From Golden Lane… People Power is real


Meetings on cold wet nights are worth the effort if you want things to change

Some issues just won’t go away, even when you want them to, like a bad dream. Here on Golden Lane, that ghost is the re-siting of our estate office so that three much-needed new apartments can be built on the hub’s present site at the ground floor of the 16-storey Great Arthur House tower block. 

By now residents should have been notified of an offer to consider and comment on the latest plans. These emerged from three consultation sessions, the last of which was held recently in the colour-coordinated Lilac Room in the basement of the Barbican’s estate office. 

The irony of this location, given our chosen subject, was duly seized on by residents and thrown at City Corporation chieftains Liam Gillespie (Housing) and Paul Murtagh (Community Services). Why was the meeting not being held on Golden Lane? 

Both of them squirmed, shuffled and apologised for a room booking clash at our community centre, then straightened up manfully and gently steered us back to the issue at hand.

To recap, briefly. Some time ago, the City Corporation floated the idea of a wholesale move of the estate office and all its staff into the then newly refurbished community centre.

A muted uproar followed, the residents’ association, Glera, canvassed opinion across the estate, and the message was clear: new flats are a good idea, trying to stuff a large, busy estate office into a community-centre workspace designed for two-three people was a bad one.

One especially peeved Crescent House resident fired off an email recently questioning the very existence of the estate office and listing a number of gripes: “I am not in favour of there being an estate office at all,” was his conclusion.

The subject rumbled on. Other suggestions as to the estate office’s location and effectiveness came and went. What about moving it to a vacant space in the Barbican? Or into that large empty room in the basement of Great Arthur House…? 

So the latest consultation, started earlier this year, was a three-pronged attempt to finally nail the matter, a trio of structured meetings that would leave no stone unturned. And to guarantee clarity, transparency and fair play, they were chaired by a fella called Dave, a professional mediator (davewalker@southwarkmediation.co.uk). What residents should now have in front of them is the outcome of this delicate process.

The good news is that it’s not bad news. The “current thinking” in the corridors of City power is that moving the estate office into the community centre is a bad idea. Ditto moving it to the Barbican. Or taking over a shop on the ground floor of Crescent House/Goswell Road. Or anywhere else.

The ace card Mr Gillespie and Mr Murtagh had up their sleeve is to leave the estate office where it is, albeit in a slimmed down, hyper-efficient form, and to build two new apartments, not three. The community centre, now a successful and well-used facility, stays untouched. 

All of this sounded like a win-win. Another winner was the process, proof that by dragging yourself to meetings on cold wet nights and getting stuck into some proper talking with those in power, residents can get results. 

But it’s not over. The consultation may be coming to an end, but the delivery of the outcome is the start of a whole new game. So be sure to have your say.

*********

In common with practically everywhere else in the UK, Christmas arrived early here on Golden Lane. First there were fairs and markets at Charterhouse, Guildhall Yard, St Giles and St Luke’s, but the cheekiest of all was right here in our community centre. November wasn’t even finished before the crowds piled in to buy homemade cakes and craft items lovingly created locally. 

It was certainly a day to savour, not least for the sight of me performing the duties of Usher Elf to Santa in his gift-laden grotto, and for the pot of money raised for The Brain Tumour Charity (thebraintumourcharity.org).

Usher Elf’s hat
Chief Elf and Santa

And the fun doesn’t stop there, because a team from the residents’ association, Glera, applied for and won a City Corporation community grant of £1,285 for a Christmas Day tea party and Boxing Day feet-up film screening in the community centre. Santa will return, and a quiz, bingo, a raffle and children’s entertainment are promised. Plus plenty more food and drink. Anyone willing to help can write to me at the email below and I will forward all details to the organisers.

Billy Mann lives in Basterfield House on the Golden Lane Estate. He is a teaching assistant, a City of London Community Builder and a blogger. Write to him at goldenlanegazette@gmail.com

• An edited version of this column appeared in the City Matters newspaper, issue 113.

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