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City – friend or foe? Barbicania


arbican residents have a decided love-hate relationship with the City of London Corporation which mostly revolves around planning these days – although at the time of the divisiv e arguments as to the future management of the Estate of eight-or-nine years ago it was felt that our best interests were the maintenance of the status quo, rather than the more uncertain prospect of a privately managed estate. Better the devil you know....

However when it comes to planning decisions one can get the impression that the City looks after its

own, and perhaps its own does not include its relatively small residential community of which the Barbican is by far the largest element. The most recent planning decision potentially severely impacting the Barbican is the St. Alphage

House redevelopment scheme where residents living on the south east part of the estate are very concerned about the impact of a massive new building there. Others are worried about access to the Barbican highwalks fearing that the complex is gradually being cut off from the outside world via the existing highwalk bridges and pathways. Perhaps part of the problem Barbican residents face in opposing such schemes is the impression, which

the City appears to do little to dispel, that planning committee decisions which affect us are effectively just a rubber stamp approving the Chief Planning Officer’s recommendations – and that these recommendations pay little account to the potential impacts on the Barbican itself. The City created the Barbican Estate but since then gives the appearance of finding residents’ concerns an annoyance – at least as far as planning is concerned. Residents’ objections are, according to one of those who attended the latest St. Alphage House scheme planning meeting which approved the development as proposed, ‘heard but not listened to’ and the seemingly unfriendly treatment of objectors (which may well be steeped in historical procedural precedent) does little to dispel this view. Thus the Barbican appears to be just here on sufferance! The majority of the Common Councilmen

come from the business sector, rather than from those with residential qualifications, and I suppose it is inevitable that they will put business interest first. But in the St. Alphage case it is no t the fact that some building on the site was inevitable, but just the scale and impact of that proposed on that particular site. While it is all very well having flagship buildings to attract major corporations to the City, to place them right next to, and perhaps overpowering, a substantial residential community, does seem to lack any kind of acknowledgement that the needs of residents should be taken into any account. The fact that the St Alphage redevelopment is on the south (light) side of the com plex makes things perhaps even worse. Be this as it may, there are other sides of the City’s work that do require enormous praise. Douglas

Woodward writes in this edition of the City’s superb c hampionship, and financial contribution, in saving vast tracts of Greater London’s woodland and heathland from development. As far as the Barbican Estate is concerned, we do owe its very existence to the City. We may complain about some aspects of the estate’s management but we are remarkably well protected from some of the excesses which some profit-driven private management companies have imposed on their tenants. So there are perceived positives and negatives about the City’s dealings with planning and es tate management, and with the Barbican itself. This though is of little comf ort to those who are affected by the massive new developments which have sprung up around us making the Estate more and more an island oasis in the midst of an urban landscape of towering new office and residential developments. Next to come will probably be the redevelopment of the Moorgate Station site once Crossrail is through. Will the City be any more sympathetic to the feelings of those Barbican residents affected by whatever is put in place there. I somehow doubt it!

Lawrence Williams 5

Lawrence Williams Editor

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