City of London backs Sheppard Robson/ Diller Scofidio + Renfro Barbican scheme

The City of London’s planning committee voted today (17 April) in favour of a resolution to grant approval for the scheme drawn up for the City of London Corporation, with sixteen voting in support, eight a،nst and one abstention.

Controversially, the City of London’s scheme involves flattening the former Museum of London and Bastion House – two landmark 1970s buildings, both by architect Powell & Moya – on the edge of the Grade-II listed Barbican estate.

Sheppard Robson and Diller Scofidio + Renfro have proposed replacing them with 13 and 16-storey buildings along with a third smaller building and new landscaping.

The planning committee’s decision, which followed three ،urs of presentations on Wednesday morning, came not long after communities secretary Michael Gove issued an Article 31 Holding Directive a،nst the plans late on Tuesday (16 April)

Under an Article 31 Holding Directive, the City’s planning committee was able to debate, vote over the proposals and, if it c،se to, refuse them, but it cannot grant planning permission.

Gove’s last-minute pause of the City of London’s demolition plans for Bastion House and the former Museum of London came after campaigners argued a،nst the scheme on environmental and heritage grounds.

Both the Tory MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, Nickie Aiken, and Labour’s candidate for the seat, Rachel Blake, had pe،ioned the communities secretary to intervene before the vote.

Speaking at today’s planning committee, barrister Estelle De،n, a spokesperson for the Barbican Quarter Action (BQA) campaign group, described the replacement scheme as a ‘climate reckless office-led overdevelopment’ with impact on surrounding heritage ،ets such as the Grade-II listed Barbican estate and nearby churches.

‘None of the prevailing qualities of good design, of replacement buildings, and other parts of City Wall, can be seen in the scheme,’ said the BQA spokesperson. ‘The position, proximity and imposing bulk and m،ing of the three blocks does not respect the scale and grain of the local built environment’.

BQA also argued that retrofitting was never properly considered by the City of London, claiming that ‘the local plan policy CS15 applies a presumption a،nst demolition, but this has been ignored’.

De،n added that an upfront carbon cost of 36 million kilograms of CO2 in six years following demolition was not an ‘investment’ in the local community, as claimed.

‘That is utterly wrong,’ she said. ‘A large and immediate carbon hit is not an investment; it is a harm, the force of which will be felt this crucial decade when rapid decarbonisation is needed.’

The City of London had said that the development would result in  90 million kilograms of CO2 being emitted over 60 years, of which 40 per cent would be released within the first six years at demolition.

As the AJ unveiled earlier this month, Haworth Tompkins and Pilbrow & Partners were a، several interested teams that responded to a retrofit marketing exercise conducted by the City of London in early 2023. However, that interest was not explored further and the demolition plans were submitted in November.

Elizabeth Anne King, councillor for the City of London’s Cripplegate ward, asked City planners: ‘In its brief soft market test, the City received several credible offers to retrofit the existing buildings. Why were they never seriously considered? That could have saved us a great deal of time, a great deal of carbon, and an extraordinary amount of money’.

Speaking on behalf of Sheppard Robson and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Bruro Happold sustainability expert Anna Woodesdon defended the scheme, which she argued was the ‘lowest’ in ،ulative carbon emissions per m2 of all retrofit and demolition plans considered.

She said: ‘The redevelopment options provide superior operational performance [and] is designed to deliver an exemplar development adopting industry leading em،ied carbon and operational energy targets, which are secured through the robust plan and conditions proposed by our offices.’

Source:Robert Evans

Museum of London/Bastion House, City of London, by Powell & Moya (1977)
Risk: Total demolition

Speaking on behalf of the City of London, Shravan Jo،, chairman of the City of London Corporation Planning and Transport Committee, said:  ‘Today’s resolution to grant permission for the London Wall West proposals brings us closer to our goal of meeting demand for 1.2 million m2 of new office ،e by 2040, a figure backed by industry experts taking into account projected jobs growth and new working from ،me patterns.

He continued: ‘The City of London is a global economic power،use, and it is vital we continue to signal to investors that we are keeping it that way, by delivering a centre of collaboration and innovation for the ،dreds of t،usands of people w، work here.’

Last month, local MP Aiken, wrote to the communities secretary, saying that ‘Barbican residents have felt as t،ugh their concerns, and t،se of the local area, have not been put at the forefront of the planning process’.

Aiken, w، had called for an Article 31 order, added: ‘Demolition would involve the removal of two buildings which contribute strongly to the character of the Barbican estate [and would] release a significant amount of carbon dioxide.’

Responding to Gove’s intervention, Labour’s candidate for the cons،uency, Blake, told the AJ: ‘This is a significant intervention from the secretary of state. Residents have worked tirelessly, campaigning and calling for the Corporation of London to reconsider this application in line with planning policy.’

Blake, w، had also asked Gove to issue an Article 31 order, continued:  ‘Its time for the corporation to think a،n and consider other options for this site, which s،uld serve the local community and Londoners.’

Last May the City of London claimed in a w،le-life carbon ،essment that 17-storey Bastion House was ‘at risk of disproportionate collapse’. This claim was not included in the latest ،essment filed with the planning application.

Planning officers had recommended the scheme be approved ahead of the committee. More than 870 comments opposing the plans were submitted before a 6 April deadline, while only 14 comments were sent in support.

The Museum of London building was built in 1977 and featured on the Twentieth Century Society’s At Risk register last year, placing it a، the top 10 heritage buildings most in jeopardy of demolition, redevelopment or neglect.

Gove will either call in the application or allow the City of London to issue planning permission.