A Conservation Area is an area “of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance.”
S69(1)(a) Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990
In April 2017 the Barbican Association and Golden Lane Estates Residents' Association (GLERA) approached the City with proposals for a new conservation area to include the Barbican and Golden Lane Estates and surrounding areas (red lined boundary on map).
The buildings of both Estates are listed and therefore already designated heritage assets, hence it is primarily the setting of the estates and the historical importance of the area that conservation area status will help to protect, in particular the massing and appearance of future developments and proposed demolitions within the area.
In May 2017 the City agreed to undertake an assessment of the proposed area. You can read the assessment and report below:
There has followed a Public Consultation with deadline for comments 12 February 2018. You should send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
You can read GLERA's response here.
In short rather than considering the area as a whole, the assessment has divided the area into five separate zones and argues that only those of Golden Lane Estate (Zone 1) and Barbican Estate (Zone 2) meet the criteria for conservation area designation.
Golden Lane Residents may be particularly worried about the exclusion of Zone 2, particularly Bridgewater Square, the Barbican Wildlife Garden and Welsh Church. Each zone was assessed using current Historic England guidance and the zone is allocated three out of the twelve available points - see page 14 of assessment and analysis report above. The bench mark for reconsideration is six and whilst there is a good case to argue for at least four other points it should also be noted that Paragraph 127, National Planning Policy Framework (2012) stipulates:
“When considering the designation of conservation areas, local planning authorities should ensure that an area justifies such status because of its special architectural or historic interest, and that the concept of conservation is not devalued through the designation of areas that lack special interest”
This means that Zone 2 does not itself have to be an area of special interest, just that it significantly affects the setting of both estates.
Point 14 of the Committee report (see above) states that "for consistency the boundaries of the proposed conservation areas would be identical to the listed building boundaries." The criteria for listed status and conservation area status, though in many ways similar, are not identical and this suggested boundary does not take into consideration the setting of the estates or the history of the area.
Here is an extract from the Golden Lane Estate Listed Building Management Guidelines:
2.2 Significance of the estate as a whole and it's context
The views from – as well as into – the estate have become important. Part of the special architectural interest of the estate lies in its relationship with adjacent buildings; their height, scale, mass, form, materials and detailing could, for example, have an impact on that special interest
The estate was specifically designed with views in mind, and to maximise solar gain as a source of both heat and light to the properties and hence needs to be protected from over development in the area. You can read more extracts here.
Alec Forshaw, town planner, urban designer and conservation officer with the London Borough of Islington from 1975 to 2007, has written a report on the historical significance of the area and in his conclusion writes:
"The area should be considered as whole, and as one which tells a remarkable story of post-war re-building. There is nothing unusual about conservation areas which contain contrasting elements within them (the Smithfield Conservation Area is good example of a large conservation area where the whole is greater than the sum of its contrasting parts).
It makes little sense and achieves minimal additional protection to designate two separate conservation areas encompassing only the curtilages of the listed the Golden Lane Estate and the Barbican. The areas between the estates and to the south of the Barbican, together with Islington’s St Luke’s Conservation Area to the north, are vital to the setting of listed buildings, and are of considerable interest in their own right, containing important heritage assets. They are worthy of the protection that would be afforded by conservation area status."
You can also read a detailed argument against the proposed Zones on the Open Golden Lane blog.
The Barbican Association and GLERA have commissioned a report from Robinson Wild Consulting to review the City's proposal.
Their two key observations are:
Comments should be submitted not later than Monday 12 February via email to email@example.com
or in writing to:
Historic Environment Team, Department of the Built Environment, City of London, PO Box 270, London EC2P 2EJ
The City of London website gives some information about conservation areas, the status of the new proposed conservation area and London's 26 other conservation areas.