Report of the Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director.
The Committee considered a report of the Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director in relation to the draft Barbican and Golden Lane Conservation Area Character Summary and Management Strategy.
The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director introduced the item by reminding the Committee that they had designated the Conservation Area in October 2018 and agreed the boundary. He added that local authorities were statutorily obliged to publish proposals for the preservation and enhancement of conservation areas. He reported that this area already had the very highest level of protection in these estates - most of which were listed (Grade 2 and 2*) and, as such, were subject to listed building management guidelines as referenced in the documents. They were also designated landscapes and scheduled ancient monuments. Ultimately, it was intended that this document be adopted as a supplementary planning document and would therefore be a material consideration in the assessment of any proposals affecting the Conservation Area.
The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director reported that, in line with protocol, three Barbican Committees (the Barbican Estate Residents Consultation Committee in November 2020, the Barbican Residential Committee in December 2020 and the Barbican Centre Board last week) had already considered the draft document ahead of this meeting and feedback from these committees had been received and collated into the draft SPD presented today.
As an overview, it was reported that the structure of the document was fairly clear in that it provided an understanding of the significance of the Conservation Area by analysing principal characteristics and set out proposals for the preservation and enhancement of the special architectural and historic interest of the Conservation Area. It was now recommended that the Committee agree that the document be issued for a 6-week period of public consultation.
A Member noted that there had been a very helpful question and answer session on the document at the Barbican Estate Residents Consultation Committee meeting at which someone had asked about the extent to which the Climate Action Strategy would be taken into account in the new Conservation Area and that the response had referred to the fact that the Barbican had a heavy carbon footprint, its reduction fell within the Climate Action Strategy, and there would be a balance of the benefits of proposed changes. He therefore asked whether Officers could report back and confirm that their instructions to the consultancy working on the design of the Barbican Podium repair had been amended to ensure that the recommendations reflected the Climate Action Strategy. The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director reported that, in terms of the paving on the highwalk, a meeting had taken place yesterday and that part of the brief for the project team was to look at the City Climate Action Strategy and respond to this, especially in terms of embedded carbon within existing materials. He added that the approach to conservation of the estate was entirely compatible with the Climate Action Strategy in terms of retaining fabric and the like. He confirmed that the first emphasis here would be on repair with a second option of scoping and replacing with second hand tiles, a third option of utilising materials manufactured from old tiles with all other options only explored thereafter.
Another Member welcomed the draft document but added that he was sure that this Committee would want to ensure that the draft issued for consultation was factually correct and minimised any typographical errors. He added that the Barbican Association Planning Group and the Barbican Wildlife Garden Group had spent a lot of time reading the draft document appended to this report and had sent some suggested changes to him which he in turn had notified the Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director of. Officers had since agreed to correct a number of factual errors but the Member stated that he remained concerned that there were still others within the document – one, for example, relating to Blake Tower. The Member requested that Officers therefore undertake a further, detailed review of the draft document to ensure that it was factually correct prior to consultation commencing. The Member highlighted that many residents had already expressed opinions on the document but he accepted that these ought to be lodged as part of the formal consultation process. The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director confirmed that he had been in correspondence with the Member on this matter and stated that he was very grateful for any errors being brought to his attention so that these might be addressed. He went on to state that some of the points raised increased the emphasis on certain terms or were more nuanced/general commentary and it was felt that the most appropriate forum for these to be raised was via the public consultation process.
Another Member questioned whether, bearing in mind the crossover with the Climate Action Strategy and the points made around Beech Street, Officers had considered whether reference to cycle parking for residents should feature within in the document in terms of protecting the area and air quality. Secondly, the Member stated that not only was this document set to go out to public consultation for a six-week period, but also the City Plan 2036 had just been released for public consultation which would close on 7 May 2021. She noted that, due to current circumstances, it was proposed that these consultations take place online only and raised concerns that this would disenfranchise a large number of residents in terms of their awareness of these. The Member therefore questioned whether other forms of promoting these could be looked at, particularly considering that this was a document which affected estates which broadly covered a large swathe of the City’s resident population. The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director stated that he believed that cycle parking sat outside of the scope of this document as this was focused on the character of the Conservation Area. In terms of consultation, Members were informed that there would be a public meeting and that, at present, it was anticipated that this would take place virtually but any options around holding a physical meeting would be explored as restrictions were gradually lifted. The Member responded to question how the virtual public meeting would be advertised and questioned whether any thought had been given to producing a paper document notifying residents of both this and the City Plan 2036 public consultations. The Interim Chief Planning Officer assured Members that the public consultation would be widely publicised and that Officers would proactively use all of the existing resources available to them for this purpose. He added that they consider issuing paper copies of the documents and a place for people to come and view these as restrictions lifted in May 2021.
A Member questioned what would happen at the conclusion of the consultation process in terms of any further scrutiny of the document. The Interim Chief Planning Officer and the Development Director stated that a further report would be put to this Committee itemising every response received under the public consultation alongside Officer responses to these. An amended version of the draft document absorbing the responses received would then be put to Members of this Committee for approval before being adopted.
Another Member commented that she had also seen a number of track changes to the document from residents and questioned how many of these proposed changes had been made in the draft version of the document presented to Members today or whether these would be picked up as part of the broader consultation before inclusion. In terms of the comments received to date, the Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director cautioned that care needed to be taken to provide a level playing field to all consultees. He added that some of the responses already received were slightly pre-emptive of the formal consultation process and that it was important not to disadvantage other stakeholders who may take an opposite view. It was therefore felt that the best approach was to collate all of the responses received as part of the formal consultation process and report these to Committee within a single report.
RESOLVED - That Members approve the draft text of the Barbican and Golden Lane Conservation Area Character Summary and Management Strategy SPD, appended as Appendix A to the report, and agree to it being issued for public consultation for 6 weeks from March 2021.