Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Dalston resident wins right to fight for kids sunlight

Dalston resident, Judith Watt, has been granted permission to judicially review a decision by Hackney's Planning Committee. She is challenging a development of private flats which will severely overshadow Colvestone School Nursery's outdoor classroom.

A 9.5 metre high block will extend right across the southern boundary of the school's outdoor classroom , blocking out sunlight and obscuring views from Ridley Road market of the Grade II Listed school building

Councillor Stops,  Chair of  Hackney's Planning Committee, used his casting vote on 2nd September to ensure that the development was approved. He did the same to approve the demolition of Dalston Lane's Georgian terrace. Usually a casting vote is used to preserve the status quo until there is a majority for change - but not in Hackney.

Hackney's Mayor, Jules Pipe, has written to Judith to share his concern about the development but said that he was powerless to interfere with independent planning decisions. When it originally sold the development site in 2002 Hackney had sought to retain the "right to uninterrupted light" to the school, Hackney is still investigating whether it can enforce the sale restriction.

 Judge can only overrule a bad decision if a procedural error can be proved. In other words, Councils' are entitled to foul it up, provided they do so properly. Judith applied for permission to judicially review a decision at a Court hearing on 28 January and was successful. Judge Cranston found that her claims are arguable - that Hackney had misapplied sun lighting guidelines, had overlooked an earlier relevant planning refusal and had failed to consider national, London Plan and local policies designed to protect the health, education and well being of children. In due course there will be a one-day trial of her claims.

The developers, Chan and Eyres, whose planning permission is being challenged described their designs as "sensitive to the amenity of surrounding buildings" and to "maximise natural light into habitable rooms". Their website, before recent amendment, stated "We believe that simple things like the natural light that fills a space and awakens your spirits...enriches life in a way that is priceless"
But if Judith loses her judicial review and the development proceeds, the nursery school childrens' open space will lose most of its sunlight and be plunged into shadow.  

Friday, 8 January 2016

Crossrail2: OPEN Dalston's proposals to TfL for limiting the damage to Dalston.

OPEN Dalston has today responded to TfL's consultation plans for a Crossrail2 tube station in Dalston. Whilst welcoming the plans there are likely to be major impacts on local homes, businesses, amenities like Ridley Road market as well as to the historic environment. Whole streets may be demolished. You can read our proposals to TfL, which suggest alternatives to their plans, here.

You can let TfL know your views by completing their questionnaire or sending an email to crossrail2@tfl.gov.uk . TfL's public consultation closes today 8th January at 5pm .

We reproduce an below an extract from our representations which relates to our proposals for surface level ventilation shafts.

6          Ventilation Shafts – design and location

Construction of surface ventilation shafts in a tight urban area like Dalston carries the risk of demolition of character buildings and an obvious potential to create a featureless void which will make a negative contribution to the surrounding area which, in Dalston’s case, is one of considerable sensitivity.

We wish to make proposals to Crossrail2 to consider mitigating this. We wish to explore with TfL

- the recovery of heat generated in the Underground to supply heat and/or hot water to neighbouring properties ( most likely to those developed on left-over land which Crossrail2 acquires for its railway construction operations)
-  the capture at surface level, the surplus heat and CO2 emissions from the Underground which would otherwise go to waste, for their use in plant growing.

The recycling of heat generated in underground railways is not a novel idea, and has been utilised in Stockholm, Paris and Islington. Heat recovery would contribute to significant energy saving.
The recycling of surplus heat and CO2 emissions for plant growing is innovative and would contribute to bio-diversity. The imaginative development of vent shafts could, by good design, create such functionality and mitigate the environmental damage caused to their locations. The capturing heat and CO2 has been devised and successfully trialed in Dalston by the award winning scientist Charlie Paton who also invented seawater greenhouses.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Looking forward to 2016. A Dalston future.

In the post of March last year we celebrated OPENs tenth birthday which concluded by foreshadowing some developments for 2016.

We welcomed, after three years of campaigning, the proposed new Dalston Conservation Area (which it is hoped will go before the Council for approval in January). But we also raised concerns about areas which had been missed out -  what Hackney has called Dalston's "Cultural Quarter" - the Reeves Printhouse, the Railway Tavern, the old houses at 10-16 Ashwin Street and 16-22 Dalston Lane, Why was Hackney not conferring Conservation Area protection on them as well, we asked? Was there another plan?

It now appears that on 23 November Hackney's Cabinet approved plans to sell four of these Dalston sites in a single development agreement with a private sector partner. It's Finance Director confirmed that the plan would "maximise capital and rental values" for the Council. The Council had not consulted anybody about whether such a strategic decision, affecting many of Dalston's much loved public buildings and cultural enterprises including the Eastern Curve Garden, should be disposed of in such a manner or, indeed, at all.

The Council responded to the Hackney Citizen by saying it would be consulting on the plan. But how can the Council consult genuinely now, after the strategic decision has already taken by its Cabinet?

We also foreshadowed the planned implementation of Crossrail 2, aka the Chelsea to Hackney tube (although it will no longer being going to Hackney Central). The plans now appear to threaten demolition not only of historic buildings in Dalston and Kingsland but possibly whole streets of businesses and homes, for example Bradbury Street. Transport for London have allowed until only 8th January for the public to respond to its proposals. You can read our review of the plans, "Look out Dalston! Dont Get Hit By A Runaway Train ", and you can make your views known to TfL here, Consultation closes on 8th January.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Hackney to sell Dalston's "Cultural Quarter"

Hackney has resolved to sell four of its central Dalston sites as one "comprehensive development/ refurbishment package" for "regeneration".  Hackney's Cabinet reached its decision on 23 November without any prior public consultation.

The four sites, to be marketed as the "Dalston Quarter", include the Council's land on part of the Eastern Curve Garden, the former Railway Tavern and the 1865 houses on Ashwin Street, the former CLR James library and the last surviving 1790 Georgian Houses on Dalston Lane.

Hackney owns the entrance land of the hugely popular Eastern Curve Garden. The Kingsland Shopping Centre owns the remainder of the land. The Garden, within Site 1, would be unlikely to survive as we know it if  part were to be developed in a way which compromised present uses.

Although some of the sites are vacant, following demolitions, a number include historic buildings. The Council report states that "buildings with heritage significance will be cherished" but it also reminds of its duty to obtain "best consideration."

Hackney is presently converting the former Railway Tavern,within Site 1, into flats and is marketing the ground floor and basement for commercial uses

V22 Gallery presently occupy these three houses, within Site 1, at 10-16 Ashwin Street for exhibitions and artists' studios

Many of the buildings are occupied by social and cultural enterprises which will be directly affected by the Council's plans for a "comprehensive development/ refurbishment package" . Tenants are often required to give up possession to enable "refurbishment" to proceed. Hackney's report states that the cluster of businesses are "major assets to the character of the town centre" but has also not ruled out private residential development

The last surviving 1790 Georgian houses, within Site 3 at 16-22  Dalston Lane, are occupied in part by Hackney Co-Operative developments and the Farm Shop

The former CLR James library is part of the Council plan. It is part of Site 3 and is presently occupied by Hackney Community Voluntary Services

For three years, since the leaked report "Dalston's heritage under threat", OPEN has been pressing for an extension of Dalston Lane (West) Conservation Area. Although Hackney plan to designate a seperate new Conservation Area covering the High Street, it has done virtually nothing so far to give these town centre buildings heritage protection. Its reasons for delay remain questionable.

Although the Council's "vision" is for a "vibrant exciting quarter"  with "spill out places" and "pedestrian meandering"  (That's enough estate agency waffle. Ed.) it is clear that the existing businesses and diversity already within the area could be at serious risk from the "comprehensive" treatment of all 4 sites, as a single package, which the Council is planning.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Look out Dalston! Don't get hit by a runaway train (Crossrail2)

£30 billion Crossrail2 is coming through Dalston. Hurrah! We'll finally be on the tube.

But look out Dalston! Transport for London has also outlined proposals to demolish and re-develop many of our much loved streets and houses which, they say, is necessary to make Crossrail2 happen.  

Let us take you on a walk around the Dalston streets which TfL have got their eyes on. And consider the implications.  Are there alternatives? Read more here   

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Luxury flats will make Colvestone School nursery "resemble a prison"

The featureless rear wall of a block of luxury flats "would not only block the sunlight over much of the playground for most of the day  – making the space dark, damp and cold – but it will also resemble a prison wall" said Dalston's Judith Watt  who has issued Court action against Hackney Council to challenge its' grant of planning permission for the development next to a Dalston nursery. You can help the parents' campaign by signing the petition and Judith's claim by donating towards expenses.

This view from Ridley Road market shows the development site and Grade II Listed Colvestone School. The school nursery's open space is between the site and the school and currently receives adequate sunlight. The three storey block of flats, with ground floor cafe, could be built right on its southern boundary. 

(Judith tells me that, at 9.55m, the wall is about three times the height of the Berlin Wall. Ed.)

The development will block sunshine from the playground as well as the view of the school which is at the western entrance of the St Mark's Conservation Area. The Head Teacher told the planners that the development would make the open space less useable and cause a risk to the toddler's health and their sense of well being. The Council Committee granted permission using the Chair's casting vote  

An architect's shadow diagram showing the nursery school and the overshadowing effect of the new block of flats.

Apart from the shadow making the nursery's play/learning area slippery with moss, slime and ice, sunlight deprivation is recognised as a serious risk factor for toddlers developing rickets which causes deformed bones. Children with darker skin, which absorbs less Vitamin D, are particularly at risk. Due to the increase in cases of rickets England's Chief Medical Officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies said in 2013 that all children should be offered vitamin supplements to safeguard their health. Hackney has since offered free vitamin supplements to all local school children 

The developers, Chan and Eayrs, say on their website, "We believe that simple things like the natural light that fills a space and awakens your spirits...enriches life in a way that is priceless".

(Indeed it does. Perhaps the developers would donate their profits to Hackney to help pay for the vitamin supplements for future generations of our school kids. Ed)

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Colvestone school - Dalston resident sues Hackney to Save Our Sunshine

A Dalston resident has issued judicial review proceedings against Hackney's grant of planning permission for private flats which would severely overshadow Colvestone School's nursery playground. It is claimed that the decision amounts to an environmental injustice which will prejudice future generations of children as well as permanently damage the setting of the Grade II listed school building and the Conservation Area.

The legal challenge has won immediate support from local parents and residents who have created an on-line petition "Save Our Sunshine" which urges Hackney to enforce historic property covenants protecting sunlight to the school's land. You can help by signing the petition and, most of all, by going to the community's Crowdfunding appeal and contributing something to the cost of surveyors' evidence and barristers' and Court fees.

This view from Ridley Road market shows the development site and Grade II Listed Colvestone School. The school nursery's open space is between the site and the school and currently receives adequate sunlight. The three storey block, with a ground floor cafĂ© and flats, could be built right on its southern boundary. 

(Judith tells me that, at 9.55m, the wall is nearly three times the height of the Berlin Wall. Ed.)

The Nursery school playground is used throughout the day, year round, as a learning and play space for children up to 5 years old. The southern boundary will have a three storey blank wall looming over the playground blocking out the sunshine and the sky.

The legal challenge has been issued following a study by independent sunlighting consultants, Anstey Horne, who commented that there would be "an increase of three to four times the existing levels of overshadowing"  and that " we cannot agree with the report's conclusion that the increase in shadowing will be modest and that the area will continue to receive plenty of sunlight."

After the loss of sunshine, the playground will be less pleasant, more gloomy and cold but also "more persistent overshadowing may prevent frost, ice and snow from thawing and increase the growth of moss, slime etc potentially making it more slippery."

The court claim has been served on Hackney, and on the developer Zoe Chan at her Bayswater address. Hackney is expected to serve an acknowledgement of the claim shortly. In the meantime Hackney, Ms Chan and others have commented on the allegations in the Hackney Citizen.

Children already at the school, and those looking forward to joining the nursery class, were not consulted about the development in advance. However news of the development has been greeted with disbelief, not only by parents, but by many younger residents as well.

(The Colvestone School dispute is one of a number of recent controversial schemes involving pressure on Hackney's education land  and the interests of private residential investors. Ed)