A Member drew attention to the fact that the Middlesex Street Estate residents, in their presentations today, had referred to the fact that the nearest play areas for their children were some distance away. This suggested that they did not perceive the Barbican Podium which was much closer by as a place to go for recreation. This was the biggest open space in the City and an issue that therefore clearly needed to be addressed. The Deputy Chairman agreed with this point and stated that the map used by the objectors today demonstrated that the Barbican Podium was widely perceived as not being a public space. He reported that he had been trying to persuade Officers that it should be incorporated within Open Spaces so that it became formally recognised as such and a place that was open to children and adults wherever they might live in the City.
Another Member commented that Mansell Street residents, including himself, also failed to see the Barbican as a publicly accessible open space.
A Member stated that one of the difficulties with the Barbican highwalk was access to it. She commented that, in previous years, parking meter surplus had been used to install an escalator from near the rotunda up to podium level which had made a huge difference to numbers accessing the area. She reported that she had also observed that the benches around the lakes were frequently occupied by people who visited regularly and took lunch here. She added that she was also aware that the London Wall West group were currently looking at raising the profile of the small, wooded area here.
Another Member highlighted that the areas referred to by the objectors today were proper, larger areas for ball games. She reported that Golden Lane had exactly the same issue in that there were no places to play ball games and that the City was sorely lacking these and organised facilities for children.
A Member highlighted that there was a ball games area on the Middlesex Street Podium which many residents had complained about noise wise and so it was difficult to please all. He agreed with one of the previous speakers in that access was a key issue with regard to use of the raised Barbican Podium. He disagreed that transferring this to Open Spaces would improve matters, reporting that it had transferred to Community and Children’s Services. He reported that the budget for maintaining the entirety of the Podium is £55,000 which was woefully inadequate.
The Chair reported that the Committee needed to be quite careful here as to what capacity they were acting in and that it was being proposed that this Committee would receive a presentation on the Barbican Phase II project in the near future. The Comptroller and City Solicitor added that the particular issue with the Podium which Officers were still in the process of trying to work through and had been for a while now, was that the last report concerning the appointment of architects and taking this project forward had come to this Committee. This arguably put the Committee in the category of promoting the proposal which, as a result of the changes arising from the Holocaust Memorial case and changes made to the Planning Protocol, presented a potential issue in that members of the Committee promoting the proposal should not also determine the proposal. Members were informed that, at present, there were two or three options under consideration as to how this could be addressed in governance terms which would, in time, be presented to Members for a decision. Until such time as this was crystallised, the Comptroller had sounded a note of caution around bringing further reports to this Committee which might embed its position as a promoting Committee.
A Member highlighted that this work needed to progress and questioned why the Community and Children’s Services Committee were not the proposing Committee given that this responsibility and the aforementioned budget had been moved to this Department some time ago now.
Another Member commented that when this matter had been discussed previously at Committee there had been no mention of what happens above the Podium and that, at the time, this had only focused on the membrane and damage to the reinforcing bars which was clearly a pressing issue.
Another Member stated that he felt that this was a good example of why the City Corporation needed a Property Committee so that matters such as this did not fall through the gaps.
The Chair asked that the Comptroller further consider the matter and report back to this Committee in due course.
Cost of Tulip Inquiry
A Member commented that it was reported that the Mayor of London had spent almost £600,000 on the Tulip Inquiry and questioned how much the City had incurred in costs and a breakdown of these. She asked whether the budget previously set by the Committee had been adhered to or exceeded. The Chief Planning Officer responded to state that he would report back on this to the next meeting of the Committee but underlined that the lions share of the work had been done in-house in order to avoid additional costs.
Use of Battery Technology
A Member noted that a question put to the applicant today and to others was around the use of diesel generators at roof level and whether alternatives had been looked at. One such alternative discussed and presented by previous applicants had been around the use of battery technology. One of the pushbacks on this had been complying with fire brigade requirements for evacuating the building. He therefore questioned whether Officers were engaging with the fire brigade to try and enable this new, greener, pioneering technology for new builds.
The Chief Planning Officer reported that the District Surveyor was already in liaison with the fire brigade and that this was something that he could perhaps update the Committee on at a future meeting.