City to recommend plans to replace Museum of London with office blocks

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Museum of London
Credit Jan Marc Petroschka

The City of London has indicated it will recommend approving the controversial London Wall West scheme – days before the public consultation is due to end.

The Corporation issued a letter on April 2 to ‘contributors’ to the proposed redevelopment project in which it states it will advise the plans be given the green light, despite the consultation due to run until April 6.

Campaigners have called on members to “reject the application for what it is: unfit for purpose, unworkable, damaging to the City’s reputation and, most alarming of all, injurious to the future of people and the planet”.

A City of London spokesperson said a formal recommendation will not be made until a week prior to the planning committee meeting on April 17, at which members will be able to decide for themselves whether to approve or refuse the proposal.

The City is looking to demolish both the Museum of London and Bastion House, a 1970s Brutalist office block on the edge of the Barbican estate, and replace them with three new buildings between five and 17-storeys tall. A number of public realm improvements are also to be delivered.

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Planning documents detail how the redevelopment will be less carbon-intensive over the long-term than retaining the current buildings, which it says are unwelcoming and unused. These claims have, however, been contested by campaigners against the scheme, who are pushing for a retrofit and reuse approach and for the existing buildings to be put to ‘cultural, creative and educational/learning use’.

Since the proposal went live on the City’s planning portal, which is both applicant and local authority, hundreds of objections have been filed, with the potential redevelopment described as ‘shameful’ and ‘ill-considered’.

Technical difficulties meant the public consultation’s initial end-date of early February was extended to April 6. However, despite it still running at the time of writing, the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) has seen correspondence from the City dated April 2 in which it states its Chief Planning Officer will recommend the scheme be approved. A decision is due to be made at the Planning Applications Sub-Committee meeting on April 17.

A spokesperson for the Barbican Quarter Action (BQA) group, which was formed to fight for ‘responsible’ planning in the City, said: “The story of London Wall West highlights serious concerns about the custodianship of the built environment in the City as well as a flawed planning consultation process. It throws light on a system of governance that appears to play with due process and ignores significant factors other than financial gain.

“The City of London’s conduct since the inception of its plans for a mammoth office development, on a site of immense heritage significance at London Wall West and a core part of the Barbican Estate, reveals a story of questionable governance, flawed processes, financial incoherence, cultural vandalism and most notably disregard for its own policies for urgent climate action.”

They added the City has dumped ‘a tsunami of additional documents’ onto its planning portal since extending the public consultation, and that the platform had frequently been down, preventing access to the files.

“Consequently Barbican Quarter Action hopes that when the Committee sits on April 17 it will reject the application for what it is: unfit for purpose, unworkable, damaging to the City’s reputation and, most alarming of all, injurious to the future of people and the planet. We continue to believe that this great City can and should do better and that it should retain and adapt these fine buildings in line with its own policies on sustainable development.”

A City of London Corporation spokesperson said: “No officer recommendation has been cast in relation to this planning application.”

The LDRS previously reported how the two buildings are to potentially be occupied by the City of London Police and School for Girls Sixth Form. A spokesperson for the City confirmed it is working with the City of London Police to find ‘an interim facility’ while Guildhall Yard East is being refurbished, though that no decision had been made. They would not comment on the School for Girls sixth form, currently located in the Barbican estate, though said requests had been received to use both of the buildings.

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