Anarchy 83/The Barnsbury environment

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  In the autumn of 1965 the LCC blandly placed a Compulsory Purchase Order on a block of property in Barnsbury—a self-contained area in Islington—with no detailed proposals to back their order. The Barnsbury Association used this as the platform for launching an environmental study which showed how through traffic might be channelled out of what amounts to a neighbourhood area on to peripheral surrounding routes and how the centre and the open space of the area might be given the chance to function properly. Following the public inquiry, Richard Crossman, the then Minister of Housing and Local Government, pushed the GLC, Islington and his department into setting up a study team. He promised the Association that they would be consulted during the course of the study, and in characteristic fashion he demanded that the job should be started immediately by a probe study to be completed within three months. This was to include a general appraisal of the area, an investigation into the possibility of excluding or canalizing through traffic, and a study of the problems of parking, garaging and access to premises.

  In August 1966, after strenuous political infighting, an interim report was produced. For the report, information was gathered on accidents, accessibility, servicing conditions, off-street parking, garages and existing traffic management measures. The Association supplied the manpower for the parking survey. Islington Council produced a land-use study, basic data from the census, and information on public transport and historic buildings. The report extended the potential environmental area, it highlighted the need for residential renewal and it raised the whole question of how local people can be involved in environmental planning.

  Throughout, however, the Ministry has been over-cautious, Islington over-secretive and the GLC has taken away with one hand what it has given with the other. The report was received critically by the Association, and scotched almost immediately by a crude traffic management scheme put forward by a department of the GLC apparently not party to the discussions. Relations between the Association and the Ministry worsened to the point where the Minister had to receive a deputation on the lack of proper consultation.

  Fortunately, with the abandonment of the traffic management scheme and placatory promises by Anthony Greenwood, Crossman’s successor, the situation has improved. The final report, much more in line with Buchanan’s original concept and with its whole emphasis broadened to include the fundamental problems of life in the area, is due to appear by the end of 1967. If the lessons of Barnsbury are to be learnt, local authorities must find a real means for the residents involved to participate long before concepts can be put into action. Ted Hollamby’s pub meetings in redevelopment areas or a “site” office (caravan?) where people can find out exactly what is happening are minimal requirements when the issues are so important.
architectural review, November 1967.