Barbican family could relocate over imposing new tower blocks

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Barbican family could relocate over imposing new tower blocks
credit Jacob Philips

A dad living in the Barbican is considering moving out over plans to build tower blocks metres from his home.

Johnny Vercoutre has just become a father to twin girls and he is already packing his things up in case a 17-storey tower and a smaller 14-storey tower are built on the site of Bastion House and the Museum of London next door to his home.

The costume designer, nicknamed the “King of Shoreditch” as he used to run The Time for Tea café on Shoreditch High Street, is scared his daughters will not be able to sleep during “eight years of building works”.

Johnny said: “It is so close it feels like you can almost touch it. It is like no one has really thought about it. Part of the reason why I bought my flat is because of [Bastion House]. I’m already preparing to move. It’s going to put down the price of the property as well.”

Johnny has also joked about parking an old military vehicle he owns outside the building to protest the planning application. He is one of 14 Barbican residents whose bedroom window looks over the Museum of London site, which is built on top of London’s old Roman wall.

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There are hundreds of other residents who live close to where the building works could take place. The City of London Corporation in 2022 announced it wanted to replace Bastion House and the Museum of London with a massive office block.

The Museum of London has already left the site and its new home is being built at West Smithfield Market. Originally the City of London Corporation planned to build a £288 million centre for music on the site, but now the local authority plans to keep it for commercial use.

A campaign has been launched by the Barbican Quarter Action Group to try and convince the City of London to not build the new towers.

The action group said: “These are massive and inappropriate towers. The cultural and green spaces are very small.

“The nice bits of civic amenity could easily be lost in the planning and development process. We’ve seen this happen before and we have no faith that it won’t happen again. It is clear that the first objective of the site is to make money.

“The City has many other sites where it can create income-generating office blocks. This site is too precious to be lost for generations to come.”

Barbican residents also seriously oppose the plans. A consultation into the corporation’s plans last year was met with dismay by residents, with 88 per cent voting for an alternative to demolition.

The Barbican Centre, which was built in the 1970s, is Grade II listed, but the local authority secured an exemption for the Museum of London and Bastion House in 2019. The City of London Corporation has previously said that if it started to refurbish Bastion House it could wobble and even collapse.

A City of London officer told Property Investment Board on July 19, 2022: “I do not want another Ronan Point on our hands. We do have real issues with the structural integrity. That to me is a real concern and we have to do something to address that.”

A spokesperson for the City of London Corporation said: “Our proposals have been carefully developed with industry experts and would deliver cultural, community, and economic investment, and public realm improvements for the benefit of City residents, workers and visitors.

“With the Museum of London planning to move, and Bastion House falling below the standards expected for an office block, it is important to find a viable new future for the site.

“Fully retaining the existing buildings is not a suitable option due to significant structural issues, fire safety, very poor energy performance, and the limited uses which would be possible at the site.

“Redevelopment allows for a larger, more efficient scheme, and will deliver lower whole lifecycle carbon emissions in comparison to the part demolition or part retention option, per square metre. On balance, redevelopment is therefore considered to be the preferred option for the site.

“While there will be some disruption with any major development, if the proposal is granted planning permission, we and the chosen contractor will work closely with residents to ensure this is kept to a minimum.”

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