There will be a public meeting next Tuesday 28th February at Colvestone Primary school at 6.30pm to discuss the planning application to build an 18-storey, 50 metre high, towerblock next to Dalston Kingsland station (on the Peacocks site). All local people - including kids with an adult - are welcome. What follows is what we think. The developer is telling people our reports are
"completely inaccurate" so we've asked them to come to the meeting too and explain why.
Is it a beacon which will enhance Dalston's environment?
The 50 metre high tower will dominate and cast shadows across the Kingsland area. Like a lighthouse in reverse, it will steal the sunlight from public space, homes, businesses, locally listed buildings, Ridley Road market and Colvestone School. The tower will cause higher wind speeds locally so that some public areas around the building will become "unsuitable for standing" (sometimes, the consultants say, "the criteria for safety of all pedestrians including sensitive pedestrians and cyclists is exceeded").
Will it meet housing need locally?
There will be 130 flats for sale but NO affordable homes to buy or rent. The original plan for 17 flats (13%) for sale at "affordable" prices has been dropped (too expensive for the developer - see why below). Policy guidelines are for 50% affordable housing, including some at affordable rents. Nor will there be sufficient family size homes ( 3-beds or more) to meet official policy guidelines.
Now there will be 100% "unaffordable" flats in the exclusive "Dressed in Green" tower with its a own secure entrance. The penthouse duplex apartments there will each cost around £1,000,000 (£1 million).
The designs ("exemplary" according to the developer) were so poor that 30% of flats didn't meet the official (GLA) minimum sizes. The Council is now examining the developer's claims that the new layouts mean that 97% of the flats are at least of the minimum size.
Does it matter if they're rabbit hutches? Yes because, on current market trends, about 50% < 60% of the flats will be sold to overseas investors not for them to live in but to rent them out ( at "unaffordable" rents) to people who have very little choice given the shortage of accommodation.
Where is the public benefit to justify this over-development of the site?
The developer expects to net a profit of at least £10,000,000 (£10 million). What will Dalston get back for all it will lose? The developer has dropped the affordable housing and instead proposes to increase its spend to £1.7 million on a "once in a generation" opportunity to remodel and install lifts in the station. 95% of people surveyed using the overcrowded station agree it needs upgrading and we agree with them 100%.
Network Rail and Transport for London (TfL) (Public) have already agreed with the developer (Private) that they won't build above the station. So the developer has acquired the benefit of being able to build up to the railway's boundary and have windows in the towers north face. That agreement increases the value of the developer's site considerably. TfL were at the meetings with the developer and the GLA when the designs were discussed. If the public landowner has benefited its neighbouring private landowner in this way then what has the public got back?
We have asked the GLA why TfL aren't paying for the station upgrade. We have also ask TfL . We are still waiting for replies. Is TfL planning to dump on Dalston again?
Is it environmentally sustainable?
Despite the developers hype about the Dalston Green "eco-tower" the build quality does not reach the Code 5 (the highest) standard for sustainable homes (Too expensive for the developer). The rooftop, and the high maintenance 'hanging' gardens, if installed, will be paid for by service charges (on top of the "unaffordable" rents). And everyone will be offered a planter to grow their own veg on the balcony. No vegetation is sustainable on the bleak North Face of the tower.
We don't object to the greenery. We do object to the 'dressed in green' PR. The developer says the designs are inspired by the Eastern Curve and the Bootstrap roofgardens (They are an inspiration. Ed). But those are community gardens and the "dressed in green" tower is exclusively private.
Does it respect its neighbours?
This 1902 Grade II Listed building, Cooke's old Eels Pie and Mash shop, is next to the development site. It is one of an exquisite group of buildings with diverse architecture and fine detailing including the Kingsland Pub (which English Heritage says should be locally listed). The tower will overlook four conservation areas. The listed buildings directly affected also include the Rio Cinema, Colvestone Primary School and locally listed buildings opposite at 74-76 Kingsland High Street.
We agree with English Heritage - the scheme conflicts with Hackney's policy that "all development should make a positive contribution to the character of Hackney's historic and built environment", that the 6-8 storey overscale frontage "damages" the setting of our listed building and that the schemes bulk "will detract from the small scale of the (St Mark's) conservation area". But the developer has refused to reduce the scale of the building at all.
Does the Dalston Kingsland station need a 'landmark', a 'gateway', building?
The developer and the Council say we need a tall building to "landmark" the Dalston Kingsland station - but in fact anything taller than 4-storeys would be prominent on our high street. So, in the future, when we arrive at the station, we will see the bleak North Face of Dalston Green tower rising above us like a sheer 50 metre aluminium and glass cliff blotting out the sunlight. For sure we will know that we have arrived somewhere. But where? Dalston?... or is it Canary Wharf, Croydon, Hong Kong? Is this the image of Dalston we want to present to visitors? And to ourselves?
Will it be an icon - or an eyesore?
Everyone will have their own opinion on this. We've said to the Council, and the GLA, that we think greater and better use could be made of the existing Peacocks site and that an imaginatively designed modern building there which respects its neighbours could enhance Dalston's character and identity.
We also think buildings have context and that a well designed building is "in context" and so enhances the area and its "sense of place" and doesn't look "out of place". We think the developer's design is 'overscale' and amounts to 'overdevelopment', it will dominate and so diminish neighbouring buildings, but the developer has refused to reduce it. It extracts huge development value from the site - but at the expense of the surrounding area. Where is that value coming from? It's being taken from Dalston. Permanently.
What some of the locals say (from EastLondonLines.co.uk)
You can see details of the application 2011/3439 on the Council's web site here.
Come to the public meeting next Tuesday 28th February at Colvestone Primary School. E8 at 6.30pm
It's not too late to make your views known to the Council. Send them in an email to planningconsultation@hackney.
The "Dressed in Green" tower is being promoted by the developer's PR company, Four Communications, which has recruited Hackney's Deputy Mayor Karen Alcock and Councillor Alan Laing (formerly a member of Barratt's PR firm Hard Hat). "We are keen to use Alan’s extensive network of contacts within London politics" said Councillor Laing's new Managing Director whose company is also promoting the new Sainsburys planned for Stoke Newington and the controversial Stamford Hill school development.PS - Cllr. Alan Laing is no longer representing the people of Hackney - he has resigned. He will be remembered particularly for his work "regenerating" Ridley Road market