Residential is Still Touch and Go

Further impetus was given to the idea of a residential development when on 28th August 1956, Duncan Sandys, the Minister of Housing and Local Government wrote to the Lord Mayor, proposing that the Barbican should be developed as “a genuine residential neighbourhood, incorporating schools, shops, open spaces and amenities, even if this means foregoing a more remunerative return on the land.” This persuaded more doubters on the Council.

On 19th September 1957, the Court of Common Council accepted Duncan Sandys’ objectives as the way forward for the Barbican site. They proposed to link the residential development with the commercial development which the London County Council planned for the area south and east of the site (the London Wall and Moorgate office blocks). This new plan incorporated many features of the LCC’s 1954 plan.

The commercial plan involved the creation of a completely new road called Route 11 (later London Wall) with high-rise office blocks along its entire length. The Corporation and the LCC got together and produced a new composite plan (called the Martin-Mealand Plan) in which the office blocks were to be reduced to three, so as not to overshadow the Barbican Estate. It was also agreed that the highwalk system should be adopted both in the residential and the commercial areas and be joined together.

The scheme did not proceed without regular bouts of controversy and argument. At a meeting of the Common Council in 1957, the forces for and against a residential development, were exactly evenly balanced. Then Captain Alfred Instone stood up to announce that, after many reservations, he now supported the residential scheme. No sooner had he spoken than he stopped and said: “I’m not feeling my best today”. He sat down, collapsed, and died before reaching hospital (and before being able to cast his vote).

Also in 1957, Eric Wilkins, who had proposed the original motion for the scheme and had been the Chairman of the Barbican Committee, had a heart attack, caused by the strain of the battle, and died. He was replaced as Chairman by Alderman Gilbert Inglefield.