area amidst accusations of Soviet-​​style disregard for the effects on the local population.

The A40 (M) or as it was more commonly called, even at the time, the Westway had cost £30 million to build and was designed to take away the horrendous congestion caused by the lack of a link between central London and Western Avenue built between the wars.

Always a bit of a Conservative outsider – his colleague Alan Clark once famously wrote, “the trouble with Michael is that he had to buy all his own furniture” – Heseltine was heard to repeatedly apologise and tried to out yell the raucous residents: “we want to help you, we will help you,”. He continued, “you cannot but have sympathy for these people.” The Borough of Kensington had blamed the GLC and the GLC at first said it was nothing to do with them to re-house or compensate anyone and then changed their excuse to the lack of funds. Whosever fault it was the local working class residents who lived up against the motorway felt like they had been totally forgotten about.

Flats in the Achlam Road section of the Western Avenue Extension are decorated with banners put up by residents, protesting against the new road, on the day of the opening ceremony at Paddington Green. The 2.5 mile long 'Westway', Britain's longest elevated road, is a section of the A40 route in west London and runs from Paddington to North Kensington. It was built to relieve congestion at Shepherd's Bush caused by traffic from Western Avenue.

Flats in the Achlam Road section of the Western Avenue Extension are decorated with banners put up by residents, protesting against the new road, on the day of the opening ceremony at Paddington Green. The 2.5 mile long ‘Westway’, Britain’s longest elevated road, is a section of the A40 route in west London and runs from Paddington to North Kensington. It was built to relieve congestion at Shepherd’s Bush caused by traffic from Western Avenue.

 

The Westway under construction, a 2.5 mile long elevated dual carriageway section of the A40 route in west London running from Paddington to North Kensington. It was built to relieve congestion at Shepherd's Bush caused by traffic from Western Avenue.

The Westway under construction, a 2.5 mile long elevated dual carriageway section of the A40 route in west London running from Paddington to North Kensington. It was built to relieve congestion at Shepherd’s Bush caused by traffic from Western Avenue.

 

The Westway under construction, a 2.5 mile long elevated dual carriageway section of the A40 route in west London running from Paddington to North Kensington. It was built to relieve congestion at Shepherd's Bush caused by traffic from Western Avenue.

The Westway under construction, a 2.5 mile long elevated dual carriageway section of the A40 route in west London running from Paddington to North Kensington. It was built to relieve congestion at Shepherd’s Bush caused by traffic from Western Avenue.

Mrs Terry looks up at a spur road that seems to be threatening to invade the back garden of her home in Oxford Gardens, North Kensington, London. The stub leads from a new roundabout being built for the Western Avenue extension, known as The Westway. After a petition from local residents the GLC decided to modify the plans and move the route slightly to the east. However, GLC traffic engineers decided that the stubs should be retained as they "could be useful in the future". The Westway is a 2.5 mile long elevated dual carriageway section of the A40 route in west London running from Paddington to North Kensington. It was built to relieve congestion at Shepherd's Bush caused by traffic from Western Avenue.

Mrs Terry looks up at a spur road that seems to be threatening to invade the back garden of her home in Oxford Gardens, North Kensington, London. The stub leads from a new roundabout being built for the Western Avenue extension, known as The Westway. After a petition from local residents the GLC decided to modify the plans and move the route slightly to the east. However, GLC traffic engineers decided that the stubs should be retained as they “could be useful in the future”. The Westway is a 2.5 mile long elevated dual carriageway section of the A40 route in west London running from Paddington to North Kensington. It was built to relieve congestion at Shepherd’s Bush caused by traffic from Western Avenue.

A Ministry of Transport cars drive along the new Western Avenue Extension, as residents of nearby flats hold their banners in protest. The 2.5 mile long Western Avenue Extension, Britain's longest elevated road. The 2.5 mile long 'Westway', Britain's longest elevated road, is a section of the A40 route in west London and runs from Paddington to North Kensington. It was built to relieve congestion at Shepherd's Bush caused by traffic from Western Avenue.

A Ministry of Transport cars drive along the new Western Avenue Extension, as residents of nearby flats hold their banners in protest. The 2.5 mile long Western Avenue Extension, Britain’s longest elevated road. The 2.5 mile long ‘Westway’, Britain’s longest elevated road, is a section of the A40 route in west London and runs from Paddington to North Kensington. It was built to relieve congestion at Shepherd’s Bush caused by traffic from Western Avenue.

A general view of the finished Western Avenue Extension, known as Westway. It is a 2.5 mile long elevated dual carriageway section of the A40 route in west London running from Paddington to North Kensington. It was built to relieve congestion at Shepherd's Bush caused by traffic from Western Avenue. Top left is White City Stadium.

A general view of the finished Western Avenue Extension, known as Westway. It is a 2.5 mile long elevated dual carriageway section of the A40 route in west London running from Paddington to North Kensington. It was built to relieve congestion at Shepherd’s Bush caused by traffic from Western Avenue. Top left is White City Stadium.

  • Michael Edwards

    Another great photo of the “get us out of this hell” Acklam Road banner exists. We used it on the cover of the UK edition, published by Penguin, of the US writer Paul Goodman’s “After the Planners” which was very influential in London at that time. – an attack on heavy state destruction of working class neighbourhoods.