Thursday, 24 May 2018

DalstonArts150 is kicking off. Unmissable!

2018 is the 150th anniversary of  Dalston's association with the arts. It all started in 1868 with the building of Reeves and Sons Artists Colour Works factory in Ashwin Street. The local community is organising a number of cultural events over the year to celebrate this. And now they're starting to kick off

This short film gives a Dalston background story and an explanation of why the character, cultural uses and affordability of the area is again under threat from "regeneration

On Saturday 9th June there's an exhibition opening about Dalston's cultural and architectural heritage and the battles to preserve it over recent years. The exhibition is hosted by the Bootstrap Company in the Reeves and Sons  Printhouse Gallery,18-22 Ashwin Street E8 from Saturday 2nd June until Saturday 9th June. You can visit between   9am to 11pm on weekdays (until 4pm only on Monday Tuesday and Wednesdays and from 3pm on weekends). There will be several films, maps and photographs ancient to modern, campaigner's literature, artists artifacts, contemporary art works and  lots more. Unmissable!

An invitation from Pastor Francis Lewis of Shiloh Pentecostal Church to visit this historic building and to hear their fabulous Gospel Choir arranged by its musical director, and drummer, Jonathan Tuitt.

Don't miss this! On Sunday 3rd June at 6.30pm the doors of the 1871 Shiloh Pentecostal Church will open to welcome everyone, of all faiths and none, to see inside one of Dalston's best preserved heritage buildings and to hear, starting at 7pm, one of London's finest and vibrant Gospel Choirs lift their voices to the heavens.

In the Eastern Curve Garden you can pick up the beautifully designed and illustrated DalstonArts150 Heritage Trail map which will guide you around local places and tell some of their stories (And secrets. Ed.). And if you'd like a personally guided walk lead by local sage Sean Gubbins, email him on His affordable tour will begin outside Reeves and Sons  Printhouse Ashwin Street at 1pm on Saturday 2 June.

Other events coming soon will include local artists' open studios, an arts and crafts makers fayre and, hosted by Cafe Oto, there will be special film and music events including a screening of "Legacy in the dust - the Four Aces story" and an attempt on the world record for the longest continuous performance of improvised music. The attempt will need everyone locally, of all ages and abilities, who can sing, play, pluck, strum, bow, strike, blow or tickle anything resembling a musical instrument to bring it to to the event. More details of the events will follow as they emerge.


Sunday, 29 April 2018

Gillett Square plans - co-operative development or gentrification?

Hackney Co-Operative Developments, which owns and converted the 3-10 Bradbury Street terrace of houses to affordable commercial uses, and manages Gillett Square, has made a planning application to develop the terrace. All of its tenants  ( except the shops) will have to vacate elsewhere whilst the development takes place.

An artist's impression of the back of the Bradbury Street terrace overlooking Gillett Square, after the development 

The plans include constructing an additional 4th storey along the terrace and extending the rear elevation of the terrace further into the Gillett Square and encasing it within polycarbonate plastic and steel cladding. You can access  the HCD planning drawings and reports using application number 2018/0792 here The public consultation officially closes on 7th May. If there are numerous objections the application will need to be decided by Hackney's Planning Committee  in due course and not just its Head of Planning. You can comment on the application here or by sending an email quoting reference 2018/0792 to 

Architect's drawing of Gillett Square presently

The proposal has attracted controversy.The  exterior walkways,  and award-winning "market-pods" which  provide affordable and start-up business space, will be removed despite having won widespread acclaim and which do so much to animate the square. The new exterior finish will be one more characteristic of a glossy corporate headquarters rather than affordable work spaces for local people. Hackney Co-Operative Developments (HCD) hope to build replacement pods on the other side of the square.

Architect's drawing of Gillett Square after development 

HCD has been revealed not to be the model landlord one might have expected. Very few of its tenants have security of tenure and will simply be evicted if they don't accept HCDs terms for vacating. Although the development will be part-funded by public money from the GLA, HCD has refused to publish its financial viability projections for this costly scheme which  produces relatively little new lettable space to justify the expense.  To pay for the scheme rent rises in the future look likely . A joint letter from interested parties last October, urging  HCD to adopt a more inclusive approach, was rejected.

Architect's drawing of  the Bradbury Street front elevations showing the new 4th storey with pitched roof on top. 

HCDs historic terrace  is mirrored by a terrace of similar scale and period on the south side of  Bradbury Street. HCD's heritage consultants comment that "The view along Bradbury Street is deemed an important View within the [Dalston] Conservation Area....[the terrace]possess aesthetic value and make a positive contribution to the Conservation Area." 

Bradbury Street looking west lined with the historic Victorian terraces. the terrace to be developed is on the north/right side of the picture

The Dalston Conservation Area Advisory Committee, which is composed of independent  local architects and heritage experts, has commented on HCD's scheme "The proposed building is too large and too high. The volume is overbearing on the Gillett Square side, but also detracts from the collection of buildings of Townscape Merit on Bradbury Street. The dominant pitched form of the roof extension is inappropriate in the predominantly Victorian context and would damage the quality and character of the conservation area."   Despite the damage which the scheme would cause to the heritage value of Bradbury Street, HCD's consultants (somehow) conclude that  the scheme will "will preserve and enhance Bradbury Street." 

A computer modelled image of annual average overshadowing of the Gillett Square public space. 

Although the public open space of Gillett Square will still meet official BRE guidelines for a minimum  annual average of 2 hours sunlight over 50% of its area, the new development will reduce that area by about 18%. Then, when the north side of Gillett Square is finally developed, the area of sunlit public open space will be reduced further.

An Alternative Scheme 

Here is  a more modest alternative proposal for increasing affordable workspace by creating a simple mansard roof along the terrace. Without the high pitched roof  which HCD proposes, a mansard  would not dominate either Bradbury Street or Gillett Square. Neither would it involve spending valuable funds enclosing the building in plastic to create "break out spaces" which generate no additional rental income to pay for the scheme. This alternative  would also leave the  outdoor "market pods" in place, and the open walkways which add to the square's vitality. The alternative scheme would still generate sufficient income, from the new 4th story workspaces, to enable all the terraces facilities to be upgraded to contemporary standards. So what's wrong with that? HCD hasn't yet adequately explained its reasons for rejecting this alternative option.

You can access  the HCD planning drawings and reports using application number 2018/0792 here. The public consultation officially closes on 7th May. If there are numerous objections, and numbers do count, the application will need to be considered by Hackney's Planning Committee in due course You can comment on the application here or by sending an email quoting reference 2018/0792 to 

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Celebrating Dalston's 150 years of association with the arts

2018 is the 150th anniversary of Dalston's association with the arts. Here's a new 10 minute film which tells the story of our architectural and cultural heritage from 1868 to 2018 and the risks which it is now facing.

There's a call going out to all those who want to contribute to the celebrations of this anniversary - all contributions will be welcomed. Get in touch through DalstonArts150 via twitter, instagram or facebook

There's everything to celebrate, to protect and to conserve for future generations!

Monday, 19 February 2018

Eastern Curve Garden's big bad neighbour is back!

You may recall the outcry last spring about a big bad development which would cast our community Eastern Curve Garden into shade. We wrote about it here. The planning application was later withdrawn but, after some minor design changes, it is now very much alive again.

This image is of the Thames House site at 4 Hartwell Street  as proposed in 2017. This view is looking north from Dalston Square, with the Eastern Curve Garden partially obscured from the view, and from the sun, behind the planned new tall buildings

The original application for re-development was for 3 blocks of 9 storeys, 8 storeys and 4 storeys containing 39 flats and 4,209m2 of commercial floor space. Now the two tallest block have been reduced by one storey each to 8 and 7 storeys to make them "policy compliant". The Dalston Area Action Plan (page 32) envisages six-storey buildings for this site "punctuated by taller building elements where appropriate" not exceeding 8 storeys. 

This image shows the newly amended plans Thames House scheme. This view is looking south, with the Eastern Curve Garden in the foreground. The planned buildings will block sunshine from the east and south to the Garden. A proportion of the new homes within the densely packed development will also be below standards for natural light. 

This computer modelled image shows the average annual shadows which will be cast at 10am by the new Thames House development (shown in blue). 

In winter months, when the sun is lower in the sky, the Garden will get very little sunlight  during the day at all.

The developer says the one-storey height reductions will "minimise the impact on the Eastern Curve Garden". It will not. The new buildings will be so tall that the shadows will extend way beyond the Garden.The Council's own consultants, BRE, predicted that, under the 2017 scheme, the Garden could still receive, on average over the year, at least 2 hours sunlight a day over 78% of its area  With the new 2018 building height reductions, the BRE now predict that that area will increase by only 1.7% to 79.7%.

With 75% of Hackney children living in flats without gardens, and a desperate shortage of green space locally, the Garden meets a special public need. Sunlight is so important to the childrens' play space as well as to the Garden's horticultural and cultural activities. Beware - we know from experience that  the Council does not value sunlight for our kids! It could well recommend that the overshadowing is acceptable because the BRE's guidelines for open space requires only a yearly minimum average of 2 hours sunlight over 50% of open space.

Click this link to watch the video showing the overshadowing effect on the Garden before and after the development (shown as yellow) is built. It has been made by local architects based on the developer's own site modelling 

The new blocks will be stacked up so tightly into the Thames House site itself that, in the low rise block which has the social rented family homes, 75% of kitchens, 45% of the bedrooms, 20% of the living rooms would fail to meet the BRE minimum guidelines for internal natural light. The developers claim that the sub-standard natural light to its new dwellings are because neighbouring Springfield House is so tall and built right on its boundary, such that it is a "bad neighbour".

With Springfield House on the left, this view is of the Thames House development, as it will appear from the Matalan car park.  lt will infill the final vacant air space and block out the remaining sunlight along the Eastern Curve public footpath. 

The Thames House development is itself a "bad neighbour" to the Eastern Curve Garden, because the two tallest blocks will still extend like a cliff right along the Garden's southern boundary and are predicted to obstruct most of its existing morning and significant afternoon sunlight, making it colder and damp.

The BRE does not comment on the open spaces within the Thames House site itself, but its shadow plots illustrate that they rarely receive any direct sunlight and so they will also be cold, damp and gloomy too. All these factors indicate over development of the site.

In other respects Hackney have insisted that the development should meet policy requirements - for example the site is within the local "employment priority area" and 3,968sqm (51%) will be for office space (Although only 10% of it will be "affordable". Ed.) and, of the 36 new flats, 7 flats will be for "affordable" sale  and 11 for "affordable" rent ( But probably not affordable to local residents on average incomes. Ed.). The developer has also claimed  its designs respond to the extended conservation area by using decorative features like green glazed and stock brick cladding and decorative metal panels (But will they actually appear on the finished buildings? Elsewhere locally approved decorative panels have later been replaced by bland brickwork  Ed.).

The  Garden is presently designated as a temporary amenity with future use of its land for a pedestrian "shopping circuit" along the Eastern Curve linking Dalston Lane with a planned redevelopment of Kingsland Shopping Centre. But even as a public thoroughfare, with ( hopefully) planned green areas and kids play areas, the open space will need adequate sunlight. 

This illustration shows how, by comprehensive planning with adjoining landowners, pedestrian movement within the area could be improved without the need to use the Garden land as a thoroughfare. 

The Thames House development, as presently designed, will also add to the overshadowed gloom of the Eastern Curve footway which extends beyond the Garden round to Dalston Lane. All of it has already been blighted, by the curtain effect of the towers of Kinetica, Point One Apartments and Martel Place through which sunlight rarely penetrates.( The Eastern Curve is Hackney's much trumpeted planned new "green lung" ! Mushroom farms anyone? Ed.)

The Eastern Curve public walkway, extending from beyond the Garden around to Dalston Lane, is already cold and gloomy with very little sunlight and with accelerated winds due to the effect of the towers.

The developer has acknowledged that in earlier consultation events the key public concerns, whilst welcoming the high proportion of "affordable" housing,  were the negative impact on the Eastern Curve Garden, the height and density of the scheme and the poor natural light to many flats. These concerns have not been mitigated by any significant changes to the design of the Thames House development. The public's concerns have been ignored in favour of maximising the development potential of the site.

You can find the Thames House planning application and documents under reference 2017/0320 and comment on-line there. You can read OPEN's objections to the amended 2018 Thames House scheme here. You can also make your views known to Hackney by email to with reference 2017/0320 in the Subject line. (Numbers count so even a short objection can make a difference. Ed.).

The public consultation officially closes on 5th March, so don't delay. However, until the Planning Committee's decision is made, it's never too late. All public comments received by the planners must be reported to Hackney's planning committee prior to it making a decision.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

If you're from Walthamstow then you're in for a BIG shock

On Wednesday 13th December Waltham Forest Council's Planning Committee will be considering the BIGGEST thing ever to happen to Walthamstow - an application to build luxury towers of up to 29 storeys. Local publically owned open and green space is also up for grabs, for an expanded shopping centre,  in this major "regeneration" scheme.

Waltham Forest Council has already entered an agreement with the developers, Capital & Regional (C&R), to transfer about one third of its Town Centre Square to them for private development as part of the "bargain". Mayor Sadiq Khan's Greater London Authority has expressed strong support, in their Stage 1 report, and Council officers are recommending that the application be approved by the Planning Committee.

Phase 1 of the scheme is to be retail led. It will take away 32% of the remaining publicly owned Town Square's open and green space, to build a much larger shopping centre designed to attract big retailers and chainstores. The idea is that if Walthamstow attracts the same brands as everywhere else, then people will shop locally rather than go elsewhere eg to Europe's biggest shopping centre, Westfield, just up the road. (Wishful thinking? Come and look at Dalston Square where shops have been vacant ever since it was built. Ed.).  There'll also be 42 new flats on top of the shops - all for private sale, with only one family size 3-bed flat, and none with affordable rents.

Phase 2 will follow, if C&R can find a development partner, to build four private residential towers of up to 29 storeys, There will be up to 460 new flats in the towers, all for private sale within gated communities, the vast majority of which will not be family size and none for affordable rent.  (The greatest need locally is for affordable rents and family size homes. Ed.).

The view from the top looks rosy. The developers are predicted to earn over £25million profit, TfL will get £1.5million towards a new station entrance, and Waltham Forest Council will reportedly receive £0.5million to maintain the new Town Hall Square, 0.8million for "carbon offsetting", £2.5million annually in extra Council tax and business rates and ( it hopes) £5million in Community Infrastructure Levy. Penthouse flats, which will sell at over £1.5 million each, will be marketed for overseas investors. UK taxpayers will subsidise the 90 odd flats reserved for first time buyers (Households with income less than £75,000pa need not apply Ed.). But what about the view from the bottom - what will the public get back for giving up their open space?

The view from the bottom is bleak - one of potential environmental and social blight. The Council's policy for new development requires provision of  50% affordable housing of which 60% should be at affordable rents - but here only 20% of the flats will be "affordable" all of which will be for sale with none at affordable rents. The remaining public town square, reduced in size by 32% (4,437sq metres) and re-designed, will be cast into transient shadows by the towers. 81 of the existing 135 mature trees will be ripped out. The kids playground will be "regenerated" and moved closer to the bus station. (Thanks guys. Cough...cough...croak. Ed.).

The Design Council, which advises the government on major schemes like this, have said “We do not think it is of exemplary design quality and fundamental issues remain, … We recommend that significant fresh design thinking is undertaken particularly to elevate the public space quality to the highest level, to develop robust justification for quantum of development , and to provide significant extra public benefits for the people of Walthamstow”. In view of the several other local high-rise schemes in the pipeline the Design Council have also called for a Masterplan of the area, but the developers and Council officers have rejected their opinions.

This computer modelled image, created by the developer's consultant Point2Surveyors, shows a birds eye view of the existing low rise shopping centre (in pink) as it presently exists and the town square  flooded in yellow by sunshine.

This 'before and after' consultant's computer model of 21st March ( the spring equinox), when annual average overshadowing is calculated, shows that by 2pm the Town Square, to the east of the new towers, and the buildings beyond it will start to become completely overshadowed (indicated in blue).

This image from the consultant's computer model shows that by 1pm on 21 December ( the winter solstice) when the sun is lowest in the sky, the overshadowing is even worse. The consultant's say this amounts to "a minor adverse effect" of the development and the Council officer's advise that it does not amount to "unacceptable harm". 

The reports also acknowledge that " fast-moving upper level winds impacting the facades [ of the towers] are accelerated and redirected downward. At ground level, the effects are likely to be compounded ….inherent potential for prevailing winds traversing the podium of the existing mall to be drawn into the constricted channel at ground level, and experience a funnelling effect that gives rise to accelerated winds ". In other words the overshadowed canyons between and around the towers will experience a wind tunnel effect. Attempts will be made to mitigate this by planting trees on the concrete podium and building shelters for seating areas. Again, the consultant's say, this amounts to a minor adverse effect" of the development.

As for the kid's playground, the reports acknowledge that "the play space would be located nearer to the air pollution emission sources due to the redesign of the town square" ie much closer towards the bus station. The Council have, as expected, done an Equalities Impact Assessment and found there will be absolutely no detriment to the kids. Despite the car parking on site being increased to 830 spaces, and despite the new traffic scheme meaning vehicles will spend longer in the area, and despite the fact that the Mayor of London's extension of the "ultra-low emission zone" to Walthamstow will not take effect for years, the consultants claim that, with new "Travel Plans" for residents and workers and improved landscaping, the harm and impact on the playground would be "limited and not significant".

Extraordinarily, the Council has commissioned no independent assessment of the developer's Environmental Impact Assessment of these issues. - or at least none has been published to date.

There are powerful commercial interests rooting for this scheme which have spent a fortune on consultants to portray it in the most favourable light and downplay its detriments. The Council has so far received 948 letters of objection along with a petition of 2,015 signatures, opposing the application. Let us hope that the members of the Planning Committee listen to the public and understand their objections.  The scheme could be so much better if, as the Design Council say, there is some "fresh thinking" done. Decisions made in haste are often regretted at leisure.

If you want to attend the Planning Committee meeting, which is to be held in public on Wednesday at 7pm,  the details are here

UPDATE:  13th December was an evening of pure theatre in a packed Walthamstow Assembly Hall. There was passionate engagement and outrage from the audience of local citizens. But only the actors, performing the developers script, knew how the play would end.
The vote went 4 to 1 in favour of the scheme. 
Crime and tragedy in one.

Monday, 4 December 2017

crE8 - Dalston design fair at St Barnabas Mission Hall

Dalston makers have got together again, like last year, to mount an arts and crafts fair of their work - just in time for your Christmas shopping! 

It's from 11am til 8pm on Saturday and 11am til 3pm on Sunday 10th December at St Barnabas Mission Hall in Shacklewell Row, Dalston E8 2EA. There will be over 20 makers and artists exhibiting including:

Artist Elsie Pilbeam

Artist Tony Coombes
Designer Max Cairns' laser cuts

Hedy Parry-Davies' collages

Myra Heller's lights

Nicola Hilliard's textiles

And there'll be yummy arty snacks - like Shirley Roach's cakes

And lots more...!

While your in Dalston why not enjoy an early evening visit to the wonderful Festival of Light and a glass of mulled wine at the Eastern Curve Garden (Hot water bottles and blankets provided on site! Ed.)

PS  If, after all that, your still thirsting for aesthetic pleasure why not take a short trip to the frozen north - Praxis N16 artists collective at 3-9 Belfast Road Stoke Newington are having their Winter Open Studios event on Saturday until 9pm

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

City of London gets an art attack from its tenants' campaign

Residents of Golden Lane estate have united locals in a campaign against the imposition of The Denizen, a monstrous Taylor Wimpey block which was recently granted planning permission by the City of London and is currently being marketed for off-plan sales to  Hong Kong  investors.

The City and Taylor Wimpey's woes increased this week with a public exhibition of art banners damning the shady deals done between public landowners and developers. Deals like the City's agreement not to stop the development however much sunlight is lost to its tenant's homes. Private commercial relationships between leading City councillors and the developers are highlighted in this Guardian article 

The campaign is reported all over social media - by our sister organisation OPEN GoldenLane, as well as CrowdJustice,  twitter,   ReclaimEC1  and Artists Against Overdevelopment ,as well as in The Art Newspaper. Writers of documentary fiction, the "Curse of the Denizen" have also been inspired by the campaign

The Denizen will replace the heritage modernist building, Bernard Morgan House, which was publicly owned and used for affordable accommodation, until the City sold it to Taylor Wimpey. The new development will loom over, and block sunlight from, local homes, the community school, the public park and the church

The Denizen will also damage the picturesque setting and feel of the 20th Century listed buildings and open spaces which make up the modernist post-war Golden Lane Estate, in Cripplegate, neighbouring the Barbican.

To add insult to injury the City planners not only agreed that there will be no affordable housing in the new development but that Taylor Wimpey will pay less than half the expected £10million Section 106 contribution towards the cost of providing "affordable" homes elsewhere..

Despite overwhelming community objections to the planning application, and solicitors letters on behalf of OPEN Golden Lane, the City has refused to agree to nulllify the planning permission. The local community have raised a financial war chest of donations, but more is urgently needed. You can read more about that here Please help these plucky residents in whatever way you can. 

You can read more about the City art attack in this link Spectres of Modernism