In the mid 1960’s an overhead motorway, the A40(M) was driven through North Kensington staked out on giant stilts – the largest continuous concrete structure in the country. Two and a half miles of new road made it the longest stretch of elevated motorway in Europe.
The new highway made driving in and out of the city much easier, allowing vehicles to cover in minutes ground that used to take over an hour to travel. However, while reducing congestion in the city, the highway carried the traffic above the lives of people living in North Kensington, with 47,000 cars a day travelling through their rooftops within the first few months of opening. The flyover brought noise, disruption, destruction and pollution to a community that was already contending with economic hardship, a decaying inner city environment and neglect.
To make way for the modern engineering feat, homes were demolished and streets chopped in half or left stranded as little as twenty feet away, exposed to the noise of traffic and the nightly glare of headlights. The protests of local residents hit the headlines when the motorway opened in 1970. By then a decade of community action networks had grown up in the fight for better housing and open spaces where children could play. Energetic activists set up grass root associations, organised on local issues and campaigned for improvements.
Following a four year campaign, in 1971 the North Kensington Amenity Trust, now Westway Trust – was set up, in partnership with the local authority, as the custodian of the 23 acres of land under the motorway to help promote positive use of the spaces that lie underneath the Westway.