Thursday, 5 February 2015

Mayor Pipe! When will you apologise for the destruction of Dalston's Georgian houses?

An open letter to Hackney's Mayor Jules Pipe

Dear Mayor Pipe,

Do you remember I wrote to you last September, on behalf of OPEN members, about our Georgian houses of Dalston Terrace? I offered to arrange a meeting between you and the Spitalfields Trust, who wanted to restore them and provide some affordable housing. Months earlier I'd written to your officers, but they refused to discuss the Trust's proposal. You didn't reply to my letter either.

Did you know that, since I wrote to you, Number 66 Dalston Lane (c 1807), our old Sound and Music shop, has been demolished? You are reported as describing it recently, whilst driving past, as " the eyesore". It is gone now, which you may be pleased to hear.

"Dalston Lane. We're going to miss you.You're still strong, solid and beautiful.We will keep fighting for you and your old firends around here. People of Dalston"

We held a wake beside the ruins and local people are still leaving touching tributes at Dalston Terrace, in front of the remaining  houses which have been condemned and are the next to go.

"RIP Dalston terrace. 1807-2015. Money and ignorance win"

As you know the story of Dalston Terrace is a long one  - over 200 years in fact. But let me remind you just of what we can both recall.

You will remember Hackney Council inherited Dalston Terrace in 1984, free of charge, when Margaret Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council. It was a thriving terrace then, with seventeen independent family businesses. But in the following years the Council refused to grant its tenants new leases, empty houses were boarded up, many were squatted, roofs fell in and millions were lost in rents. We were shamed by the years of neglect and dereliction on Dalston Lane.

2002 was the year when you became Council Leader. At the time Hackney was £70million in debt, from its grand follies, like The Ocean on Mare Street. To balance the books, it flooded the market with its 'surplus' properties including Dalston Lane and Broadway Market. It was a fire sale of the family silver. You will also remember the report of independent auditors that £millions were lost to Hackney taxpayers by undervaluing private sales.

When Dalston Terrace was put up for sale there were, by then, only five surviving businesses left. As you know, your standing orders required the Council to offer first refusal to your tenants. But your tenants' offers, and their dreams, were ignored. The houses were sold as one lot, at auction, to an offshore company. Fires and evictions followed.

2005 was the year when you became our elected Mayor, with overarching executive powers and responsibilities. It was the year when you authorised the demolition of the 1886 Dalston Circus and locally listed Georgian houses as part of the Dalston Square development.

But we took heart when the Dalston Lane Conservation Area was declared. Your Council said it was the “champion of our heritage” and would protect and enhance these “remarkable survivors of Georgian architecture”.  The following year, after the arson attack when JON’S Scooters burnt down, you may remember that OPEN members made a deputation to your Cabinet. A resolution expressing urgency was passed.

But nothing was done to shore up the burnt and vadalised structures or to protect the remaining houses. Later, to our dismay, your Council just demolished JON'S Scooters, and Pizzey's Flowers, and let the rest continue to decay. The Georgian Group has called it a “policy of studied neglect”.

We, that is OPEN members, worked hard to gain recognition in the Council's recent planning policies for restoration of the surviving characterful houses of Dalston. We hoped that these rare fragments of our Georgian heritage might be saved so that future generations could take pride in our heritage and where we are from.

But when the Council eventually bought the houses back from the off shore company, for double what it had sold them for at the auction, it didn't seek offers for their restoration. Instead a profit led scheme was designed, loading the ancient structures with 44 new flats, all for private sale. I was told that you personally approved of the plan.

 The Council considered their destruction to be inevitable and authorised its development partner, Murphy, to demolish them all. Without planning permission. Did your Council think it was above the law?

Now, after thirty years of deliberate neglect, after families and businesses have been driven out of the area and Hackney taxpayers have lost £millions, the final destruction of 200 years of our local history is under way.

Your Cabinet colleague, Councillor Nicholson, has called it a “genuine conservation led scheme”, although nothing will be conserved. It is claimed that the planned “heritage likeness” phoney replicas are so costly that there can be no affordable flats for local people either.

If the demolition programme carries on to Phase 2 there will be nothing left for our grandchildren, except our memories and photographs of how Dalston used to be, and for us to tell them how our elected leaders stood idly by and watched their heritage being neglected and destroyed in the name of regeneration and necessity.

I am writing to you again now, on behalf of OPEN members, to ask whether you will be issuing an apology for the years of dereliction and for the loss of the houses of Dalston Terrace which have already been demolished.

And also to ask you whether you will agree, even now, to meet Spitalfields Trust to consider whether the remaining houses of Dalston Terrace could still be be saved.

I do hope that this time you will consider our request and reply to this letter.

Yours sincerely

Bill Parry-Davies
Organisation for Promotion of Environmental Needs Ltd. (OPEN)

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Dalston Lane "heritage likeness" scheme nominated asTesco World Heritage Site

Photo @TodCollider 

Dalston's community held a well attended wake on Saturday at the demolished ruins of No.66 Dalston Lane.

Photo @TimePlaceE8

A moving tribute has been left at the site of the houses which are facing demolition in Phase 2 of the Hackney/Murphy scheme.

Photo @TodCollider 

There is a pictorial history planted on the north side of Dalston Lane, opposite the ruins of No 66

Photo @TimePlaceE8

A Save Dalston Lane banner, designed by Tod Hanson, has been left on the site of the remaining six houses which, unless Hackney and Murphy have a change of heart, are to be demolished in Phase 2 of the Hackney/Murphy scheme, probably in 6-9 months time.

Photos @TodCollider
Meanwhile the bricks from the demolished houses are being cleaned, stacked and wrapped...

...and taken off site in their hundreds. These are the same bricks which, Murphy's architect and engineer advised the Council, were at the "end of their life" and so the houses had to be demolished and a new "heritage likenesss" scheme built with new bricks.

Photos @TodCollider 
Meanwhile the Hackney/Murphy "heritage likeness" scheme, which is to replace the Georgian houses on Dalston Lane, has been suggested for "Tesco World Heritage site" status. ( Err...I don't think Tesco would be interested in this site until all the 1807 houses are demolished and the 'open plan' shops have been created. Ed.)

Friday, 23 January 2015

A WAKE! Show Hackney's Mayor you object to vandalism and the loss of affordable homes

You are invited to meet at noon tomorrow, Saturday 24th January, at the ruins of 66 Dalston Lane with OPEN Dalston members to protest at Hackney Council's neglect and vandalism of our Georgian houses and its refusal to consider their restoration and the provision of affordable housing proposed by the Spitalfields Trust.

At the Hackney Planning Committee meeting on 5th March 2014, when Murphy sought permission to demolish the houses, it's architect and structural engineer advised the Committee "The stock brick was found to be of a poorer quality than expected from the Georgian era.....the bricks were already at the end of their life". This opinion was contested by Hackney's own, and OPEN's, independent engineers.The Committee's votes were equally divided and permission was granted by use of the Chair's casting vote of Councillor Stopps.

It is curious then that, as Murphy's Phase 1 demolition of 66-76 Dalston Lane is progressing, the demolition contractor is daily cleaning, stacking, wrapping and transporting hundreds of those "unusable" bricks off site for use elsewhere.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Court of Appeal can't stop the demolition of Dalston's Georgian houses

Lord Justice Sullivan has refused OPEN permission to continue with its appeal against demolition of the Georgian houses of Dalston Lane. When defending OPEN's claim Hackney was reduced to pleading its own negligence - that, despite its claims to be "champions of our heritage", the years of lack of maintenance had caused such deterioration that the buildings could no longer be saved.

The highly respected Judges held that, whatever their personal views, their powers to judicially review were restricted and so they could not interfere. Mr Justice Collins said he was "not without considerable sympathy for the approach of the objectors". The Judges found that the Planning Committee was entitled to accept its officers' recommendation for demolition provided it followed due process ( ie The Committee were entitled to foul it up provided it did so properly! Ed.)

The Committee were aware that Hackney's own independent expert, Alan Baxter Associates, as well many other experts, considered that some or most the buildings could be saved. It was also aware that Hackney Council had designated the Conservation Area to protect the houses and had passed policies requiring their restoration. It was also aware of the hundreds of objections including those of national amenity societies like the Georgian Group and the Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings. And so, the Judges found, it could not be said that the Committee had overlooked these opinions and policies when exercising its 'planning judgement' to accept the opinion of Murphy (Hackney's development partner) that the buildings were by then beyond redemption and to allow their demolition.

The Story of Dalston Terrace 1807 -2014 describes the appalling neglect of these antique houses (Video)

Murphy are now proceeding with Phase 1 of their plan - complete demolition of Nos 66-76 Dalston Lane and then rebuilding of the facades in "heritage likeness" with new flats all for private sale. Once complete, unless Hackney has a change of heart, it will then proceed with Phase 2 at Nos 48 - 64 Dalston Lane, in perhaps 9-12 months time.

The local community and national amenity societies have strongly backed OPEN's campaign. There were over 750 objections to Murphy's planning application to demolish the houses. Faced with a divided Committee it's Chair, Councillor Stopps, used his casting vote to grant permission. OPEN had raised over £15,000 in its appeal to fund the legal fight, which was sustained for 12 months since Hackney first tried to demolish the houses illegally. Since May 2014 Hackney have refused to consider the Spitalfields Trust proposal to restore the 1807 houses and develop the remainder with a housing association for affordable rented flats.

The petition to Hackney's Mayor to allow this proposal has had over 860 signatures to date. You can still sign the petition and tell the Mayor your views, and we urge you to do so.

This is a sad day for Dalston. Hackney Council has already lost us £millions by its mismanagement of Dalston Terrace. Our future generations are now about to lose heritage assets, in which they could have taken pride once restored, and lose the opportunity for affordable homes which could prevent at least a few local people from being driven from the area by extortionate local rents. The loss will be irreversible and we are saddened by this and by Hackney's Mayor and our elected representatives failure to fulfil their promises to our community that the houses would be protected and restored.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Dalston Terrace - do you want demolition and "heritage likeness" or restoration and affordable flats?

The Hackney/Murphy plan is to demolish 17 of the Georgian houses in Dalston Terrace and replace them with a "heritage likeness" scheme of 44 flats with no affordable housing.

The entrance to the former 'Sound and Music' shop at 66 Dalston Lane. On the demolition hoardings in front of it is an image of the Hackney/Murphy "heritage likeness" scheme

The Council advised its' Planning Committee, on Murphy's application to demolish everything, that "like-for-like reconstruction of the principal elevation of the terrace will ensure the appearance of the  original terrace can be reintroduced....There will be no appreciable difference.. conservation area preserved and enhanced. "
Report to Planning Sub-Committee – 5th March 2014

This is an old Victorian house at 124 Dalston Lane

This is a "heritage likeness" old Victorian house at 122 Dalston Lane

The two houses side by side - do you think that there is "no appreciable difference"? 

The Spitalfields Trust scheme would restore the 1807 houses as family homes and redevelop the remainder with a housing association to provide 24 affordable flats. ( What could be more in the public interest? Ed.)


You really CAN help the campaign by SIGNING THE PETITION and you can help the legal fighting fund by making a DONATION or by BUYING  a limited edition quality T-shirt or useful tote bag with the Save Dalston Lane logo designed by Tod Hanson

You can follow the OPEN campaign on twitter and facebook.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Dalston Terrace demolitions - why OPEN still disputes Hackney Planning Committee's decision

OPEN has appealed against a High Court Judge's ruling that he had no power to overturn Hackney giving planning permission to Murphy to demolish our Georgian houses of Dalston Terrace. It was not for him, the Judge said, to decide whether the decision last March was right or wrong.  In his opinion, "not without considerable sympathy for the approach of the objectors", there was no procedural or legal defect in Hackney's decision which could justify his intervention. So why has OPEN appealed?

Since the Court's judgement No 66 Dalston Lane, formerly 'Sound and Music', Murphy have refused to await OPEN's appeal. It has stripped the  Georgian windows and chimney pots, and the roof  tiles have been removed so letting the rain in,  ready for Murphy's Phase 1 demolition programme.

In 2012 Hackney’s consultant engineers had advised that the 17 Georgian houses could survive redevelopment into 44 flats, and demolition of the ground floor front walls to create open plan shops. The scheme was profit-led, to ensure it attracted the interest of a developer. In August 2012 Hackney granted itself planning permission but because it was to be described as a "conservation led" scheme, to meet planning policy requirements, the front facades of the houses had to be retained.

The entrance of  the old 'Sound and Music' shop, at 66 Dalston Lane and,  on the hoardings in front of it, a CGI image of the Hackney/Murphy 'heritage likeness' reproduction scheme .  No 66 is in Phase 1 of Murphy's demolition  scheme. 

In June 2013 the same consulting engineers, now employed by Murphy ( Hackney’s new development partner), produced a second report. It advised that the because all of the houses had had years of neglect, were badly built, with poor quality and delaminating bricks, and with walls which were bulging, dishing, and cracking, all the houses including the facades required complete demolition if the permitted scheme was to be implemented.

All of  the houses are planned for demolition over the next 18 months   

Hackney Council next commissioned consulting engineers Alan Baxter and Associates, to independently review Murphy's report. Here is how Alan Baxter, in October 2013, described No 66, the former "Sound and Music" shop (which  Murphy have now started demolishing).

Number 66 
Summary of fa├žade form and condition 
Delamination of brickwork: Minor
Plumbness of wall: Generally appears plumb
Previous alterations: Large opening formed at ground floor level.
The parapet has been part rebuilt.
General degradation of timber: Some
Overall Condition: Average to Poor

So, contrary to Murphy's opinion, there is no major cracking or bulging walls, only minor delamination of brickwork, a rebuilt parapet and with alterations already made to create an open plan shop on the ground floor on No 66. As for the "weak" bricks, Alan Baxter advised “With regards to the brickwork strength argument, this is flawed. It is not appropriate to judge buildings of this age and type as if they are modern construction…. they can be expected to last indefinitely…… numbers 66 and 56-48 Dalston Lane ... have some potential to be repaired.”  (You can read the report on 66 and on 56-48 here)

The side walls of No 58 and 66 Dalston Lane ( the old Sound and Music shop, were propped by a steel frame after JON's Scooters and Pizzey's Flower Shop (60-64 Dalston Lane)  were burnt down whilst owned by an off-shore company. They were later demolished by Hackney.

A month after Hackney had received Alan Baxter's report, Hackney's Planning Department signed off Murphy'structural assessment and method statement for demolition of Dalston Terrace. The following month, December 2013, and although no planning permission had been granted for demolition of the facades, it authorised Murphy to commence complete demolition. Community outcry stopped the works.

So when the Council came to its Planning Committee in March 2014, on Murphy's application for total demolition, it had already made up its mind the previous December. It recommended demolition of everything and rejected the opinions of its own independent consultant Alan Baxter and the other experts, amenity societies and members of the public among the750 objectors to Muphy's planning application.

The Spitalfields Trust scheme would restore the 1807 houses as family homes and redevelop the remainder with a housing association to provide 24 affordable flats. ( What could be more in the public interest? Ed.)

There has been no sound explanation given to justify the complete demolition of all of the houses - and Hackney's Planning Committee gave no reasons. The Spitalfields Trust proposed a scheme last May which could be built without total demolition, restoring the 1807 houses and redeveloping the remainder to provide affordable housing, but Hackney have still failed to properly consider it and the public benefit arising from it.

You can follow the OPEN campaign on twitter and facebook.

WE NEED YOUR HELP TO CONTINUE THE APPEAL.You really can help the campaign by signing the petition and help the legal fighting fund by making a donation or by buying some merchandise.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Festive greetings from OPEN Dalston

OPEN Dalston sends best wishes to all our members and supporters in this festive season. We celebrate the generous support given by our local Dalston community and by the many eminent people and the local and national amenity societies who have backed our fight  to preserve something of the character, identity and diversity of  Dalston.

There has been 30 years of deliberate neglect of our Georgian houses since Hackney first acquired them. Ever since, a cloud of suspicion has hung over Dalston Terrace . For 10 years we have tried to persuade Hackney Council to save them. But it stood idly by, mouthing platitudes about being the champions of our heritage, whilst watching decay. Eventually, Hackney designed a profit-led scheme to attract a developer. It will load the sixteen ancient houses with 44 flats, all for private sale. Hackney pleads  its own negligence that, due to years of  dereliction, the houses are now too weak to withstand their scheme. They still call it a "genuine conservation scheme" although nothing will be conserved. We are are now in a desperate fight for their survival. It could be Dalston Terrace's last Christmas.