City’s first Neighbourhood Forum gathers pace

I’ve been watching with keen interest plans to create a Neighbourhood Forum for the Barbican and Golden Lane Estates, since it was proposed a year ago, and so was delighted to be invited to a drop-in planning session last week even though I live in Smithfield. Definitely neighbourly.

Barbican Estate foregound, Golden Lane to the north.

In St Giles Cripplegate** I found residents creating a “heat map” with red and green pins showing favoured places or those in need of improvement, an ideas post box, and a growing list of locations and organisations to be noted.

Heat map of places created with pins
Ideas post box

I invited one of the forum organisers, Jan-Marc Petroschka, to recap on why the Forum was created, and update on what it is doing.

Jan-Marc Petroschka

He said: “It was quite clear that the City might be very good at planning for businesses. However, not very good at looking after its residents. And so we thought that actually it would be quite good to put together a vision for our area and specific policies that really address the needs of our community”.

In practice Corporation officers and members proved very supportive, and the Forum was approved unanimously. As I wrote at the time, I think it is good idea, even though we might wish for some form of forum for Smithfield.

Under the Localism Act of 2011 the forum will have powers to develop a neighbourhood plan, and also to secure additional funding from the Community Infrastructure Levy the Corporation collects from developers.

Jan-Marc explained that the forum has provided a way to bring together residents on the two estates and focus on addressing social issues like an ageing population, not covered in official plans, so older residents may continue to be housed in their community.

“In the neighbourhood plan you can also map out how you want the money to be spent in the future.

“For example green infrastructure, and other specific projects. We are looking at all the empty car parking spaces below the Barbican, and what you can actually do with that. The City doesn’t do it, but I think we have a pretty good idea how you can actually make those places work and create opportunities for small businesses etc.

“Of course we live here, we know what works and what doesn’t work, so we are better planners than the planners that come in four times a week and then go out again”.

Marc sent me a copy of the presentation detailing forum and plan proposals, developed last year. Click thumbnail to expand.

Barbican and Golden Lane Neighbourhood Plan

I’ve been experimenting recently with the artificial intelligence transcription app Notta – used recently at a Citizens Forum meeting about Destination City.

Below is what Notta says we talked about, lightly corrected by Jan-Marc. You can listen to the interview here.


The meeting discussed the purpose of neighbourhood planning in the City of London, here for the areas of Cripplegate and Aldersgate, the City’s first adopted Neighbourhood Area. The Neighbourhood Forum was established to create a vision and planning guidance that addresses local needs and demands, as well as opportunities of a predominantly residential area, often neglected by the City’s planning focused primarily on businesses. Policies developed for the Neighbourhood Plan are based on evidence; for example, a Housing Needs Assessment undertaken last year demonstrated that an aging population requires specialised planning. The Forum’s aims to bring together all residents of the Neighbourhood Area, like Golden Lane and the Barbican, and to create a unified community voice. Harnessing local knowledge often makes for better planning than relying solely on outside consultants. A further benefit of a Neighborhood Plan is an increase of funding through the Community Infrastructure Levy.


Origins and Motivation

Neighbourhood planning was introduced with the Localism Act 2011 to give communities a say in shaping their futures. The Barbican and Golden Lane Neighbourhood Forum was formed due to dissatisfaction with the City’s approach to planning and development, and the neglect of its residential estates Golden Lane and the Barbican over decades. The development of the Neighbourhood Plan aims at creating a communal vision, planning policies and community projects that focus on and address the needs and demands of and opportunities for people living and working in the area.

Advantages of the Neighborhood Forum

The Forum brings together residents and other stakeholders from different quarters of the Neighbourhood Area, such as Golden Lane, the Barbican, Little Britain and adjacent residential pockets, fostering a sense of community through sharing and close collaboration. It has the opportunity to address specific needs, like an aging population or the provision and maintenance of health and other community facilities, which were not specifically addressed in the City’s plan. The Neighbourhood Forum is a statutory consultee on planning matters concerning the area. Once the Plan has been adopted there is an increase of CIL funding available and influence over how the money is spent.

Community Engagement and Planning Process

The meeting focused on gathering community input through activities like a ‘heat map’ for likes and dislikes, explanations, information and discussions, and the collection of written ideas, suggestions or statements. The Neighborhood Plan should represent the community’s desires and vision for the area’s development.

The plan making process is driven by the Forum, its steering group and membership, which include people living or working within the area, business owners and elected, community and faith group representatives. The process is supported by the DLUHC through its Neighbourhood Planning Support Programme which offers grants and Technical Support packages.

Once the Plan has been agreed with the Local Authority and signed off by an independent Planning Inspector it will eventually go to a referendum to local electorate.

Funding and Implementation

An adopted the Neighborhood Plan will unlock additional funding from the CIL for a wide range of infrastructure, such as play areas, open spaces, parks and green spaces, cultural, sports or healthcare facilities. Through the Neighbourhood Plan the community can set out how they want future infrastructure investment to be spent within their area.

Expansion and Collaboration

Early discussion with the City’s planning officers concentrated on defining the precise area of the Neighbourhood Plan, from Smithfield to the west to Fortune Park and Whitecross Street in the east. However, the different character of these areas could make a unified plan challenging. In the case of Whitecross Street, the crossing of borough boundaries would have added the additional challenge of working with two Local Planning Authorities. Hence the Neighbourhood Area largely follows the ward boundaries of Aldersgate and Cripplegate and includes the two large post-war housing estates Golden Lane and Barbican.

Action Items

1. Develop a Neighborhood Plan that represents the community’s desires and vision for the area’s development.

2. Create a vision and specific policies for the neighborhood area that address the needs and demands of the local community.

3. Collect evidence for sound decision making, including a Housing Needs Analysis to understand the changing demographics and to address the requirements of an aging population.

4. Explore opportunities for making best use of underutilised spaces like the Barbican’s empty car parks.

5. Gather community input through public consultation and activities like heat maps and written statements to inform the neighborhood plan.

6. Consider the potential for collaborating with neighboring areas like Smithfield and Farringdon.

Guide for change, adaptation, transformation and future development

1. Retaining and expanding community facilities.

2. Protecting, enhancing and increasing green and open spaces, address climate resilience and biodiversity.

3. Promoting careful regeneration and addressing the cumulative impacts of new development on our neighbourhood.

4. Retrofitting and refurbishment vs. demolition, to meet net zero carbon targets.

5. Economic strategy – how to support local and new businesses, small enterprises and sole traders and people working from home.

6. Health, an inclusive and accessible city, and special needs.

** St Giles Cripplegate has an excellent book fair on until May 31 2024, and then a brilliant music festival 6th – 15th June 2024: Love’s Labours – Ten days of beautiful music inspired by love, romance and Shakespeare.

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