While it sits abandoned in an empty London lot as a symbolic protest to the power of local city council planners, the story of Stompie the Tank tells us a lot about the vagaries of urban planning.
The Model T-34 Russian tank (or “Stompie,” as it was nicknamed) is a strange urban ‘planning war’ relic that is the product not of a battle royal as it were, but a skirmish between a local businessman and London city planners.
Thought to have been used by the Czech army during the Prague Spring of 1968, Stompie was brought to London and was placed in an empty lot near the western end of Mandela Way in south Bermondsey in 1995 after it was purchased by local property developer Russell Gray.
Gray says he had wanted to build on that same empty lot, however his proposal was knocked back by the local council.
So in a fit of ‘urban planning rage’, Gray decided to place Stompie the Tank in the empty lot with the cannon pointed directly at the Southwark Council’s planning offices.
While the council has tried over the past 24 years to have the tank removed from the property, in what could only be described as a fit of ‘bureaucratic karma’, Gray has managed to get the proper paperwork to keep the tank on the land by somehow convincing Southwark council to approved Stompie as it thought it was a “septic tank”.
While the UK's Ministry of Defence wanted to know whether it had been properly decommissioned, lest some trainee tank commander should steal Stompie and rumble down Old Kent Road, over the years, Stompie has been all but ignored on its Mandela Way lot, and is now covered in works of (non-Banksy) graffiti, many with a diverse range of political messaging.
However the continued existence of the tank almost in the centre of London has been said by some as being a proverbial giant middle finger to a local council and its planning intransigence.
One wonders if such sublime and symbolic messaging would work for the various councils of Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne?
Information and imagery sourced from Atlas Obscura.