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Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Ridley Road Shopping Village traders given 4 days to get out

Ridley Road Shopping Village traders were shocked and dismayed today to learn that their off-shore landlord, Larochette Real Estate Inc., requires them to vacate their shops in the covered market by Saturday 20th August. None of them have anywhere else to continue their businesses, store their stock or earn a living.

Save Ridley Road has called for the community to attend the Ridley Road Shopping Village at 12 noon this Saturday 20 August to protest about the way in which the traders have been treated by Larochette and Hackney.

Traders have requested a meeting with Larochette and Hackney Council to clarify why they are now being told at this late stage to get out and why previous promises are now being broken.


The news follows months of attempts by the traders, with support from Save Ridley Road campaigners,  to engage and cooperate with Larochette, which is refurbishing the building, and with Hackney Council which has agreed to take over management under a new lease when the works are complete. Traders feel they have been misled and treated with contempt.


Last March Larochette and Hackney Council attended a meeting called by traders to discuss the refurbishment plans. They were then sent contact details for all the traders who had confirmed that they wanted to continue their businesses during the refurbishment and requests for information about the arrangements. Larochette replied to traders stating that they would be offered alternative units "throughout the refurbishment works" and that they would be "simultaneously granted a new agreement with Hackney for a permanent unit" in the refurbished building.  In June Larochette issued Notices to Quit their existing units on 20 August and confirmed that "the ground floor will remain open a least in part with enough capacity to accommodate all existing traders". 

Letters continued to be sent on behalf of traders on 7 July and 2 August to Larochette and Hackney confirming their wish to continue their businesses and requesting copies of the proposed agreements for remaining in occupation during and after the refurbishment and for details of the plans. No agreements have been forthcoming from either Larochette or Hackney.

Hackney has confirmed that it appointed two officers to deal with the arrangements and who are said to have been "proactively building relationships with traders". Larochette have also stated that it was in contact with Hackney "every other day" and on 12 August Hackney informed traders that they did not need to vacate their existing units on 20 August. Hackney's Cabinet member, Cllr Fajan-Thomas, replied to the press that We have also received assurance from the current landlord Larochette that they can continue trading from the Shopping Village." 



But today traders learned, not from Larochette or Hackney, but from their new Green Party local  Councillor Zoe Garbett who has been assisting them, that Larochette has written to her saying that traders must vacate their shops on 20 August so it can undertake work to "reconfigure the space" on the ground floor. In effect traders have now been told that they have only four days notice to get out, despite the promises they'd been relying on. They have nowhere to go and no certainty of being able to return to the Shopping Village at any time in the future.


Traders have always emphasised their reluctance to vacate their existing business units without firm assurances to secure their futures. "Clarification", they wrote, "would avoid a potential for a dispute and disruption of the [refurbishment] plans". But their attempts to engage with Larochette and Hackney have failed and their futures are more precarious now than when they first raised concerns last March.

Save Ridley Road have called for the community to attend the Ridley Road Shopping Village at 12 noon this Saturday 20 August to protest about the contempt with which they are being treated by Larochette and Hackney.   



Background story:

The Shopping Village has long been a contested space. The owner Larochette, based in the Virgin Island tax haven, applied for planning permission in 2018 to convert the building into 10 luxury flats and offices. It demand that traders get out within 14 days. This was met with furious community resistance. Traders eventually secured leases, with no rent rises and with terms for compensation and a right to return when redevelopment eventually took place. 

A successful application was then made by campaigners, and granted by the Council, to designate the building as an "Asset of Community Value" because of its cultural uses ( There had been 60 artist studios upstairs but they have since been evicted so Hackney can rent space there for its  Market Office. Ed.) and because it provided small ground floor units for independent traders selling affordable specialist products, basement storage for market stallholders and the open forecourt open space used by the community.

Click here to Watch the short film "Ridley Road 2020 - a market under threat" It includes the story of the Shopping Village redevelopment battle and the other threats also facing the market

It was thought that traders future had been secured when Larochette then dropped their plans for redevelopment and agreed that Hackney could take over a management lease once refurbishment works were completed. Hackney said its management would secure the future of Ridley Road market for the traders and the community. 

Years of community planning, communication and local resistance has this week suffered a major setback with Larochette insisting the traders leave their ground floor units and Hackney revealing that in future it may only be offering short term licences with weekly charges linked to rocketing inflation (the CPI index). (  From what we know so far, it looks like Hackney is seeking to make a profit from this Asset of Community Value at the communities expense. Of which more later. Ed.)    





Monday, 21 March 2022

Hurrah! Planning Inspector rules in favour of sunlight for Dalston nursery school kids.

A government Planning Inspector has refused planning permission for the development of a 3 storey building stretching across the southern boundary of Colvestone School Nursery's only open space. The developer had claimed that because more than 50% of the area would still receive an annual average of 2 hours sunlight each day and that, applying the BRE Guide for Daylight and Sunlight, the loss of sunlight is "unlikely to be noticeable" and so planning permission should be granted. The Inspector rejected the developer's interpretation of the BRE Guide and its planning application.

The Inspector found, as our community has always argued, that the BRE Guide does not impose "hard and fast rules" and the Guide must be interpreted "flexibly", that "children's playgrounds have a particularly strong requirement for sunlight" and that the amount of sunlight lost would have "a significant adverse effect on the enjoyment of users of the outdoor learning space with particular regard to sunlight". 


The need for an Inspector's decision arose because Hackney's Planning Committee had failed to consider and decide the application, and so the developer appealed. Although Hackney's Case Officer said that he personally would have recommended granting planning permission, Hackney made representations to the Inspector setting out objections which it said it would have made to refuse the application.


Community champion Judith Watt at the High Court during her successful judicial review which overturned Hackney previous grant of planning permission

The site has been contested space for several years with the community successfully fighting several attempts to block the sunlight benefitting our nursery school children's "outdoor classroom". The Council's  earlier grant of planning permission, to a previous owner of the site for a similar scheme, was eventually overturned on a judicial review brought by our local community champion Judith Watt. The Court found that the Planning Committee had been mislead about the degree of overshadowing which the development would cause. Judith also made detailed representations, about the correct interpretation of the BRE Guide on overshadowing, which the Planning Inspector appears to have agreed with.  The community's Friends of Ridley Road have also applied successfully to have the school's open space declared an "Asset of Community Value" because if its importance to social well being and community interests.


The new developers had outbid the Council at an auction to acquire the site but now the refusal of its planning application will have reduced its development potential and market value. Perhaps this is an opportunity for the Council to purchase the site and prevent developers seeking to enrich themselves at the community's  expense in the future.    


 

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Ridley Road : The battle for Britain's vanishing food markets intensifies as prices soar



There's been a lot of backslapping locally, about how Hackney Council has "saved" the Ridley Road Shopping Village (By taking a lease and paying £400K annual rent to the owners in a British Virgin Islands tax haven. Ed.), but the traders there are still waiting to hear from their present landlord Larochette (BVI)  about their fate - are they to be evicted, when, where will they earn a living and store their stock? So are the artists upstairs, who the Council have decided need to be evicted to make way for its Market Security Services. (They call it 'Designing out crime'! Ed). Hackney says it's a crime hotspot. (It's not. Ed.) 








Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Hurrah! Victory for Save Ridley Road campaign

Save Ridley Road campaigners are celebrating. Not only has Larochette Real Estate Inc, which owns the Ridley Road Shopping Village in Dalston, finally dropped its redevelopment plans for luxury flats and offices, but yesterday Hackney Council passed a resolution to acquire a lease of the ground and basement floors, once Larochette's refurbishment of the building is complete, and to then improve facilities for the small independent businesses and market stallholders there. Leading #SaveRidleyRoad campaigner, Danny Heyward, said "This is a major victory for the many local people who have been contesting the planned redevelopment for over three years and wanting recognition and improvement of this valuable community resource". 


For many years the building thrived as a ground floor covered market hall for 60 traders with basement storage for market stallholders and affordable studios on the first and second floor for around 60 artists. But in recent years it had become increasingly run down through lack of investment and the deterioration continued whilst awaiting a decision on its planned  redevelopment as upmarket flats and offices. The building had been acquired in 2016 by Larochette Real Estate Inc., a development company registered in the overseas secrecy jurisdiction - the British Virgin Islands tax haven. 


Hearing the news, Mohammed Barry, speaking for the Shopping Village Traders Association, said "Business has become so very difficult in recent years but this news gives us hope there may soon be refurbishment, better management and better conditions for traders and customers so we can revive the market. And we will need promotion to let our public know "We are back! Come and visit us!"  


The campaign had originally kicked off in October 2018 when the market traders were served with 14 days notice to get out. The artists' management company was also told to clear all the studios on the two upper floors by 31st. December. 

 

The campaign attracted media attention, like this TV news item, to highlight the plight of the traders

Through a vigorous & widely supported campaign of petitions, deputations, fund raising and negotiation the campaigners secured a stay of the evictions, and new leases for the remaining market hall traders, pending the outcome of Larochette's planning application for redevelopment.




Click here to Watch the short film "Ridley Road 2020 - a market under threat" It includes the story of the Shopping Village redevelopment battle and the other threats also facing the market

The campaigners then continued the fight by holding events, exhibitions and film shows raising public awareness of the continuing threats to the Shopping Village and by organising workshops to assist members of the community make their objections to Larochette's planning application. 

The campaigners also spearheaded the application for the Council to nominate the Shopping Village as an Asset of Community Value. The Council approved the ACV status in  December 2019.  "We demonstrated how retaining the business and cultural activities in the building supported the social well being and social interests of the community" said Bill Parry-Davies who lodged the ACV nomination "Happily, Hackney recognised those interests and has now agreed to take the lease which it says will secure their protection. We hope things will soon get better and help the revival of the market."

  

Larochette's redevelopment application was not renewed following the cyber-attack in 2020 when its planning application and countless other Council records were destroyed. (Maybe it has postponed the redevelopment whilst they invest in converting old Fulham Town Hall to an exclusive boutique hotel. They acquired that public asset "very very cheaply" Ed.)  In February 2021 Larochette made a new planning application - but this time it was simply to refurbish the building, with no plans for its redevelopment as luxury flats. Planning approval was granted on 23 November.

Hackney's Cabinet report records that the annual rents & charges it will pay to Larochette will be £406,000pa and that 90% occupancy of the small business and storage units would be required to meet these lease overheads. It is expected,  the report says, that the existing occupiers rents will have to increase -  not least to pay the rent on the Council's Market Services own offices which are moving in to replace some of the artists studios on the the first floor.  It remains to be seen whether the remaining artists on the upper floors will be able to afford to retain their studios. 



Danny Heywood added "The plans for refurbishment and improved facilities in the Shopping Village are very welcome. It feels like a win and a brighter future. But our Save Ridley Road group has no plans to disband".




Monday, 6 December 2021

Its back! Dalston Arts Winter Fair this weekend

This weekend 11/12th. December will see Dalston Arts end 2021 with another Winter Weekend Fair of local makers arts and craft. Join us at St Marks Church Hall in Colvestone Crescent to see work by our hugely talented & diverse local artists and makers, all of which will be for affordable sale. And enjoy Shirley's delicious but homemade lunches, teas and cakes. (Don't forget - bring some cash so you can support our local creative talent! Ed)

The Dalston Arts Fair is back for its fourth annual exhibition and sale of work by some 30 local artists and makers. The Fair will be in the beautiful Grade II Listed St. Mark's Church Hall. The fair is great opportunity to meet the artists and to buy work direct from them. (Think ahead - festive presents! Ed.) The work on display will include paintings, drawings, collages, ceramics, clothing, radical tea-towels and much more. Here are a few examples

Leva's pencil wig

Fiona Fouhy's monoprints


Jane's prints

Nurten's soft toys

Elsbeth's radical tea-towels

Karin's cermics


Rory's artwork

Ange's upcycled jewellery and accessories

Graham's art

Freda's upcycled clothing 

Emma's felt work

 

Monday, 25 October 2021

Council dereliction puts Dalston Nursery School toddlers at risk

Hackney's failure to progress a controversial planning application affecting Grade II listed Colvestone Primary School has resulted in the decision being taken out of the Council's hands. Last May the developer of a neighbouring site appealed against Hackney's delay and the decision whether to approve the scheme will now be made by the government's Planning Inspectorate. Although the Inspector will have professional qualifications, s/he is unelected, has limited local knowledge of this very sensitive site and will only consider written and not personal representations

Grade II Listed Colvestone Primary School 

The development scheme, which would see a three storey building across the southern boundary of the nursery school's only open space, has had a controversial history. Hackney's approval of a previous scheme was overturned on a judicial review  in 2016 when the High Court found that the Planning Committee had been misled about the extent of overshadowing which the development would have on the Nursery School's open space. The current three storey proposal, by new owners, has also attracted considerable community criticism and objections. 


The new building will see a 9 metre high featureless wall across the nursery schools southern boundary

To help protect the school's open space an application was made successfully last August by the Friends of Ridley Road to designate the site as an Asset of Community Value. You can read the background story here. Despite these widely known community concerns it appears that Hackney not only failed to require an independent environmental assessment of the scheme's impact, and particularly its overshadowing, but also failed to progress the application to a Committee decision.


The nursery schools outdoor space is presently used for a range of play and learning activities

Hackney's dereliction of duty has only come to light as a result of months of persistent enquiries by our local community champion, Judith Watt, who brought the earlier judicial review. Finally, on 27 September, the Council issued an explanatory letter to objectors but it wrongly stated that the developer had appealed because Hackney had refused the planning application. On 29 September Hackney issued a second letter acknowledging that the appeal was in fact due to Hackney's failure to decide the application.  (Given Hackney's planning officer was to recommend the grant of planning permission, is it possible that a political decision was made to let the developer appeal to the Planning Inspectorate rather than take the controversial decision itself Ed.)


Judith Watt at the High Court which overturned Hackney's previous grant of planning permission

Hackney's planning case officer recently advised that the fact that the School's open space is an asset of community value "is not a material planning consideration". This advice has now been corrected by the Council's Head of Planning who has stated "The designation of the site as an Assets of Community Value is a material consideration." It is understood that Hackney intend to make representations to the Inspector setting out the grounds on which it would have refused the application (Let’s hope Hackney don't miss their 11th November deadline! Ed)

If the new planning application is granted future generations of toddlers will be left in the dark

Members of the community have until only this Thursday  28th October to make written objections to the Planning Inspectorate. Here's one by Judith Watt which you may find helpful. To object, go to https://acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/myportal/default.aspx , insert reference number 3274827 and state why you object to the impact to the development proceeding. The extensive overshadowing, and damage to our community's asset, are both relevant grounds for objection.



Monday, 30 August 2021

Hackney Council is consulting on redeveloping Dalston. Have your say.



Hackney Council is now consulting on its proposed Dalston Plan for encouraging development of 600 new homes and 14,000sqm of shops offices and workspaces across 10 local sites. This on the basis that "regeneration....is vital to ensure the future success of the area". You can read the full plan here, a summary here and how to make your views known here. The public consultation closes on 1st October 2021

The Council's map of Dalston's development "opportunity" sites

The consultation is not asking the public whether, but how the sites should be re-developed. The Dalston Plan gushes with aspirational ideas of how careful redevelopment could protect the areas character and diversity and provide community benefit for locals. In the past similar aspirations have been routinely overlooked -  major developments have produced an absence of socially rented accommodation, a paucity of new public amenities for children and green space, the loss of affordable workspaces and cultural landmarks,  overshadowing of open spaces and homes and a rash of chain stores. Will the policies in this new Dalston Plan safeguard better outcomes? Are the policies worded strongly enough? Here are some clues.

Ridley Road market
Ridley Road street market and shops are the economic and cultural heart of Dalston. They attract about 70% of Dalston's shoppers to the area, provide local employment and, for many, are a vital source of affordable goods, fresh produce and of social and cultural interaction. 


"Save Ridley road"campaigners - one of a series of portraits by Dalston photographer Tamara Stoll

Whilst promising to "protect" the market and improve pedestrian circulation, Hackney has designated all of the privately owned buildings on the north side of Ridley Road market as opportunity sites for "infill" redevelopment - developing existing  buildings by up to 5 storeys, extending ground floors out to the pavement line and a new block of 27 flats at the eastern junction with St Marks Rise (That site had been identified as a potential public open space in the previous 2013 Plan. Ed.)


Ridley Road illustrating the proposed block of 27 flats on the corner of St Mark's Rise. 

Such development will be hugely disruptive for the market's shopkeepers and stallholders, reduce space for stalls and circulation for shoppers and sterilise its character.  In addition the Council proposes to  further restrict vehicles using Ridley Road, to plant street trees there and to green over a useful means of access for traders deliveries in Colvestone Crescent ( to create a so called "21st Century Street".  It's already gated 24/7 & the Kingsland Road entrance has also been closed to traders by the security bollards. Ed.) Many stallholders are dependent on using their vans since the Birkbeck Road food cold store was demolished many years ago and never replaced. 


Watch the short film "Ridely Road 2020 - a market under threat" It highlights some of the problems which redevelopment of the market street gives rise to.

Hackney also promises a crackdown on alleged crime and ante-social behaviour in the market. (This was the reason Hackney gave for originally supporting eviction of all the traders from the Shopping Village in 2018 Ed.). 

Birkbeck Mews


The Council owned Birkbeck Road scheme

Also affecting Ridley Road market, the Council propose redevelopment of its own site in Birkbeck Mews for up to 5 storeys to include reprovision of 1,000sqm of existing Ridely Road market traders storage, waste processing and public toilets plus a Market's Office, commercial uses and 11 new flats. (Will those flats be for social rent, or be sold to fund the scheme? How will those essential market amenities, and market access for traders along Birkbeck Mews, be provided during the re-development? Ed)

Kingsland Shopping Centre Site
For years Hackney have been awaiting a comprehensive housing led re-development of this major site to help meet its targets for new housing set by the GLA. The Dalston Plan, at page 120, identifies the site as appropriate for "taller buildings" with capacity for between 314 & 484 flats and up to 10,500m2 of commercial space and 670m2 community/amenity space plus some green open space and "yards".  Total redevelopment  including the Shopping Mall is presently constrained by Sainsbury's long lease and the Kingsland High Street entrance being "safeguarded" for possible development of Crossrail II. ( Presently in the long grass again, and Crossrail I being way over budget and incomplete. Ed.) 


This is Hackney's illustration of the Kingsland Shopping Centre site's total redevelopment potential. Notice how, along its south east boundary, the Eastern Curve public pathway would become a canyon between the existing and the proposed new tall buildings

Following a number of discussions with Hackney, TfL and the GLA, Criterion Capital, which owns the whole site, has published its outline plans to redevelop the Matalan building and car park. The Dalston Plan identifies the northern part of the site, alongside the overground railway line, as more sensitive to tall buildings, due to the possibility of overshadowing Ridely Road market.  


This Criterion sketch of a northern 12 storey residential block by the railway suggests blocks elsewhere will be taller.



Criterion emphasise that a new open space with some green surfaces, called Martel Place, will be provided but this, it acknowledges, will be overshadowed by the existing Kinetica Tower. Other open spaces may also be overshadowed by the tall buildings which loom over from the south side of the site.   (And where is the public playground for older kids we were promised in the 2013 Plan? Ed.)

The designs presented by Criterion last July appear to set the new blocks further back from the eastern curve which may mitigate the overshadowing of the new open spaces and residential blocks planned. 


This Criterion sketch  illustrates the possible footprints of four new blocks with retail commercial and open spaces at ground floor,  26 small "makers" workspaces on the 1st floor and residential floors above them. 

The Dalston Plan refers to building up to 2,000 new homes locally over the next 15 years. It recognises that there is a severe shortage of socially rented and family size accommodation and that most locals have been priced out. It proposes that 50% of new homes should be "genuinely affordable" of which 70% will be for social rent (These policies for "affordable" homes were routinely ignored in previous schemes. See here here and here Ed.).


 Criterion's development is the biggest locally since Dalston Square and has previously referred to all new flats being for rent (ie a "Build to Rent" scheme). Its recent presentation states "While housing numbers and tenures are not yet finalised, social housing will be included in the scheme. Exact numbers will depend on viability, and we are open to Hackney Council purchasing these units." 

Eastern Curve Garden
After a 10 year community campaign the Council has finally abandoned its long held vision of turning the Garden into a hard surfaced public thoroughfare lined with shops (Hurrah! Well done Dalston campaigners!! 😊💕Ed). The Dalston Plan says it will be "protected" as a public "enclosed green space" and it is now recognised as a "key element when producing plans for development adjacent to it, ensuring it retains sufficient privacy and sunlight".
  

The northern part of the Garden is on Criterion's land but its proposals for redevelopment of the Kingsland Shopping centre do not impinge on the Garden - indeed it claims to emulate it by providing complimentary new green spaces 

The Dalston Plan also refers to the Thames House development, lining the Garden's southern boundary, as "existing building stock" whereas the approved development of up to 9 storeys has never commenced and the planning permission granted on 6 June 2018 is believed to have expired.


The proposed 2-9 storeyThames House development would have robbed the Garden of much of its sunlight  & privacy 

 What "sufficient privacy and sunlight" means for the Garden will be back in contention again when a new scheme for the Thames House site  is proposed. 



 Dalston Kingsland station 


The Dalston Plan illustrates potential major development of Kingsland Station to improve accessibility ( The long awaited lifts? Ed) with a Slab over the railway cutting to support more retail and 3 to 5 storeys of up to 49 flats. ( How will the Slab be paid for? By the lack of "genuinely affordable" housing, no doubt. Ed

Other opportunity development sites
This post highlights only 5 of the 10 potential redevelopment sites identified by Hackney. Others include : 
130 Kingsland High Street (Argos in Sandringham Rd - 3 to 5 storeys of retail plus up to 17 flats);
Stamford Works ( Gillette Square -  a mix of commercial cultural and community uses); 
36-42 Kingsland High Street (McDonalds - 3-5 storeys of retail plus up to 23 flats); 
Ashwin Street ( sites on its east and west side - 3 to 5 storeys for commercial and up to 17 flats) and
Former CLR James Library (ground floor community uses plus up to 17 flats). 
Bear in mind that although up to 5 storeys is deemed generally acceptable in Dalston, the exception being the  Kingsland Shopping Centre,  previous developments have often exceeded the guideline heights.

Traffic, cycling and walking
The Dalston Plan recognises that Kingsland High Street and Dalston Lane are heavily congested ( More so, despite the pandemic, since implementing the Low Traffic Neighbourhood local road closures. Ed).  It proposes new and improved pedestrian crossings, cycle infrastructure ( along Sandringham Rd and linking up with cycle Super Highway1 at Boleyn Rd) and that the Shopping Centre redevelopment could provide more accessible pleasant east/west routes for walkers and cyclists. ( I hope that will not be space "shared" with cyclists which is hazardous for children, elderly and disabled pedestrians. Ed.)


A further reference is made in the Dalston Plan to ensuring that new developments cater for "flexibility of (commercial) uses" to ensure "vibrancy and vitality in Dalston High Street" ( Oops...I've never heard of Dalston High Street! Ed)  

Can you influence Dalston's future development?



Do you think the Council's draft Dalston Plan guidelines amount to "regeneration"? Is the redevelopment described "vital to ensure the future success of the area"? Or will it cleanse Dalston of its character, vibrancy, diversity and sustainability? The Save Ridely Road and Morning Lane People's Space campaigners have described the plans as "gentrification in action"You can read the full plan here, a summary here and how to make your views known here. The public consultation closes on 1st October 2021