Thursday, 27 December 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas (in Dalston )

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me.... Twelve legends dining


This image, by OPEN's Brian Cumming, shows some of the stars of popular entertainment who were associated with the now demolished 1886 Dalston Circus and Theatre buildings.You can learn about the demolition of old Dalston by watching the trailer to Winstan Whitter's short film "Save our Heritage" . Hackney Council demolished the historic buildings in 2007 and sold the land (for a peppercorn) to help fund New Dalston's unaffordable private towerblock flats, brand name shops and a bus station built on The Slab in Dalston for the 2012 Olympics .The Slab turned out to cost £63 million but is only to be used by one bus - the 488 extended route from Clapton. Although it was promoted as "essential transport infrastructure" for the 2012 Olympics no use was made of it for the Olympics at all. Possibly the most expensive bus stop in the world!


On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me.... Eleven pipers piping

Last year Hackney Mayor Pipe's Cabinet approved the grant of a lease of the new Dalston Square Library's cafe to a local business selling Starbucks coffee. The Council's report bemoaned the failure of its extensive marketing to attract a national cafe chain store as a direct lessee but recommended that some Starbucks franchise branding was better than nothing. It would, the report said, confer "a sense of place for the new Dalston Town Square... and will be beneficial for local economic development." Sadly it appears Starbucks' commitment to our economic development is not its primary concern 

Another of Hackney's investments may have come back to haunt it., It made a £1.3million investment in 2009/10 in strengthening TfL's Western Curve tunnels to enable their development. TfL now argues ,unless it can exceed Hackney's guidelines on building heights, the schemes are not "financially viable" so that  neither TfL nor Hackney will get their money back. Even then, it says, there can be no public green space, only 10 of 108 new flats can be affordable and the loss of sunlight and damage to local historic assets is unavoidable. .


On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...........Ten Lords a leaping



OPEN's Patron is Lord Low of Dalston. A non-party, cross bench, peer who speaks for the greater common good. He is the President of the European Blind Union amongst his many accomplishments. Last year the Low Commission, which Colin Low chaired, achieved substantial reversals of the government's proposed cuts to welfare benefits for disabled people. For many thousands it will "make a difference between existing and a life worth living".

In 2013 the Low Commission will be reporting on the effect of the abolition of huge areas of legal aid next April, and particularly those preventing appeals in cases of welfare benefit and housing injustice. Another area of government cuts is to the right of citizens to challenge unlawful decisions by public bodies. It seeks to prevent bad planning decisions being overturned by objectors. The government seems to think that letting developers do whatever they want is essential for the economy.

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me....nine sites for listing 



A leaked report has revelaled that the "intrinsic character, local distinctiveness and unique identity of Dalston " is at risk. Dalston town centre is facing a tsunami of property development proposals in 2013. The report comments that Dalston's historic town centre environment has "wholly inadequate heritage protection at present " and recommends nine historic buildings should be listed and the creation of the Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area to protect the character of the area from excessive property development..

On the eigth day of Christmas my true love gave to me........Eight days a week


The Eastern Curve Garden has been fitting eight days of activities into each seven day week. Dalston's only community managed public green space has been so successful that last year it won the national Landscape Institute President's Award. This year its Pineapple Hot House was built and it had a visit from HRH Camillla, the Duchess of Cornwall, as part of her tour of Chelsea Flower Show fringe gardens.  The events list at Eastern Curve Garden is never ending, but the Council says that Dalston's only public green space was always intended to be for temporary use only. Lets hope it never ends!

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me.....Seven members voting


This year, after a campaign led by OPEN Dalston, the Council's Planning Committee unanimously rejected a proposal by Rothas Ltd. for an 18-storey "dressed in green" private towerblock on the Peacocks site next to Dalston Kingsland station. We also said goodbye to Councillor Alan Laing who resigned his seat but continued to be employed by the developer's PR company Four Communications.

In 2013 Rothas Ltd. will re-apply for planning permission, this time for a 19-storey rotunda tower. Dalston also faces major development applications by TfL for the Western Curve plus a nine-storey development of the Eastern Curve plus  a plan to redevelop the Dalston Cross shopping centre with 15-storey residential towerblocks. 

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me.......Six blackened buildings

In previous years they burned down old buildings on Dalston's development sites  or painted our surviving Georgian houses black - a somber reminder of the charred remains or a dark vision of more funeral pyres to come? The Council, after four fires, three demolitions and OPEN Dalston's long campaign,  bought the terraces back from the off-shore slum landlord to whom they sold them at auction (For double what it had sold them for in 2002 - Ed).

Now, in the age of austerity when money is scarce, the Council has secured a deal to redevelop the terrace for housing and ground floor shops.  It will not be the "conservation led" scheme originally promised and only, they say, the Georgian facades of the houses will be retained.

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me.........Five Gold Rings






Gold Dust by Mike Wells on Vimeo.

Last year saw the publication of banned Hackney author Iain Sinclair's latest book "Ghost Milk" which explores issues concerning the 2012 Olympics including the excavation, stockpiling, and burial of 7,000 tonnes of radioactive waste on the site  without any prior  regulatory inspection or planning permission at all. What will the environmental legacy be for the future generations who will live on the 2012 site ? Consultants have advised that they shouldn't eat anything grown in their gardens. Iain Sinclair's  ban from speaking on Hackney Council premises has never been lifted but he was able to read and discuss his work at an OPEN event  at Dalston's  Cafe Oto.

The award winning writer and journalist Anna Minton was also a guest speaker at the event. Her book Ground Control is increasingly relevant to Dalston where a major gated community is plannned by TfL on its Western Curve sites...."this  is the architecture of extreme capitalism, which produces a divided landscape of privately owned, disconnected, high security, gated enclaves side by side with enclaves of poverty which remain untouched by the wealth around them. The stark segregation and highly visible differences create a climate of fear and growing mistrust between people which...erodes civil society." Anna Minton 'Ground Control'


On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me.........Four Aces Club

OPEN Dalston member Winstan's Whitter's documentary Legacy in the dust tells the story of Dalston's legendary reggae club, its relationship with the Council and the police and how it went on to become the rave venue Labyrinth.

In 2007 the authorities demolished the club's original home in the historic Dalston Theatre buildings at 14 Dalston Lane. They crushed it, ground it up and used it in the foundations for Barratt's New Dalston tower block development of 90% unaffordable flats.

Thus we lost our historic buildings in Dalston and the thirty year cultural legacy of our African-Carribean community. So now the authorities are calling the new tower blocks after the artists who performed in the club they demolished - Sledge Tower, Wonder House, Marley House etc. Patronising hypocrisy...or what? Did anyone ask Stevie Wonder if he wanted a Dalston tower block named after him?

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me......... three green oasis 


A TfL image illustrating its present proposals for "greening" Dalston which is limited to planting some street trees.

In one of the most populous wards, in one of the most populous boroughs in London, Dalston has virtually no public green space at all. OPEN Dalston, with backing from award winning Growing Communities, has identified three areas on TfL's Western Curve development sites which would be suitable for small managed public green spaces.TfL have so far rejected our proposals but the issue has been raised with TfL's boss, Boris, the Mayor of the Greater London Authority.

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me........two subsidies

This year Barratt, who are building the Dalston Square towers, succeeded where Oliver Twist failed. Last year it got second helpings of the tasty tax- payers subsidy which it first had earlier in the year. This yeat it announced profits for shareholders. With house builders struggling, and banks asking for 25% deposits on new build properties, the government has set aside  further £millions to lend first time buyers towards their deposits on Barratt's and other flats.  Barratt loves it - it helps keep prices, and profit margins, high. With insufficient homes, and rents soaring, buy-to-let landlords think they have found a safe haven and taken 60% of the East London new build market.and Barratt has opened an office in Beijing
Barratt have also been pulling strings to support the recently announced "simplification" of planning rules - the "presumption in favour of development". Hello to the Big Business Society. Goodbye bio-diversity and local character and, if you can't pay the rent or the bank, then its goodbye to you too.
Bold


On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me.........a retail opportunity

In 2012 the Dalston Area Action Plan ( DAAP  - Hackney's blueprint for the "regeneration" of Dalston) - was examined in public by a government Planning Inspector. One of Hackney's big ideas is "creating the conditions for national high street stores to be attracted to the area" by creating a new "shopping circuits" linking Dalston Square with a re-developed Dalston Cross shoppping centre. Hackney hopes this will mean locals don't need to go shopping at Westfield, Stratford City or the Angel. How paying money into the off-shore bank accounts of national brand stores, rather than local independent businesses, will boost our local economy remains a mystery.

The Eastern Curve Garden - a managed green public space

Late amendments to the DAAP saw the Council's "vision" change from a Dalston Park, where the award winning Eastern Curve Garden presently is, into an overshadowed pedestrian thoroughfare lined with shops and nine-storey blocks of flats which they call a "shopping circuit". How will this fit with Hackney Mayor's recent announcement that  "What we do not need is retail space and housing that, using the government's affordability criteria, is well out of the reach of most Hackney people "


Hackney's vision of the Eastern Curve Garden transformed into a shopping circuit

"....Towers for people who need gifts and coffee Only available from brandname shops...."
From "Regeneration Blues" by Michael Rosen




Monday, 24 December 2012

Leaked report calls for Dalston's environmental protection

The "intrinsic character, local distinctiveness and unique identity of Dalston " is at risk of being damaged or lost, a leaked report has revealed.  Dalston town centre is facing a tsunami of property development proposals in 2013. The report comments that Dalston's historic town centre environment has "wholly inadequate heritage protection at present ".

The Railway Tavern and Peace Mural on Dalston Lane

The report was produced for Design for London which, like Transport for London (TfL),is an agency of Boris' Greater London Authority. It recommends a new Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area, an extension of the Dalston Lane (West) Conservation Area and the listing of several of Dalston's notable buildings.

Presently unprotected, the former 1902 Shannon factory, now Sprinfield House, Tyssen Street, is recommended for inclusion on the National Heritage List for England and inclusion within an extended Dalston Lane Conservation Area. A 9-xtorey blocks of flats is planned for the neighbouring Eastern Curve  site.

Dalston Square was Phase 1 of TfLs redevelopment scheme many unprotected heritage buildings were lost. The redevelopment of TfL's Western Curve tunnels is Phase II. Major developments on other sites in the town centre are also planned, including towers of between 9 - 19 storeys locally.


Presently unprotected, the Reeves and Sons Printhouse and Colourworks in Ashwin St.is recommended for inclusion on the National Heritage List for England and for inclusion within an extended  Dalston Lane Conservation Area. It is currently occupied by the  Bootstraps Company, Cafe Oto and Arcola Theatre.
(I was told that the vats in which Constable's paints were mixed are stored in the basement - Ed)

Local Council's have responsibility for creating local conservation areas but Hackney has invested over £1.3million in partnership with TfL to enable development of the Western Curve tunnels. A letter has been sent to English Heritage pointing out Hackney's conflicting interests and asking it to consider using its reserve powers to designate the new, and extended, Conservation Areas. You can read the letter here.

Cooke's Eels and Mash shop, currently Shanghai, is Grade II listed but the remainder in this 1902 group on the Western Curve are unprotected. They are recommended for inclusion in the new Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area.   

Unless within a Conservation Area, unlisted  non-residential buildings can be demolished without any planning control at all. Even residential status doesn't prevent some owners disregarding planning controls over demolition. Conservation Area status also gives some protection to prevent damage to the settings  of notable buildings affected by new developments.

Shiloh 1881 Pentecostal Chapel, Ashwin Street is recommended for inclusion on Hackney's Local List and for inclusion within an extended Dalston Lane (West) Conservation Area

 Hackney Council  response to the report's recommendations presently remains unclear. However the importance of many of the buildings identified in the report was not drawn to the Government Inspector's attention by Hackney during his Dalston Area Action Plan Inquiry last summer.

74 -76 Kingsland High Street (Nat West Bank) next to Ridely Road market is recommended for inclusion on the National Heritage List for England and for inclusion within the new Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area. It is opposite Dalston Kingsland station where a revived application for a 18-storey tower, which was rejected last year, is to be proposed in 2013.  

The new Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area would also include heritage buildings on Stoke Newington Road  .

Princess May Primary School is recommended for inclusion on the National Heritage List for England and for inclusion within the new Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area.





House of Simpson's art deco clothing factory, at  92 - 100 Stoke Newington Roadcurrently occupied by Beyond Retro, is recommended for inclusion on the National Heritage List for England and for inclusion within the new Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area.


St John's Court, former Magistataes Court, at 82  Stoke Newington Road,  is recommended for inclusion on the National Heritage List for England and for inclusion within the new Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area.


The former Savoy/ABC art deco cinema, currently EFES Snooker Club at 1-17 Stoke Newington Road is
recommended for inclusion on Hackney's Local List and for inclusion within an extended Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area


Thursday, 20 December 2012

Boris comments on "greening" Dalston.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of the Greater London Authority, has replied to a question concerning his agency, TfL's, profit led development proposals for Dalston's Western Curve. The question was asked by local resident Andrew Boff who is Leader of the GLA Conservative Group on the London Assembly and scourge of bureaucratic wastrels. Watch the video here:


TfL is an agency of the Greater London Authorty and has applied for planning permission to build a major gated community above the Western Curve railway tunnels which run north west from Dalston Junction and which will have no public green space at all..

Boris is nominal boss of TfL but may also have planning powers as the GLA's Mayor over the Western Curve scheme. He says, of TfLs proposal, "Nemo iudex in causa sua" . In Dalston we say "Audi alteram partem".

OPEN Dalston objects to the scheme as presently designed and you can read our analysis of the scheme here and here.

Since April we also have been asking TfL to provide green space on  its other sites in Dalston for which it has no plans presently. Boris hints that there could be "improvements" there.

The Council's public consultation on the scheme officially closes today has been extended. We advise you to submit comments by 23 January so they can be reported at the Planning Committee hearing expected (presently) on 6th February . You can send comments to Hackney here and we urge you to do so.

An image from TfL's plannning application documents illustrating its "greening" proposals for Dalston which is presently limited to planting some street trees

Despite the severe deficit of public green space in Dalston, TfL's development partners, Taylor Wimpey, have said that "the only viable opportunity for open green space will be that for use by the residents and guests of the proposed scheme". 

Despite the damage to local heritage which TfL have already inflicted on Dalston, with its Dalston Square scheme, the effect of TfL's new scheme will  also leave listed and heritage buildings locally without " acceptable sunlight access to the buildings"  and only 10 out of the 108 new flats in the proposed gated community will be for affordable social rent. (Will Boris waive the rules on heritage and affordable housing, like Ken did on Dalston Square? - Ed.)


Monday, 17 December 2012

Hackney's conflict of interest over TfL's Western Curve development

Hackney's has a financial conflict of interest, when assessing TfL/Taylor Wimpey's development application, after it invested over £1million in TfL's Western Curve sites.

TfL/Taylor Wimpey's proposal for an 8-storey building on the corner of Kingsland High Street Boleyn Rd. Council approved planning policy specifies 4-6 storeys for the site

Hackney invested public money to subsidise TfL strengthening its railway tunnels to allow more intensive development of its sites north of Dalston Junction. TfL's development partners are now believed to be arguing that, unless it can exceed the Council's and an independent Planning Inspector's approved heights for the development, the schemes are not "financially viable" so that  neither TfL nor Hackney will get their money back.

TfL/Taylor Wimpey's proposal for an 6 storey continuous terrace on the east side of Kingsland High Street.
 
Even if an 8-storey development on the Northern site and a continuous 6-storey terrace on the Southern site are allowed, the developers argue that there can be no public green space, that of 108 new flats only 10 can be at affordable social rent and that the loss of sunlight and damage to local historic assets can not be avoided.

Views of the historic Reeves Colourworks, and light, will be lost by the Western Curve development on the Southern site which will enclose Ashwin St.

Hackney have commissioned an independent assessment of the developers' "Financial Sustainability Report" but will not release it publically because it is "commercially confidential". The official benchmark of whether a development is "financially viable" for a developer assumes that they will get a 20% return on their investment ie £200,000 proft for every £1million spent  (Trebles all round! Ed).

Sunday, 9 December 2012

TfL reject "small green oasis in the heart of Dalston"

There is no public green space and virtually no affordable housing planned in a major gated community scheme for which Taylor Wimpey/TfL (Transport for London) have now applied to Hackney Council for planning permission.

TfL's plan to "green up" Dalston is limited to planting some street trees. This image is from their planning application documents.

The Taylor Wimpey/TfL application is, as previously reported, to develop two sites fronting Kingsland High Street just north of Dalston Junction. The Southern site is on the east side of the High Street adjoining Ashwin Street. The Northern site is on the west side adjoining Boleyn Road.


Developer's image of the 8-storey Boleyn Road northern site. It will have 59 flats and 850sq m ground floor commercial uses

There will 108 new flats across both sites,with ground floor shops bars and offices, but only 10 flats will be for "affordable" social rent. The rest will be for sale. The railway sites are public land owned by TfL,which is an agency of the Greater London Authority whose policy target (like Hackney's) is to achieve 50% affordable housing.

The Council's public consultation officially closes on 20th December. The Planning Committee decision is expected in early January or February. You can see the planning application documents here and make comments here

The Northern site block will be 8 storeys. The buildings surrounding it are 3 and 4 storeys

Since April we have been suggesting that small parts of the development sites should include pockets of managed green public space, to create a "green route" north from Dalston Lane up Boleyn Road towards Butterfield Green and Clissold Park.
Hackney's award winning social enterprise Growing Communities, and Grow Cook Eat which manages the award winning Eastern Curve Garden, have both welcomed the idea and say our scheme for "small green oasis in the heart of Dalston" is viable.
Taylor Wimpey acknowledge the public support for the idea but have told us that "the only viable opportunity for open green space will be that used by the residents and guests of the proposed scheme". So, very little public benefit is planned for this development.

Shanghai is in a Grade2 listed building and is part of an exquisite 1902 terrace on the High Street next to the northern site

TfL/Taylor Wimpey say that creating "open space would not be compliant with the Dalston Area Action Plan (DAAP)" but in fact the Council's design guidance for the sites states that "new and improved areas of green open space and/or public realm will be encouraged".
Contrary to the DAAP guideline for 4-6 storeys on the sites TfL/Taylor Wimpey are packing an 8-storey building onto the northern site and the scale of it will dominate this 1902 historic terrace. It will overshadow it to such an extent that, according to TfL's own consultants "there will not be acceptable sunlight access to the buildings". Even the design for their private amenity space within the gated development "does not provide adequate daylight according to the garden and open space sunlight assessment".



This developers' illustration shows the shadow effect of the 2 developments in summer - when the sun is at its highest.

On the southern site TfL propose a 6-storey continuous terrace which will block sunlight and views from the High Street of the Ashwin Street locally listed Reeves Printhouse and Colourworks building and the Shiloh Church.

Developers illustration of the southern, Ashwin Street, site. It will have 49 flats and 750 sq m of commercial uses including retail, cafes and bars.

To service the commercial uses Ashwin Street will become a "shared space" for pedestrians and HGV delivery/waste collection vehicles. Some windows of Reeves Printhouse, presently used by Arcola Theatre, will lose over 25% of their light and the outdoor seating areas in front of Cafe Oto will also become significantly overshadowed.


This developers' illustration shows how Ashwin Street will be enclosed by the 6-storey development where once there were 2-3 storey buildings. The scene is late morning before the shadows lengthen. Afternoon & evening sunlight, and views, from the west will be blocked.

Consultants recommend high sound insulation for the flats, due to the railway and High Street traffic noise and so, they say, noise from performances and punters in the Ashwin Street creative hub shouldn't be a problem for new residents. (I hope they don't need to leave their windows open or sit out on the balconies. Ed),



TfL schemes are not noted for prioritising design excellence. TfL's Dalston Square development is creating, as predicted, a hard landscaped, overshadowed, wind-tunnel in the canyon between the tower blocks. The development resulted in the loss of historic Dalston Theatre and locally listed Georgian houses. Experience does not fill us with confidence in TfL's current proposals.

OPEN Dalston urges all of Dalston's community to consider the current planning application carefully. We will report more details as they emerge. Think of the needs of our future generations, as well as your own needs, before you send your comments to the Council