The extension of the Northern Line - how will the Monopoly board cope?

South London gets its tube stations.

 

North Londoners often joke that if south London is so great, why aren't there more Tube stations there? A proposed new extension of the Northern Line aims to redress the balance somewhat, with a new branch extending from Kennington to new stations at Nine Elms and Battersea.

As well as literally branching out into new territory, the £1bn project is also drawing attention for the unique financial scheme that will pay for it if it goes ahead. In a first for an infrastructure project in England, an innovative funding package has been agreed under which the Greater London Authority will borrow the cost of development from the Public Works Loan Board. The government will guarantee the repayment to minimise borrowing costs.

The loan will be repaid by revenue raised from local regeneration projects that will benefit from the new transport links. The two sources will be contributions by local developers collected by the Lambeth and Wandsworth local authorities; and the growth in business rates revue from a new Enterprise Zone planned for Nine Elms, which will stay in operation for at least 25 years.

Enterprise Zones usually offer incoming businesses a discount on their rates bills to stimulate growth and investment. Under this proposal, it would be used purely as a mechanism to fund the Northern Line extension.

Final details of the financing package now need to be agreed by Wandsworth Council, Lambeth Council and Transport for London (TfL), working with the Mayor of London's Office, for inclusion in an application that TfL plans to submit under the Transport and Works Act by the end of April 2013.

Leader of Wandsworth Council, Ravi Govindia, said: "This project could represent a major breakthrough in the way we pay for vital infrastructure projects in this country. We plan to use an enterprise zone as a funding tool for a major transport upgrade, which in turn, will create new growth, new jobs and even greater tax receipts in the future.

"Over the long term the scheme would pay for itself while delivering a major economic and inward investment stimulus for London. It would give Battersea its first underground station and help bring an underused part of the Thames riverside back to life.

Although businesses attracted to the area will not benefit from the usual rates discount, the local economy stands to receive a boost from the creation of as many as 25,000 new jobs and the building of 16,000 new homes across the Nine Elms on the South Bank regeneration area.

The proposals have received a healthy thumbs-up from local residents, with around three quarters of people responding to a third public consultation on the new Tube link with positive or neutral comments.

Michèle Dix, managing director of Planning for TfL, said: "This third public consultation very much confirms that there is very strong support for this transport link. These two new Tube stations at Battersea and Nine Elms will create access to the London Underground for thousands of people, as well as cutting journey times from this part of London to the West End and the City to around 15 minutes."

TfL also says it would reduce pressure on Vauxhall station, offer relief to the existing Northern Line south of Kennington and provide wider access to leisure and employment opportunities for local people.

Having lobbied in his own inimitable style for the Northern Line extension, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson has welcomed the progress made to date on the funding scheme.

"I am delighted that after months of intensive discussions and hard work we have got the go ahead from government on financing an extension to the Northern Line, which is hugely significant as Nine Elms is one of the areas with the greatest prospect for new development in the whole of the capital," he said.

"It will be an incredible confidence boost for developers preparing to invest there and it will also be a considerable boost for local people who will benefit from the new Tube link."

As officials from the Mayor's Office and TfL finalise arrangements for financing of the extension with the government, a consultation is also underway for the extension itself, which must be carried out before the Transport and Works Act Order is submitted.

If planning approval is obtained from the government and a funding package is in place, construction on the Northern Line extension could begin in 2015, with the two new stations opening as early as 2020.

The go-ahead on a financing plan is the latest in a series of milestones the wider regeneration programme has achieved in the last year. Significantly, a new buyer has been confirmed for the iconic Battersea Power Station site where 3,400 new homes, a new office quarter, a retail centre, new hotels and an entertainment district will be built.

Once that is finalised, it only remains for the designers of the Tube map and the Monopoly board to squeeze in the new look Northern Line.

This article first appeared here

Tube goes south. Photograph: Getty Images

Berenice Baker is Defence Editor at Strategic Defence Intelligence.

Bennett Raglin / Getty
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How gendered are this year’s most popular Christmas present toys?

Meet the groups fighting back against the gendering of children’s toys over the festive season.

You’re a young girl. You go into WH Smith’s to pick out a colouring book for Christmas. You could buy the Girls’ World Doodling and Colouring Book, a "gorgeous gift for any girl". In this, the pictures range "from flowers, fans, feathers, to birds, buttons and butterflies". Or Colouring for Girls: Pretty Pictures to Colour and Complete, where you can colour in "beautiful birds, seashells, cupcakes, pretty patterns and lots more". The counterpart Boys’ Colouring Book has a range beyond buttons and feathers: "Planes, trains and automobiles – plus the odd alien spacecraft".

In the run-up to Christmas, this kind of gendered marketing is rife, particularly finding its way into the predominantly pink colour scheme of girls’ toys.

Take Amazon’s page "2016 Toys for Girls": a pink icecream trolly set, a pink light-up tablet, pink building blocks, pink and purple friendship bracelets and so on.

There are several groups taking action against the "pinkification" of children’s toys. One of these is Let Toys Be Toys, a group that targets large supermarkets with the aim of reducing the gendered marketing used on children’s goods.

The Let Toys Be Toys blog focuses on specific examples of targeted gendering within shops, catalgoues and online. A particularly revealing example of how prevalent this has become in recent years is in two pictures published from the Argos catalogue, one from the Seventies, and one from nowadays. The eye-wateringly pink page from now makes the 1970s page look dour by comparison. The lack of change over four decades of what kind of products are marketed at girls is equally striking:

Despite the efforts of campaign groups such as Let Toys Be Toys, the prevalence of gendering within the highest-rated children's gifts for 2016 is staggering.

Look no further than the Ultimate Christmas Gifts Guide from Toys R Us. One of the most immediately obvious examples is the way in which the pink/blue colour schemes are used to market identical products. This is repeated again and again:

This identical drawing board is uniquely packaged to the binary colour codes that are so common within children's toys stores.

The same applies with this keyboard, where the young girl and boy are pictured almost identically, save for the coordination of their clothes to the colour of their toys.

The message is a hugely limiting one: one that allows little movement away from the binary of pink/blue. The effects of this are longstanding. A recent poll from YouGov shows that "only a third of parents approve of boys playing with Barbies". The data goes on to explain that "while most parents approve of girls playing with toys marketed to boys, a minority of adults approve of the opposite".

Images like this were the inspiration behind Let Toys Be Toys, back in 2012. The campaign began on Mumsnet, the forum for parents, on a section called "AIBU", which stands for "Am I Being Unreasonable?". One parent posted the question: "Am I being unreasonable to think that the gendered way that children’s toys are marketed has got completely out of hand?" The heated discussion that followed led to a sub-section with the founding memebers of Let Toys Be Toys.

This aside, Let Toys Be Toys has made signifcant progess since it began. It targets large stores, focusing on gendered signage both in store and online. In their four years, they have campaigned for signs like "girls' toys" and "boys' toys" to be removed from retailers such as Boots, Debenhams, Morrisons, Toys R Us and TK Maxx. It is the go-to hashtag on Twitter for examples of the often shocking gendering of children’s toys.

"This is ostensibly about toys, but what we’re really talking about is gender stereotypes that shape our children’s worlds in an apparently very unassuming way," says Jess Day, a Let Toys Be Toys campaigner. "It seems very innocent, but actually what we’re doing is giving children very clear instructions about how to be a man and how to be a woman."

These clear instructions work beyond colour coordination: where girls are sold the image of the pink "girly girl", for instance. This is evident in children’s fancy dress costumes. Early Learning Centre’s (ELC) children’s fancy dress range imposes very rigid gender roles. To give examples from the current christmas range:


Credit: ELC

Again, the predominant colour sceme is pink. The roles offered are mainly fairies and princessess: generally make-believe.

“I found it really interesting that there were almost no ads showing girls doing anything," comments Day. "Physically they were very passive. The only physical activity we saw girls doing was dancing. They weren't really moving around much."


Image: ELC

By contrast, young boys are offered the possibility of pretending to be a firefighter, a policeman or a doctor, among other practical, professional roles.

This year's Toys R Us Christmas advert follows on from this, with girls mainly dressed as princesses, and boys dressed as knights and kings. Much like the pink/blue colour scheme that we see all over children's shops, these fancy dress costumes create an unnatural binary. They send out a message that restricts any kind of subversion of these two supposedly polar opposites.

What's more, the subtext is one that is deeply rooted in expectations, building up a picture where careers such as that of a policeman and fireman come more naturally to boys, who have been socialised into these roles from childhood through fancy dress costumes of this type. Instead, girls are later forced to learn that most of us aren't going to become princessess, and none of us fairies – and so the slow process begins to unlearn these expectations.

There are certainly groups who try to counteract this. Manufacturers such as the toy brand IamElemental aims to break down the gendered distinctions between boys' toys and girls' toys, by creating female action figures.

“We always say that we are not anti-doll or anti-princess, but that if you give a girl a different toy, she will tell a different story," says Julie Kershaw, a member of the organisation. "As the mom of two boys, I always say that it’s just as important to put a strong healthy female action figure in a boy’s hand as it is a girl’s”.

Like the campaigners behind Let Toys Be Toys, IamElemental sees children’s toys as the starting point.

“We want kids – both girls and boys  – to internalise these messages early and often,” says Kershaw. “While there are certainly biological differences between girls and boys, gender-specific toys are not a biologically dictated truth. Toys are not “for girls” or “for boys”  – toys are for play; for exploration and creative expression.”

This attitude is ingrained in a child’s early years. Only through reconfiguring the gender sterotypes of the toys we buy for our children can we begin to break down their expectations of how to behave in age. We challenge you this Christmas to avoid these highly gendered products. Below are our three favourite Christmas presents for children this year, for girls AND boys, as approved by Let Toys Be Toys:

Mini Table Tennis (£7.99)


From: The Little Toy Box

Djeco Intro to Origami - Animals (£3.99)

From: Rachel's Toy Shop

Seedling Make Your Own Dino Softie! - Dino(sew)or Kit (£5)


From: Gifts For Little Ones