NO chit chat to start off this New Year update from the Barbican Estate. I’m getting straight down to business with two of the most pressing campaigns we have at the moment. Barbican residents didn’t gently ease back into the working year as usual and as...
NO chit chat to start off this New Year update from the Barbican Estate. I’m getting straight down to business with two of the most pressing campaigns we have at the moment.
Barbican residents didn’t gently ease back into the working year as usual and as peacefully as we would have hoped. In early January, the Barbican Estate Office (BEO) included a notification on the intention of the City of London School for Girls to seek to expand and take over the Thomas More car park.
It seemed very odd to only hear about this via the weekly BEO newsletter since it was such a serious development, but Barbican residents are very agile; a flurry of information gathering, emails and phone calls between residents and house groups culminated in a bulk attendance of objectors at the Aldersgate Ward meeting on 22 January and follow-up discussion at the Barbican Association General Council meeting on 25 January.
There are obviously many things to take into consideration with the debate on the car park, not least the fact that the school may have to move from the area if it cannot grow, but if the construction goes ahead and swallows up the parking under Thomas More, this will affect a very large number of residents in and around the Thomas More block.
Many of the house groups are now supporting a protest group comprising Lauderdale and the committees of Mountjoy, Seddon and, of course, Thomas More, which will pursue every avenue to get the proposal rejected. Please contact your house group for more information.
This alert initially came via the Barbican Estate Office email broadcast; please subscribe if you are not already receiving those weekly email updates. You can do so by popping down to the Estate Office in the corner under Seddon House or by sending a request to them at [email protected].
The other moan I have this month is about the heating. The flats do seem cooler this winter, which is the first using the new heating controls.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that most of us are having to wear an extra layer this winter. The new controls were supposed to mimic the old system, but the BEO has refused to put in any measures to monitor the actual effect of the change, despite being asked to do so by the resident members of the heating working party.
Residents pushed this point for fully half an hour at the working party meeting, but the BEO has so far stonewalled. The other truly abysmal headline is that the BEO also refuses to countenance modifying the heating (again, despite repeated resident requests) to use the newly available 21st-century electronic controls to manage the heating more efficiently.
These controls come free with our new system so there is no additional cost. Unlike the previous system, which only kicked in via a thermostat which then took hours and hours to take effect in the flats, the new system allows for pre-emptive control. When the weather forecast is expected to be very cold, then the controls can be programmed to switch on ahead of time so that the heating is on at the right time for the temperature drop.
In the same way, if we are due a scorcher, then the heating can be scheduled to turn down ahead of time so we’re not sitting in a sauna on a sunny day.
I urge you to contact your house group to make representations to the BEO about utilising the new features on our new heating system. It is much more efficient and may well save money in the long run.
One more thing to keep your ears pricked for is the plan to transform Beech Street into a magic immersive audio-visual space for a few days in March.
This sounds like a very exciting project but will involve a lot of preparation, road closures, and foot traffic management.
Let’s end on a good note with the news that the installation of our first official electric vehicle charging points is now in progress. There are 30 being installed for the trial in the car parks of Breton, Bunyan, Cromwell, Thomas More, and Willoughby, and one in Golden Lane too. Installation started on 18 January and the launch will be at the end of February with a grand opening event in Thomas More car park.
I am also feeling very positive about the Culture Mile. The action plan is a common sense document with quite broad good intentions, so we’ll have to get to the nitty gritty details before any riot-worthy issues come up. The Barbican Association has responded with some queries and feedback and your house group will have more information if you want to know more details.
The association is also working incredibly hard on a number of other consultations, not least the proposed conservation area. Strangely, some areas are being excluded from the plans – including Fann Street garden – and the association is working hard to get them included.
In other news, an election to appoint the new chair of the residents’ consultation committee recently took place, with Christopher Makin taking over office. Graham Wallace will act as his deputy.
If you have time, please share your views in the ongoing City lighting strategy project at cityoflondon.gov.uk/citylightingstrategy.
Not only are there surveys and meetings, but also guided walks covering issues and opportunities around the subject.
Helen Hudson has lived in Defoe House on and off since the 1980s, and is the residents’ representative for Defoe on the Barbican Association General Council.