School expansion and the four ‘B’s on Barbican agenda


Over 120 Barbican residents (including many of the ward members) attended a meeting in St Giles’ Church on 17 May, hosted by the BA’s working group on the City of London School for Girls’ plans to build a prep institute in the Thomas More car park.

The aim of the meeting was to update local residents on where the plans were and what the group had been up to.  The feasibility of the plans is still being explored by the school; there has been very little information since January and, so far, most of the governors have not responded to an invitation to visit the car park.

In the meantime the group has been busy amassing information on the effect on residents of having to move their cars and baggage stores to the other side of the estate; and having kitchens and dining facilities built underneath their blocks.

They are also looking into what the management guidelines for the Grade II-listed landscape actually say (and why that should prevent the proposed development); and the issues for young children of spending time in an underground space surrounded by flats and next to the A1.

The information collected includes detailed information on how the car park is used and how busy it is, and detailed timed walks to alternative car parks using recommended routes – which had up to seven heavy doors and three lifts – and alternatives that took longer but had fewer heavy doors. Clearly, the BA working group is working hard for us on this, but in my darker moments I wonder if, when the school, the planning committee and the landlord are all one and the same, how residents can be confident of an independent consideration.

Cut to the northern half of the estate and you’ll remember seeing our 4B signs in particularly noticeable places.  

The 4B signs were designed by the graphic artist Ken Briggs and described by the 20th Century Society as a ‘muscular approach to the Brutalist forms, massing and textures of the Barbican Centre exteriors’.  

They are Grade II-listed. Another fight is on our hands as there is a proposal to replace these signs with brightly lit, 5m high ‘Barbican’ signage that supposedly helps visitors find their way into the Barbican Centre.  

Arguably, by the time anyone sees these signs (at Defoe Place or Conservatory) the lighting won’t make a difference, but it will make a huge difference to the Defoe House bedrooms only a few metres away because the lights will only be switched off at 11pm.  

Both the BA and affected residents’ House Groups are objecting to the planning proposal and individuals can also object on the City Corporation website.  

The deadline is 31 May, although an extension has been requested because the objections page intermittently freezes (among other things).  

Please contact your House Group to join us in our objections if you are able. Personally, I preferred the yellow lines: simple, functional and fun.  

The Barbican Residents Consultation Committee (typically referred to as the RCC) has its AGM on 25 June.  The RCC is the main formal channel of communication between residents and the Corporation in all landlord and tenant matters and meets regularly throughout the year.  

On your House Group, there is someone who is part of this committee. As a resident, you can go to any RCC meeting and/or the RCC representative for your block can put questions to the RCC on your behalf.

In plainer language, our RCC representatives monitor and scrutinise everything to do with our service charges and related Service Level Agreements to make sure we get what we pay for, so know that they are there for you.  

They have been dealing with poor VFM performance and ambulance access recently but now they have a new burden to deal with as there are moves afoot to increase the car park charges dramatically.

In other news, the BA has responded to the Culture Mile Look and Feel Strategy with a very detailed document detailing residents’ concerns.

Finally, you may have seen on the BEO email broadcast a couple of weeks ago that the City has issued its consultation on whether or not to continue to allow noisy construction work on Saturday  mornings. You’ll find the consultation here – the text on the page is followed by an online survey so please take part.  

The deadline is 7 August and with so many residents living next to a building site for years, the BA and individual House Groups will probably send written responses too.

Cover image by Riodamascus (Creative Commons).