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 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

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.

Latest on the future of the car parks and concierges

Further to our request to Andrew Carter for a meeting to discuss the future of the Car Parks and Concierges we can confirm that:

  • A joint Task & Finish Group is being set up to seek ways of managing the Car Parks in a cost-effective manner whilst maintaining levels of service to residents. Once terms of reference for the T&F have been agreed we will share them on the website.
  • A meeting to discuss the wider ramifications of the City’s cost saving proposals will be convened between the Chairs and their Deputies of the BA and RCC with Andrew Carter and officers and will take place in early September to allow attendees to return from their holidays.
Published
Categorized as Campaigns

The City’s proposed reduction in car park staff/services: the BA’s response

Andrew Carter Chief Officer/Executive Director Community & Children’s Services has suggested opening parallel discussions with residents on the Corporation’s Plans to reduce the number of Car Park Attendants and close a car park.

The Barbican Association and the Residents Consultation Committee are working together on this and have responded as follows in the email below

Dear Andrew

Thank you for your request for potential suggestions for a parallel consultation with residents.

We are very keen to resolve what we see as two separate issues:

  • The failure of the consultation process
  • The Car Parks and the service provided by the CPAs

The Barbican Association and the Residents’ Consultation Committee are the two groups representing our residents and we are working together on this.

At first instance we, the respective chairs and our deputies, would like to meet with you, appropriate officers and the Chair of the BRC to discuss the first: what went wrong, how do we resolve it and what must we do to make sure this does not happen again?

With regard to the second we suggest that we set up a joint working party with no more than 10 members, to contribute rather than observe, to examine all the issues, from overcapacity, future use of the space, the role of CPA’s and their provision of services to residents. Its prime objective should be to save money whilst maintaining the amenity.

I know you are aware that a lot of heat has been generated over this. We need to reassure residents that we are seeking resolution to the problems by meeting with you as soon as is practicable. We hope, that in the interest of transparency, you would not object to us posting this letter on the Barbican Association Web site.

Adam Hogg Chair BA                     Christopher Makin Chair RCC

We will keep you informed on progress on this site.

Adam and Christopher

Published
Categorized as Campaigns

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.

Bastion House and the Museum of London

By now you should have received the latest Barbican Association Newsletter (also available to read here), in which Adam Hogg, Chair of the BA, discusses the future of the Museum of London and Bastion House.

If you live on the Barbican estate, the BA would be interested to know whether you think there should be a campaign to challenge the City Corporation’s planned demolition of these buildings.

Petition for a new and improved Zero Emission Zone around the Barbican

Beech_Street_Tunnel

The Barbican Association is supporting the following petition:

The City of London should, as soon as legally possible, engage with local residents, through the Barbican Association (BA), to promote the evaluation of a more extensive and better designed ZEZ around the Barbican.

Why is this important?

The BA, representing Barbican residents, is committed to the improved air quality, reduced traffic noise, and improved safety for pedestrians and cyclists, that a ZEZ will bring to the area. (see the BA’s submission to the City’s Streets and Walkway’s Sub-committee). The failure of the City of London to engage with residents has meant that the existing experiment was badly designed and implemented and has failed in its objectives of evaluating the impact of a zero-emission scheme around the Barbican.


In addition, the unlawful actions of the City (see the Judgement of the High Court) means that most of the infrastructure associated with the scheme will be dismantled with no clear date for its reinstallation.