City of London committees

Court of Common Council

The ultimate decision making body in the City Corporation is the Court of Common Council. But it has a number of committees reporting to it with various spheres of responsibility and, to some extent, able to make their own decisions.

Improvements and Town Planning Committee

In the 1940s and 1950s the most important committee in the City Corporation so far as the Barbican area was concerned was the Improvements and Town Planning Committee, which had responsibility for any redevelopment of the devastated area.

As the War was coming to an end, they were put under pressure by the London County Council and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to cooperate with the London-wide efforts to come up with reconstruction plans.

The City had to come up with some response to the 1944 Greater London plan prepared on behalf of the London County Council by Patrick Abercrombie. The Improvements and Town Planning Committee’s response was the Forty plan, prepared by Francis Forty, the City engineer. This was a very defensive  proposal, essentially protecting the existing vested interests of landlords and business owners and proposing little more than reconstruction of the City as it had been before the War. This conservative approach was heavily criticised and opposed by the LCC and the Minister, more or less forced the City to engage outside consultants, Holden and Holford, to propose a more acceptable plan. The Holden and Holford plan fitted in with the philosophy of the the Improvements and Town Planning Committee by favouring the creation of commercial premises in the Barbican area.

Developers were keen to put up office blocks on the most choice parts of the Barbican area and an outside pressure group was created called the New Barbican Committee which proposed the construction of office blocks and factories. This was opposed by the Improvements and Town Planning Committee. But they were very open to implementing another scheme produced by their own chief planning officer, Anthony Mealand, and the head of the planning department at London County Council, Leslie Martin, called the Martin Mealand scheme. This provided for office blocks to be built by private developers along both sides of London Wall and then northwards through the Barbican area. This became the favoured solution of the Improvements and Town Planning Committee.

Barbican Committee / Barbican Development Committee

The Improvements and Town Planning Committee was sidelined in 1957 by Eric Wilkins, chairman of the Public Health Committee, and the force behind the previously built Golden Lane estate. He swung the Court of Common Council behind a residential scheme for the Barbican area and when the Barbican Committee  was set up to oversee it, he became its first chairman.

The Barbican Committee was established by the Court of Common Council on 3 October 1957. The Committee’s remit was to implement the redevelopment of the 25.05 acres of land south of the former street known as Barbican (which became Beech Street following redevelopment). Later the area to the north of what became Beech Street was included as well. Chamberlin, Powell and Bon reported to Common Council on 28 May 1959 on both areas, and the report was referred to the Barbican Committee for consideration, with input from other Corporation Committees.

From then on, the Barbican Committee was responsible for the redevelopment of both areas. In view of the new role, the Barbican Committee was renamed the Barbican Development Committee from 16 January 1975.

Once the Barbican estate had been largely completed, the Barbican Development Committee passed on its responsibilities for the final Barbican Phase V (which was mainly the Barbican Centre) to the Barbican Centre Committee with effect from January 1984. At the same time, the Barbican Development Committee’s responsibilities for the final accounts relating to Barbican Phase V and other unresolved building contracts were transferred to the Barbican Contracts Working Party.

Barbican Management Committee / Barbican Residential Committee

Responsibility for the management of all the completed residential premises was passed to the a new committee, the Barbican Management Committee, with effect from 1 April 1975.

The Barbican Management Committee was renamed the Barbican Residential Committee on 19 May 1978

Other committees

There were other City committees which had interests in the redevelopment, and which also  became involved. First, there was the archaically named Coal, Corn and Rates Finance Committee, which appears to have been responsible for finance.

Other committees with special interests were involved: for example, the Music, Library, and Schools Committees.