Friday, 27 December 2013

The twelve days of Christmas

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

Plans were unveiled in 2013 for redevelopment of the Dalston Cross Shopping Centre and 2104 may see a formal planning application. It's to be a 'residential led' scheme - no significant increase in retail space but new blocks with 500 odd flats above the shops ( up to 14 storeys high) and with underground parking beneath them.

Artist impression of Dalston Cross redevelopment.  "...Towers for people who need gifts and coffee, Only available from brandname shops...." from "Regeneration Blues" by Michael Rosen

The route to the re-modelled Dalston Cross shopping centre from Dalston Square (and back) was to be a proposed linear Dalston Park, but late amendments to the Dalston Area Action Plan (after public consultation had closed) saw the Council's "vision" change . Now the route is not to be a park (where the award winning Eastern Curve Garden presently is) but a "shopping circuit"  - an overshadowed pedestrian/cyclists thoroughfare lined with shops and nine-storey blocks of flats.
Hackney hopes the scheme will stop "spend leakage" - meaning locals won't need to go shopping at Westfield, Stratford City or the Angel - because we'll have the same shops here as everywhere else. (Just like Heathrow? Sigh. Ed.). How paying money into the off-shore bank accounts of national brand stores, rather than local independent businesses, will make Dalston more properous has yet to be is how it fits in with Hackney Mayor's 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 "

Grey is the new green. Hackney's vision of the Eastern Curve Garden, transformed into a shopping circuit linking Dalston Square with Dalston Cross shopping centre.

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

In 2013 Hackney's Planning Committee granted permission to the Transport for London/Taylor Wimpey partnership to build on two Kingsland High Street sites. The scheme fails to comply with the Dalston Area Action Plan (DAAP) criteria as to exemplar quality of design and height.

After withdrawing an earlier application, a "revised design" was proposed for the northern site which, it was claimed "reduces its mass at sensitive locations to create a more responsive and sculpted form."

TfL and Hackney ignored the local community's desire for some green public space on the sites by enclosing all available open space within the development. It is, in effect, a privatised enclosure of public land to create a gated community and will provide only 9, out of 106 flats, for affordable rent. The designs exceed the DAAP height guidelines and will dominate the High Street and its historic buildings. The overhadowing of a Grade II listed building, TfL's own consultants say, will be "Substantially Adverse" .

The southern site will obscure views, and sunlight, from Ashwin Street's Reeves and Sons building which houses social enterprises like Arcola Theatre, Cafe Oto and the Bootstrap Company.

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

With the continuing desperate shortage of homes, the London property market continues to provide high returns and a save haven for foreign investment.  Government loans to home buyers indirectly subsidises the major housebuilders - Barratt, Taylor Wimpey, Persimmon etc -  by keeping house prices and rents high, and guaranteeing returns for 'buy to let' landlords. Housebuilders snapped up cheap public development land with favourable public loans but continue to hoard their landbanks and drip-feed the market to ensure demand exceeds supply.  
Barratt built the Dalston Square towers,and the TfL site behind the blue hoardings on Kingsland High Street is to be developed by Taylor Wimpey.

In previous years foreign investors invested mainly in high value new build development, but now the trend has extended to all new build developments. Even local Hackney estate agents have a China desk. Fearing another house price bubble, the government recently switched subsidies from housebuilding to business loans  and is finally to impose capital gains tax on foreign investors.
The big housebuilders, like Barratt, have been pulling strings to support the "simplification" of planning rules - AKA the "presumption in favour of development". So it's Hello to the Big Business Society and Goodbye bio-diversity and local character and, if you can't pay the rent or the mortgage, then it's goodbye to you too.

An image promoting TfL/Taylor Wimpey's 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.

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

No apologies for plugging OPEN Dalston member Winstan's Whitter's newly updated documentary film Legacy in the dust . It 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?

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

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

In 2013 we had a post-mortem on the cost of the 2102 Olympics - many London businesses had suffered, costs soared above all expectations and Hackney became unaffordable for many. Nevertheless Hackney claims to have secured a future legacy of 4,500 "new" jobs, by the sale of the publically-funded £295million Olympic Media Centre, to iCity. 40% of the site is to be leased to iCity to create a massive data-store, an activity requiring exceptionally few employees. Where will the thousands of new jobs come from to replace the previous thousands employed in the Lea Valley before the Olympic Games?

Of equal importance will be the sale of development land for housing on the Olympic park which saw 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. Curiously, the records of the extensive radioactive contamnination have become rather sparse - almost as if the radioactivity never existed - but consultants advised at the time that any new residents shouldn't eat anything grown in their gardens. What will the environmental legacy be for the future generations who will live on the 2012 site ?

Gold Dust by Mike Wells on Vimeo

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me.......Sixteen demolitions

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? In 2010, after four fires, three demolitions and OPEN Dalston's long campaign,  Hackney bought the Dalston Lane houses back from the off-shore slum landlord to whom it had sold them at auction. It paid £3.8million - double what it had sold them for in 2002.
Now, in the age of austerity when money is scarce, how would Hackney get its money back? The Council has agreed a 125 year lease to Murphy to convert the terrace into 42 flats and will take a lease-back of the ground floor shops.  It will not be the "conservation led" scheme originally promised because, they say, these fragile old houses  can not withstand such intense redevelopment. It is now proposed that all 16 Georgian houses should be demolished .

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

The proposed 19-storey tower, with £1million penthouses, next to Dalston Kingsland station. Only 14 of  the 125 flats will be "affordable". The developer expects to make at least £10million from the scheme.

Last 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, like Hackney's former Deputy Mayor (Karen Alcock, currently Hackney Cabinet member for Property and Housing) was employed by the developer's PR company Four Communications.

Would Hackney's Mayor Jules Pipe feel he had been stitched up and silenced at the Planning Committee meeting? 

In 2013 Rothas Ltd. re-applied for planning permission, this time for a 19-storey rotunda tower, and was invited to present its proposals at a 30 minute meeting with the Planning Committee at which the public were not allowed to ask questions, provide information or to speak at all.  The Committee is expected to make its decision in February 2104.  You can make your views known to the Council here and you can sign the objectors' petition here

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

OPEN Dalston member, Marie Murray, shows Camilla around the ever popular Eastern Curve Garden

Last year the Eastern Curve Garden, Dalston's only community managed public green space, had a visit from HRH Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, as part of her tour of Chelsea Flower Show fringe gardens.  On 2013 the events list at the Eastern Curve Garden were never ending and you could even  enjoy cakes and coffee in the new Pineapple House. But the Council says that Dalston's only public green space was always intended to be only for temporary use, until it is developed as a "shopping circuit" to support the future Dalston Cross shopping centre redevelopment. Public suppport for the Garden will be critical in 2014. Let's hope the Garden never ends!

The Eastern Curve Garden's greenhouse, decorated by users, is a popular new addition to the Garden

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

In 2013 a leaked report 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. 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. Hackney will be considering the reports' recommendations in 2014 but in the meantime the Planning Committee has already approved schemes which damage the environment,  and there are more in the pipeline.

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...........ten more storeys

In 2013 residents of Dalston Square campaigned successfully to oppose redevelopment of Dalston's Holy Trinity Primary school, which was to be funded by cramming another ten storey block of private flats into Dalston Square on the school site. Residents complained about poor design and the loss of sunlight and privacy. Hackney's Planning Committee agreed with them, and turned the scheme down.

The scheme, which would enable the school to double its intake, was suppported by the school and Hackney's Learning Trust. Boris' Greater London Authority decided to call in the application and overuled the local Planning Committee on the basis that the designs were adequate and extra school places were needed ( with a playgound on the second floor roof).  The London Mayor's overarching powers, as regional plannning authority, were last expanded during Labour Ken Livingstone's tenure.

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

Jules Pipe is the elected Mayor of Hackney, Chair of Hackney's 10 member Cabinet, and Leader of the local Labour Party. In 2013 the Cabinet decided to reduce transparency and accountability for its decisions by abolishing the all party Overview and Scrutiny Board and reducing full Council meetings from eight to five each year. Is there less need for scrutiny of decisions taken in the Mayor's name? Yes, if you read Hackney Today. No - if you read this or this or this  or this or this or this or this.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me.... Twelve o'clock closing

Hackney Council is treating Dalston as a Special Policy Area by restricting further growth of new licensed premises, and license extensions beyond midnight, except in exceptional circumstances. It is also working with the police to control anti-social behaviour. Dalston Councillor, Sophie Linden, who is now Hackney's Deputy Mayor, said "We want businesses to thrive and people to keep coming for a great night out but without spoiling residents' quality of life.”

Bar entrepreneurs and clubbers object that the bourgeois arrivistes are killing the fun although, in fact, many of the local residents complaining have been part of Dalston long before it became  the  new Shoreditch and gentrified. You can read the debate here and here.


  1. If Dalston really is so awful these days, I do not understand why you simply don't leave. The fact is that much - not all, but much - of the development which has taken place has been positive. When I moved here 15 years ago, Dalston Lane at night was a rough and dangerous road to navigate at night. This has now changed for the better.
    Many of the things OPEN Dalston campaigns for are sensible and worthy, but this and other articles give the impression that you are opposed to any change, thereby allowing your opponents to disregard and marginalise your views.
    Far more constructive, I would have thought to accept that some development has been and will be for the better. It will never be perfect, but sometimes change is for the better.
    Happy New Year!

    1. The developers mantra is "There is no alternative" (ie TINA rules) and, if criticised, they claim, as you do, that objectors must be against change. For example, when OPEN campaigns for retention of at least some of the historic character and identity of the area we are told we just want to live in the past. But the issue is not development per se, but how it can be done to maintain diversity in the built, natural, social and economic environment. Despite your patronising references to OPEN's "sensible and worthy" campaigns, your essential point is "Go elsewhere" and thus, presumably, allow developers to proceed unchecked and regardless of local people's views.

    2. Anonymous asks "why you simply don't leave?" I've always lived in Dalston, my kids were born here and go to local schools, I love the independent shops, the market, the music clubs, the buildings, the buzz. Why should I leave? Because some greedy developer wants to exploit the area for excesssive profits? I have a right to stay, object and demand restraint and better design, even if my and others' views are routinely ignored. These developments offer nothing for my family, or I think local people, and so sadly my kids will have to leave Dalston and find homes elsewhere. I remember when politicians were elected to serve and protect local communities, not serve developers and protect house prices.

  2. So, Anonymous moved here in 1999 and found Dalston Lane "rough and dangerous". I remember it well. 1999 was when Hackney Council evicted the music clubs from the old theatre buildings and left them to rot, become derelict and a magnet for junkies before demolishing them. Thanks Hackney. Still, at least in 1999 there was some life left in the Dalston Lane georgian houses but the Council then ran them down, allowed them to become derelict, sold them off and now they are all to be demolished as well. Thanks Hackney. There is a pattern here, whereby ignorance, incompetence, greed or whatever creates a situation where the opportunities for imaginative solutions which meet local needs are lost and we are left only with developers' top-down impositions. Thanks again Hackney.

  3. Apologies if you felt I was patronising. This was by no means the intention. It is simply that I cannot believe that you think that ALL commercial development in Dalston in the past decade has been negative. The execution of Dalston Junction station (and that ludicrous one-bus bus station) was clearly not optimal, but the fact of it has clearly been a positive. Likewise there have been terrible developments (like the ugly block with the silly wind turbines next to Sainsburys) but there is also Bardens, Birthdays, the Three Compasses, Tina We Salute You, The Farm Shop, Broadway Market etc Surely on balance things are better?

    1. Your suggestion that OPEN is against all development is very wide of the mark . Take for example our post "Dalston RIP? It's so not over!" of 13.1.13 which acclaims the growth of Dalston's small independent businesses. We laud those as positive examples of 'micro-regeneration' and Dalston's resurgence.They are well known locally, we all have our favourites, and they don't need this blog to help publicise them. On this blog we try to make local people aware of the big top-down 'Regeneration' schemes - like those by TfL, Taylor Wimpey, Rothas and Criterion - and the many damaging consequences and missed opportunities which they entail. They are £multi-million schemes, with massive PR resources, and the developers both offer financial inducements to the Council and make threats of appeals if rejected.We make no apology for oppposing such schemes.They have insufficient benefit to our community and, once made aware, local people object and oppose them in numbers - even if their views are routinely ignored. If you think there are better ways to combat or improve these schemes, then get involved. However your unwelcome suggestion, that if we don't like it then we should leave Dalston, is simply defeatist.

  4. The Kingsland Shooping centre is hardy a hub for independent shops at the moment anyway? KFC, Costa Coffe, Burtons, Holland&Barrett, JD sport, Three mobile, EE mobile, Carphone Wearhouse, Iceland, Superdrug, Specvavers, Sainsburys, Matalan...
    There's no reason why the independent traders in the hallway can't carry on their business in a new, better designed centre?

  5. There's a housing crisis in London. A look around at what's on offer at the moment shows a huge number of dilapidated properties at astronomical rents or prices. It won't get better until there is increase in the supply of housing. Not building at the top of market only pushes demand down the market anyway. Much of the existing market housing that was affordable is now unaffordable due to lack of building. Most of Dalston was once fields 150 years ago. I share some of the concerns about the quality of the developments but at the end day housing trumps all of them.

    1. I agee we desperately need more homes, but there is evidence that housebuilders are landbanking & drip feeding the market to keep prices high.They sell to cash rich investors who leave flats empty. They blame the plannning system for being unable to build but I suspect they just want free reign to do whatever they want. Its complex, but dont you think some control is needed in environmentally sensitive areas like Dalston?


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