West Drayton’s only claims to fame can be its proximity to the M4 and new cross rail excavation place. If it was once autonomous it’s now simply part of a sprawling greater London – an area destined to be known as greater Heathrow . It feels as if it’s just been left to fend for itself, with post-war terraces jostling for position with 60s housing projects and light industrial warehouses. There’s a massive Screwfix here; just along the road a Victorian pub. The Grand Union canal passes through too, but the waterway has been boxed in on all sides by rail, flyovers and the backs of work sheds. It looks set to be covered over completely.
London is good at showing off its history, hugger mugger in the busy streets. On the way out to West Drayton, where the canal, railway and Westway intersect – another once-future London – is the Trellick Tower, thought to have inspired JG Ballard’s most incisive rumination on the built environment. It’s both reviled and adored and its listed status suggests only that there’s awareness of its importance rather than a wider fondness for this brutalist adventure. There’s a sense out here in west West London of what was in the minds of 60s architects, engineers and leaders: out with the old; in with the new. Little thought was given to the buildings razed to provide commuters with a faster journey to the advertising offices. Concrete was the future once; much of Ealing, North Kensington and Paddington is a hymn to it.
But not even concrete made it to West Drayton. It’s a place of DPF servicing and assorted solutions; an edgeland bordered by motorway, canal and its own corrugated nowheres. And towards the edge, where Heathrow’s outer boroughs begin, is a dealership for one of the planet’s most innovative hi-tech companies. A company that builds rocket ships and cars that drive themselves. And the most viable electric car the world has ever seen. It’s like coming across an IMAX on the A30.