Greater London Urban Area
As can be seen from the map above, the official Greater London Urban Area now includes many of the surrounding towns in the London conurbation. Were it not for Green Belt land in between the legs of this ‘spider’ the whole of the area above, and perhaps beyond, would be completely swallowed up in the conurbation.
Back in the 1960s the old London County Council, which only included inner London, was abolished and replaced by the Greater London Council, which itself has now been replaced by the Greater London Authority. The area covered by this body, effectively a metropolitan county, covers most of the urban area in the ‘body’ of the ‘spider’ pictured above and some open countryside.
However in the 1960s London Transport buses covered a much bigger area than even that shown above. Their green buses and Greenline coaches covered an area as far north as Luton, well outside this map, while the Metropolitan Line of the Underground in the 1950s went out as far as Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, and before that, beyond to Verney Junction.
Commuter towns like Hatfield, Welwyn Garden City, Slough, Windsor, Maidenhead, New Addington, Sevenoaks, the Medway Towns, Reigate, Dorking, Brentwood, Redhill, Amersham, Farnborough (Surrey), Aldershot, Camberley, Wokingham, Reading, etc. would also surely be part of the London conurbation were it not for relatively small patches of Green Belt land separating them from the metropolis and the ribbon development tentacles stretching far out into the countryside.
Perhaps it is now time for a new county covering the whole of the Greater London Urban Area, and possibly some of the commuter towns beyond, with all local transport (buses, trams, Underground, local rail services) coming under Transport for London. The West Midlands has such an authority which covers not only places in the conurbation like Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Walsall etc. but cities outside it like Coventry.
However there is strong resistance in London, hence the practice of many residents even in the Greater London Authority area to still include old county names in their postal addresses. In actual fact the county of Middlesex hasn’t existed since 1964 when it was entirely swallowed up by the new Greater London county (except for Potters Bar which was transferred to neighboring Hertfordshire), and outlying London areas like Barnet, Romford, Ilford, Bromley, Croydon, Kingston, etc. haven’t been part of Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent or Surrey since then either.
It would have helped if the Post Office had allocated London postal districts/postcodes to the whole Greater London area when the GLC was established in the 1960s, then we would no longer have erroneous written/printed addresses like Ilford, Essex or Barnet, Hertfordshire which are quite outdated as these places are no longer in those counties and anyway county names are not now required on envelopes since the introduction of postcodes for all areas. Battersea, where I live, was once in Surrey, but as it has a London postal district nobody now puts ‘Battersea, Surrey’ on envelopes and headed notepaper. But the Post Office has never acknowledged county or authority boundaries and has always gone its own sweet, illogical way. Thus I grew up in the 1950s in London N22 (Wood Green) which was then in the county of Middlesex, while Sewardstone, still outside the GLA area in Essex, has a postcode of London E4.
Maybe we need one authority for the whole of the Greater London Urban Area, one centralized local transport authority (Transport for London maybe), and new postcodes which at least cover the whole GLA area of Greater London, and perhaps the whole Greater London Urban Area, although I imagine there would be great resistance to a postal address including something like ‘Bracknell, London SW32′. It would, however, be more logical than ‘Wembley, Middlesex’ when that county hasn’t even existed for nearly half a century, or indeed ‘Bromley, Kent’ when the London Borough of Bromley has existed for the same five decades.