Ongoing Exasperation With The City of London Council

Local residents’ anger with the City of London council is very evident in the latest issue of the fortnightly free sheet City Matters, a publication which also provides the head of this local authority with a regular column. It’s non-council columnists are usually anodyne but not in this issue! Billy Mann socks it to the City of London Corporation with the following words:

…If anything can take the shine off… neighbourly bliss it is the clumsiness of the council. A number of residents met recently with housing chief Paul Murtagh, who arrived in a foul mood to explain and apologise for the City Corporation’s stuttered response to a potentially deadly gas leak at the building site next to Basterfield House.

He’d hoped to make his task easier by fixing the meeting (two months after the event) as a drop-in rather than a full-throated Q&A grilling from the residents most affected.

Unfortunately his plans went awry when some canny individuals promptly rearranged the set-up and started firing their questions. Mr Murtagh looked more and more uncomfortable as the volleys of verbal shots whistled his way.

While admitting that the City Corporation had failed residents and was searching its soul for “lessons learned”, he stuck to the script that the site work met with all existing laws and regulations.

He expressed this forcefully, but tripped slightly when it came to evacuation policy and revealed that, unlike almost every large building in the developed world, there are no emergency muster points or marshalling for the Golden Lane Estate.

Billy’s Patch by Billy Mann, City Matters, 6-19 March 2019, page 23.

To clarify, Basterfield House is part of the Golden Lane Estate and the ensemble of buildings on this site are mostly City of London social housing – although there are also council owned leisure and community centres. Likewise the building site beside Basterfield House is a City of London council development – and we understand Paul Murtagh’s official title to be Assistant Director Barbican & Property Services. That said, the gas leak isn’t the only issue local residents have with this development – a more recent one is the way in which asbestos is being disposed of. There are many more bones of contention between the council and Golden Lane Estate residents, and residents across the entire City of London. The feudal nature of this local authority means that few of these maters are likely to be resolved until the council is democratically reformed in line with the rest of local government in the UK.

Down the road at the City of London owned Barbican Estate, residents are angry over many things. Two of the issues covered by Helen Hudson in her column Hel’s Corner in the 6-19th March issue of City Matters are developments at the City of London School for Girls (run by the local authority) and the council leasing it’s roofs to mobile phone companies for base stations and masts. This piece was online when we last checked a couple of days ago, Billy Mann’s wasn’t. Presumably Hudson’s reference to ‘our councillors’ in the headline is invoking the 20% elected by residential voters and not the 80% elected on undemocratic business votes who regularly oppose local people’s interests in favour of those of the financial and legal industries.

Casting warm and friendly aside, let’s get back to the City of London School for Girls and the monstrous Scandinavian-type greenhouse which they are proposing to build on the podium in front of the north side of Thomas More.

I don’t know if this is just an outrageous decoy ploy (that they will later back down on, sympathetically) while they focus on the main objective of filling in the space under Mountjoy for a massive school cafeteria (another item on the wish list).

How wonderful for Mountjoy residents to share the delectable aromas of whatever is the dish of the day for the 700 (and growing) pupils.

Can they vent the restaurant output above Mountjoy House (as would be the ideal building regulation recommendation)?

Only if layers of residents want a pipe running vertically outside their flats to the roof. A resident from the early days tells me that we used to be able to see St Giles from Thomas More Gardens (did you know that? It must have been beautiful!) but one of the previous expansions filled up that gap.

One planning application that you can object to now is installation of a plethora or antennae and dishes on the roof of the Barbican Centre. Use planning reference numbers 19/00108/FULL and 19/00109/LBC on the City of London planning website to have your say.

The proposals are not in keeping with a listed building in a Grade II star-listed estate/conservation area and there is still debate about the potential threat to health.

The antennae are several metres high so they will project above the roofline and be clearly visible by many residents. Please support Frobisher Residents in this because the front door of 15 flats in that block directly face on to the site of the proposed masts, and six flats even have bedrooms facing that way.

Eight hours sleep a day within that proximity to the masts for prolonged periods isn’t something that should be risked without a lot more research, in my opinion.

Every email, phone call and letter is ammunition for our councillors by Helen Hudson, City Matters, 12th March 2019:

The Ben Jonson House Blog that covers local issues from the perspective of residents in a specific Barbican Estate block of flats also sounds peeved when writing about the City of London council this week – and earlier it had sounded less than happy when covering the proposed phone mast installation on top of the Barbican Arts Centre. It’s the photos with their captions, see under, that make much of their argument this time.

The City in its various guises has resisted the removal of the Yellow Shed. The removal of the shed is held out as a carrot during the planning of Arts Centre projects; “if residents don’t object to our application we will remove the shed” … only to later backslide.

One of the comments made by the City, often voiced by the Arts Centre, is that the Yellow Shed is not really a shed at all, it is a well used link between the main arts centre and the exhibition halls, and I do recall see it being used in this way a couple, perhaps a handful, of times over the last decade. But it really is used as a shed by the City on many more days that it is used as a pedestrian route, and indeed it is being used as a shed at the moment..

The Yellow Shed – A shed indeed by anonymous, Ben Jonson House Blog, 12 March 2019:

“Out of mind, but not out of sight.”
“No room for people flocking to the halls.”

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