London Wall West – Response to proposals published 18 June 2022

Copy of open letter sent to Chris Hayward, Chair of the City of London’s Policy & Resources Committee on 23 June 2022

OVERALL COMMENT

We are dismayed that the fundamentals of the proposed design remain the same as those we saw last December. The scheme proposes the demolition of Bastion House and the Museum of London. In their place is planned a huge office-led development of some 780,000 sq. ft, including two massive new towers, with limited cultural and green space. The scheme is wholly inappropriate for a site of such significance, both in its physical form and in terms of its proposed usage. Moreover, it undermines the City’s desire, as expressed in Destination City, to be one of the world’s premier destinations through its cultural offerings.

OUR OBJECTIONS

We have been told repeatedly that the principal objective of the proposed development is to raise funds – for the move of the Museum of London and other City projects.

By focusing on this objective, the City will:

• Ignore the site’s rich history, which features the Romans, Shakespeare, and John Wesley and many other historical features. The opening up of the Roman Fort Gate will be severely diminished by its commercial setting.

• Sacrifice the site’s public cultural heritage: as the home of the Museum of London for 50 years and the previously intended location of the world-class Centre for Music. It remains the Southern gateway to Culture Mile linking the South Bank and Tate Modern to St. Paul’s Cathedral and beyond.

• Confront visitors instead with a huge commercial development, with a cultural offering representing just over one per cent of its space.

• Compromise the nature and architectural integrity of the Barbican Quarter. The Barbican is world-renowned and one of the City’s major post-war achievements. The Museum complements the public benefit of the Barbican while Bastion House reflects its admired Brutalist design. The new proposals include little in the way of public benefit while the height and mass of the buildings will dominate and diminish the surrounding neighbourhood.

• Undermine many of its own policies and statements: the draft City Plan; the Open Space, Responsible Business and Climate Change strategies; the aims expressed in Destination City and the desire for the City to be a cultural hub, as expressed in the Barbican/Golden Lane Strategy .

There are also questions concerning the scheme’s compatibility with the National Plan and the National Planning Framework . How can the City ask others to respect its policies if it fails to do so itself?

THE CITY’S CLIMATE CHANGE STRATEGY

It is now widely agreed that, because of the devastating impact of carbon emissions on global warming, and the large proportion of carbon emissions resulting from major construction projects, serviceable buildings should not be demolished if re-fitting them is a feasible alternative. Our polling showed that 88% of Barbican residents opposed demolition of Bastion House and the Museum of London. However, the Whole Life Carbon Assessment report prepared by the City’s project team dismisses the option of retaining Bastion House without providing the necessary factual evidence. The judgement is based on a hypothetical assessment of risk rather than a full structural survey.

Moreover, if the scheme were to go ahead in its current proposed form, it would add over 45,000 tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere during the demolition and construction phases. This is more than the entire CO2 annual output of the City Corporation’s operational activities. How would this be compatible with the City’s stated aim of achieving Net Zero in its own operations by 2027?

THE CONSULTATION PROCESS

The City has stated its commitment to transparency and delivering a robust consultation process. We have commented elsewhere that this is far removed from our experience. Above all, the City has failed to engage with local stakeholders on the fundamental issues about the site as recommended by the National Planning Policy Framework.

While the Project Team has specified the nature of the consultation undertaken to date and highlighted the key concerns that arose (the height and mass of the proposed buildings, and issues of sustainability) they have provided no information whatsoever on the extent of those concerns, and why so little has been done to address them. We can only assume that the City’s failure to provide us with detailed information is because there is widespread opposition to these proposals.

In addition, the Project Team’s graphics are selective and misleading. There is little assessment of the scheme’s impact on the Barbican Estate and neighbouring conservation area. No 3D models demonstrating the full scale of what is proposed have been made available although we know they exist and their availability for stakeholders is encouraged in the London Plan .

We urge the City to live up to its commitment to transparency and consult meaningfully with the local community. The current process falls far short.

CONCLUSION

This remains a short-sighted proposal, lacking vision and apparently driven solely by the desire to raise money. Furthermore, the intention to enter into a long lease with a developer carries the risk that even the limited public benefits of the proposal would later be jettisoned by the developer.

As our polling showed, there is no evidence the scheme has the support of the local community. It is contrary to many of the City’s own policies. This is an outstanding site crying out for an imaginative scheme respecting its heritage and location. We once more invite the City to stop, think again, and work with us and the wider community to develop a scheme worthy of the site, the City and London itself.

Adam Hogg and Averil Baldwin Joint Chairs Barbican Quarter Action

Full pdf version of this letter can be seen here

www.londonstartshere.co.uk

twitter @barbicanquarter

instagram @barbicanquarteraction

London Wall West – Open meeting Wed 6th July

London Wall West – latest proposals

Open Meeting Wednesday 6 July 2022

The Barbican Association invites you to an open meeting to discuss the City’s latest proposals for London Wall West (the site currently occupied by the Museum of London and Bastion House.)

The meeting will be held on Wednesday 6 July at 7:00 pm in St. Giles Church

Please come if you can.

This is an important site and its development will affect residents and the wider community. The meeting will be a chance to tell you more about our response and for you to make your views known.

Refreshments will be provided and there will be time to mingle afterwards.

Adam Hogg,

Chairman of the Barbican Association 

Please contact Averil Baldwin email: averilmbaldwin@yahoo.com if there are any queries.

Barbican Quarter Action Group. New Website

Barbican Quarter Action is the new campaign group set up to protect the Barbican Estate and its vicinity, including Golden Lane, St Paul’s, Smithfield, Farringdon  and Clerkenwell from inappropriate and ill-considered development by the City of London both now and in the future.

The current campaign is focused on the plans for Bastion House and the Museum of London site: Barbican Quarter Action is asking the City of London to rethink, reset and stop this unacceptable development.

To learn more and to find out how to join the campaign please visit the website www.londonstartshere.co.uk which was launched today.

London Wall West

                                                                                                    

Update from the BA Chair

As you know, the City has plans to develop London Wall West (the site comprising what is now occupied by Bastion House and the Museum of London).  It  has issued preliminary proposals for a massive commercial development and the Barbican Association, together with many of you, have objected. We believe that what has been proposed is entirely inappropriate to an historic site so close to the Barbican neighbourhood. We are asking the City to think again.

We  have considerable resident talent and expertise but we also need professional help. We have already engaged a public relations company to assist in the development of our strategy . We are fortunate in that the Association has substantial reserves and a steady source of income through Barbican Life. We hope the General Council – our  governing body – will  continue to approve funds to help us challenge the City’s proposals   and make our  campaign as effective as possible.

Once we see the City’s revised  revised proposals I shall be in touch again. We shall then see the extent to which the City has re-thought its plans. If the final plans do not respond to the expectations of local residents and other stakeholders, we shall be launching our campaign.

I hope you will continue to support us and get involved.

Please get in touch with Averil Baldwin at averilmbaldwin@yahoo.com with any comments or offers of help.

Best wishes

Adam Hogg

Chair, The Barbican Association

London Wall Best: Report of an Open Meeting
for Barbican residents held on 3 March 2022

Background to the proposals

200 residents attended this open meeting in St Giles’ Church which was organised by the Barbican Association and chaired by Averil Baldwin. The first part of the meeting consisted of four presentations to brief residents on the initial plans for the London Wall West site produced by the project team for the City of London Corporation. The designs were produced by New York architects DS+R (Diller Scofidio and Renfro) who were originally engaged for the Centre for Music.

When the Centre for Music project was dropped, the City Surveyor was asked how the Corporation could maximise the revenue from the London Wall West site, as Adam Hogg, Barbican Association Chair, explained in his introduction. This requirement led to the Corporation’s Property Investment Board approval for an office-led development which has been the basis of the current round of consultations (which closes on 31 March 2022).

The Barbican Association raised a number of issues in the second half of 2021 as the proposals were being developed. The consultation was considered inadequate and did not address the key concerns of residents. In spite of overwhelming support from residents for the existing buildings to be refurbished (a poll showed that 90% of the 400 responses were in favour of this approach), the promised report of the Corporation’s advisors on retaining the buildings has never been provided, and this is now the subject of a Freedom of Information request. The Association has also challenged how the proposals for the site meet the Corporation’s long-term strategies for the City.

An architect’s view

The impact of the current proposals was illustrated with a series of slides by Jan-Marc Petroschka, an architect and Barbican resident. The historic significance of the site is evident not only from the presence of London Wall but also from Aldersgate Street’s origins as a 1600-year-old route north. The original post-war office blocks have been replaced by larger buildings in denser concentrations.The proposed development, of approximately 650,000 square feet, would be equivalent to a combination of the Foster development at One London Wall (200,000 square feet) plus 200 Aldersgate Street (434,000 square feet) but on a much smaller footprint. The proposals are for Bastion House to be replaced with a building of a similar height but two and a half times bigger, and for a 14-storey building on the Rotunda which would extend to the middle of the road, disrupting the historic traffic route. A third building, five storeys high, is also proposed between Ironmongers’ Hall and Aldersgate Street. An American investment bank was interested in the site.

Rather than following the form and scale of the Listed Barbican Estate, the proposals were inspired by the larger, bulkier and amorphous shapes of more recent additions to the neighbourhood. Artist’s impressions of the proposed buildings show their impact: St Martin’s Le Grand would be dominated by the Rotunda building at the top of the street, and Thomas More House and other Barbican residential buildings would be overshadowed by tall blocks which remove their views and sunlight.

An age of crises: the broader view

A longer-term view of cities and their architecture was given by writer and broadcaster Tom Dyckhoff, who knew the Barbican well and who had chaired the event to mark its 50th anniversary.

The current period could be seen as an age of multiple crises, starting with the financial crisis in 2008 which had created a fault line through the period of relative stability which had lasted since the 1970s. Cities had already experienced a shift from industrial production to consumerist services and a growing gap between rich and poor, and global cities were now seeing super gentrification and the privatisation of public space.

These changes were reflected in the attitudes of different generations. Older people had experienced a long period of stability and had benefitted from the property market. Younger people felt squeezed out and had a new attitude to cities and architecture.

The Barbican anniversary had celebrated the forward thinking shown by the City of London 50 years ago. A similar sense of vision and willingness to embrace the future – with all its uncertainty – was required again now. The London Wall West proposals looked backwards when they should be visionary. The proposals should be seen as part of a bigger picture; the solution could be part of a bigger picture too.

A different approach

Peter Jenkinson, cultural change agent and Barbican resident, suggested newspaper headlines that might follow the construction of the buildings as currently proposed:

‘Within sight of St Paul’s Cathedral, the richest local authority in the United Kingdom makes hundreds of millions of pounds by demolishing a public museum on an historic site and building out-of-scale offices for a private American investment bank.’

In some areas the Corporation continued to show vision and imagination: in its commitment to achieving Net Zero by 2040, to green finance, to pursuing biodiversity, to rebalancing the City with culture as well as commerce, to the promises of Culture Mile and the Business Improvement District.

The Barbican Arts Centre was celebrating its 40th anniversary on the day of the open meeting, and architecture critic Oliver Wainwright’s article in the Guardian on the celebration concluded with this warning (Reference 1):

The Barbican may be a big hulking brute, but it is a carefully composed, grade-II listed one. It demands delicate intervention with a lightness of touch…’

In spite of the gulf that seems to separate the Corporation – often seen as high-handed, out-of-touch and undemocratic – from residents – who may sometimes be regarded as self-obsessed nimbys – there is much common ground. Officers and members of the Corporation are genuinely trying to make things better, and residents are not all anti-development.

What is required is that people go best rather than go west by openly and generously sharing ideas, perspectives, proposals and reflections that suggest a different direction. One that matches the vision and imagination that led to the creation of the wonderful Barbican.

The position of the Barbican Association

Adam Hogg, Barbican Association Chair, concluded the presentations with a summary of the Association’s position:

The Corporation intended to make a planning application for the site in the Summer 2022, and the Museum of London was scheduled to close in December 2022. This would allow demolition of the building to commence before the exemption from Listing expired in August 2024.

The Barbican Association had raised three main objections: the lack of consultation, with an underlying concern that offices were not in the best interest of London; the failure to adequately explore the opportunities to repurpose existing buildings; and the scale of the proposed development.

The Planning and Transportation Committee, which was responsible for planning applications, had a track record of approving all proposals – with the notable exception of one affecting the Bevis Marks Synagogue. The Association was working with the Synagogue representatives to ensure that the campaign on London Wall West drew from their success.

Questions and discussion

The second part of the meeting was used for questions and discussion with the panel of speakers (responses from the speakers and others are in italics). Comments made after the meeting on post-it notes have also been included here.

Has contact been made with offices near by to see how they feel about the proposals? The reaction of a livery company based in a local office building was surprise and puzzlement at the plans.

It is important that efforts are now focused on a campaign, like the successful Synagogue campaign, rather than talking.

The existing Museum of London building and Bastion House were unattractive buildings. A contrary view was that they were important examples of urbanism.

The buildings should be repurposed, not demolished. The embodied/operational arguments on the consultation website were not accurate. City Tower on London Wall (no 40) is the same age as Bastion House and has been successfully refurbished. Bastion House can be refurbished and should be. If it needs bigger lifts they can be put on the outside of the building.

Would it be best to try to negotiate for the buildings to be taller but thinner to reduce the loss of light? It may be necessary to consider a compromise such as changes along these lines, but in the first instance the aim would be to secure more fundamental changes. However, it appears that in order to meet the requirements of the bank, the proposals have paid little regard for the site or the surroundings.

The scale, mass and height of the proposed buildings should complement the existing Barbican Estate (explained by Adam Hogg in a Barbican Newsletter article) (Reference 2). The architects’ perspective is wrong – they should view the site from the Estate.

A good architectural alternative in keeping with the Barbican Estate is required. It is important to be clear: what are the principles that we are objecting to? The concerns with the London Wall West proposals need to be communicated outside the City since they echo similar issues with projects across London. Developers are now making much larger proposals to compensate for their losses incurred during the pandemic. These proposals are often lazy, boring, conservative and backward thinking.

Where are the state schools? There are no comprehensive school places for girls locally. Why not put a school or extend the City of London School for Girls on the site?

The Barbican Association objected to the original proposals for London Wall Place, and the buildings which were ultimately constructed were more acceptable to residents. The Working Group on London Wall West is actively identifying the lessons that can be drawn from this.

The blocks on the site should not be higher than surrounding buildings: they should be no higher than Thomas More House. What will happen to the Roman wall? How will the Highwalk be affected?

The viewing corridor from Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill: are views of St Paul’s dome no longer protected? It looks as if the proposals would block them.

The Corporation may be challenged financially, but the proposals reflect a lack of vision. Does the City need this office space post pandemic?

What are the Corporation’s other priorities for the future of the City? Maximising profit seems a very singular short-term view. Can we suggest alternatives aligned with other priorities?

Will a campaign require money? The Barbican Association has funds, but it will be necessary to be prudent. Funds will need to be carefully targeted and should only be used if there is a reasonable chance of success.

The Synagogue used historical arguments to fight the plans for modern buildings which would encroach on its space.

The impact of the proposed buildings on the local community of Barbican residents should be emphasised. The Barbican Association is regarded as a very strong lobby group. There are also existing City structures which can be used to feed comments into decision-making. The local elections on 24 March 2022 are likely to bring changes which will affect key Committees.

The Corporation is having to revise its local Plan, which was not accepted by the Mayor of London’s office since it did not conform to the wider London requirements on climate action, office accommodation, tall buildings, and housing.

There is little time left, and it is necessary to identify areas which will make the maximum impact as soon as possible. The Barbican Association Working Group is conscious of the time pressure and is pursuing a number of strands of activity.

It will be important to co-opt younger voices to balance the elderly members who are the majority in the Barbican Association. Youth brings a fresh energetic perspective and cannot be seen as nimby – that is the risk at present.

Conclusion: how residents can help

The meeting concluded with a number of suggestions for residents:

  • Keep up to date with the campaign through the website www.LondonWallBest.com ;
  • Sign up to receive information by email ;
  • Send in comments to the Corporation’s project team (via their website: http://londonwallwest.co.uk , comments close on 31 March 2022) ;
  • Join the Barbican Association team working on the campaign by contacting Adam Hogg (chairbarbassociation@gmail.com). PR experience and press contacts would be useful, but other skills and interests would also be very welcome.

References

(1) WAINWRIGHT, Oliver. ‘A Brutalist hanging gardens of Babylon’ – the maddening, miraculous Barbican hits 40. The Guardian. I March 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2022/mar/01/brutalist-hanging-gardens-babylon-maddening-miraculous-barbican-hits-40-mall

(2) HOGG, Adam. Bastion House and the Museum of London. Barbican Association Newsletter, November 2021. p 2. https://barbicanassociation.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/BA-NEWSLETTER-NOVEMBER-2021WEB.pdf

London Wall West Consulation

Proposals  for London Wall West – make your views known by 31 December 2021

London Wall West is the area  which currently houses  Bastion House, a 1970s office building, and the Museum of London, which will be moving to Smithfield Market.

Following the decision not to proceed with the Centre for Music, the City of London  Corporation has produced early proposals on how the site might be developed. These proposals can be found on the website www.londonwallwest.co.uk.

The Barbican Association (BA) has already questioned the need to demolish rather than refurbish the existing buildings; how the decision is consistent with the City’s climate action strategy ; and whether there is demand for a further large office-led development. We shall continue to make these arguments. However  we are where, we are. It is  vital that residents comment on the proposals at this  stage as we seek  to make changes before they go before the Planning Committee in  Spring 2022.

The BA is strongly opposed to  the excessive height and scale  of the three new buildings. Building 1 on the Bastion House site would, at 17 floors, be three floors higher than the existing building with a much larger footprint. Building 2 on the rotunda, at 14 floors, would be more than double the height of buildings  on Aldersgate Street to the immediate  south. We estimate that the square footage of the new buildings is  at least four times larger than the existing ones, all designated for office use. The arguments we urge residents to consider when responding are:

The  proposals pay scant regard to the nature of the Barbican Estate and its residential community, including other residents in the immediate vicinity.

The  proposed  buildings are significantly larger in height and scale than both the existing buildings and also those towards St. Martins-Le-Grand. They  appear to project further to the north and south  of the existing Bastion House, negatively affecting Monkwell Square, the existing public gardens and the historic London Wall.

The   proposals are at odds with the conservation area status and open spaces, heritage, and architecture of the Barbican. In particular, the new buildings will completely fill the view north from St. Martins-Le-Grand blocking current views of a Barbican Tower against the skyline.

They will detrimentally affect access to day- and sun-light of those living nearby and add significantly to light pollution.

The public realm and community aspects of the proposals raise issues of  footfall , noise, security, maintenance, and existing access by vehicles. We are concerned that the lives of residents throughout the Estate could be severely affected.

Please make your views known through the website  www.londonwallwest.co.uk,  and also by emailing  at LondonWallWest@barbican.org.uk , or phoning on 0800 082 0464 .

Remember the consultation closes on 31 December 2021

Results of the Poll on the Future of Bastion House and the Museum of London

Should the Barbican Association consider mounting a campaign to persuade the Corporation to carry out a proper study into repurposing the buildings as an alternative to demolition?

Yes 387 votes 88.15%

No 52 votes 11.85%

439 total votes

Our thanks to all who participated

The BA has written to Andrien Meyers the Chair of the Property Investment Board requesting a meeting.

We have been led to believe that the City has carried out a review which justifies its proposal to demolish rather than refurbish and have requested that he share it with us. We have also asked him confirm that a proper assessment of the embodied carbon in the existing and any proposed future building is being undertaken.

Final chance to vote on the future of Bastion House and the Museum of London site

Since the beginning of August the Barbican Association has been trying to find out whether residents would be in favour of a campaign to challenge the City of London’s plans to demolish Bastion House and the Museum of London.

We have a poll here on the website which closes on Monday 23rd August so you if you haven’t shared your opinion, please do so in the next few days.

Please note, we have had some reports of people being unable to vote in this poll and instead receiving an error message. Unfortunatley, this problem is unlikley to be solved before the 23rd. However, it appears to be an issue only in some browsers.

So if you haven’t voted yet and find that you receive an error message when you do, if possible please try a different browser. Both Chrome and Safari browsers seem to work with no problems.

Reminder to vote!

You have until 23rd August to vote in the poll to let the Barbican Association know whether or not you are in favour of a campaign to challenge the City Corporation’s planned demolition of Bastion House and the Museum of London.

At the time of writing, 240 people have voted, with over 200 in favour of a campaign.