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City & East London Assembly Member, Unmesh Desai, talks about the numerous campaigns he is currently backing across London in his latest exclusive column for City Matters.

As readers may know, the independent City of London School for Girls, which is owned by the Corporation, is considering extending its premises in the Barbican.

The Barbican, one of the most instantly recognisable residential estates in the country, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Residents are rightly concerned that the plans to build a new dining hall and kitchens in the space underneath Mountjoy House could be of detriment to those living in and visiting the Grade II-listed site.

By the time you will be reading this, I will have met with Roger Tynan, a member of the Barbican Residents Association helping to campaign against the proposals to expand the school.

I am fully supportive of their calls for the Corporation to consider alternatives that will enable the City both to enhance the school and to act as guardian of one of London’s most well renowned architectural assets.

Residents recently staged a silent protest to draw attention to their concerns about the proposals, and from City Hall I will be investigating further how I can help the residents with this issue.

Away from the City, by the time this has been printed, I will have launched the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee’s Hate Crime Report at Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge.

This report followed on from the committee gathering information from several organisations involved in analysing the issue and providing support to victims, such as Hope not Hate and Tell MAMA.

It also recommends to the Mayor a number of steps that both he and the Met Police could take to help eradicate hate from the beautiful game.

Ex-England international Carlton Cole is also scheduled to speak at the launch about his own experience of being subjected to racist abuse in the world of football.

This is another area that I have been working on as a London Assembly Member, having written to all of London’s football clubs ahead of this season asking what they are doing to stamp the scourge of racist abuse out of their respective stadiums.

Finally, I have lent my voice to calls to save the famous Whitechapel Bell Foundry from being turned into a themed hotel.

The Foundry, based on the edges of the City, is a vital local heritage asset and has remained a constant throughout Whitechapel’s rich and varied history over the last 500 years.

This is an issue that has implications nationally, and it would be senseless to see this site transformed into a private themed hotel, when it can still offer so much to the local community. I am wholeheartedly supporting alternative plans to reopen the site as a working Foundry, upgraded with modern machinery.

This will both preserve its long heritage, whilst offering crucial apprenticeship and employment opportunities to the next generation of local people.

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