Thursday, 1 January 2015

Dalston Terrace demolitions - why OPEN still disputes Hackney Planning Committee's decision

OPEN has appealed against a High Court Judge's ruling that he had no power to overturn Hackney giving planning permission to Murphy to demolish our Georgian houses of Dalston Terrace. It was not for him, the Judge said, to decide whether the decision last March was right or wrong.  In his opinion, "not without considerable sympathy for the approach of the objectors", there was no procedural or legal defect in Hackney's decision which could justify his intervention. So why has OPEN appealed?

Since the Court's judgement No 66 Dalston Lane, formerly 'Sound and Music', Murphy have refused to await OPEN's appeal. It has stripped the  Georgian windows and chimney pots, and the roof  tiles have been removed so letting the rain in,  ready for Murphy's Phase 1 demolition programme.

In 2012 Hackney’s consultant engineers had advised that the 17 Georgian houses could survive redevelopment into 44 flats, and demolition of the ground floor front walls to create open plan shops. The scheme was profit-led, to ensure it attracted the interest of a developer. In August 2012 Hackney granted itself planning permission but because it was to be described as a "conservation led" scheme, to meet planning policy requirements, the front facades of the houses had to be retained.

The entrance of  the old 'Sound and Music' shop, at 66 Dalston Lane and,  on the hoardings in front of it, a CGI image of the Hackney/Murphy 'heritage likeness' reproduction scheme .  No 66 is in Phase 1 of Murphy's demolition  scheme. 

In June 2013 the same consulting engineers, now employed by Murphy ( Hackney’s new development partner), produced a second report. It advised that the because all of the houses had had years of neglect, were badly built, with poor quality and delaminating bricks, and with walls which were bulging, dishing, and cracking, all the houses including the facades required complete demolition if the permitted scheme was to be implemented.

All of  the houses are planned for demolition over the next 18 months   

Hackney Council next commissioned consulting engineers Alan Baxter and Associates, to independently review Murphy's report. Here is how Alan Baxter, in October 2013, described No 66, the former "Sound and Music" shop (which  Murphy have now started demolishing).

Number 66 
Summary of façade form and condition 
Delamination of brickwork: Minor
Plumbness of wall: Generally appears plumb
Previous alterations: Large opening formed at ground floor level.
The parapet has been part rebuilt.
General degradation of timber: Some
Overall Condition: Average to Poor

So, contrary to Murphy's opinion, there is no major cracking or bulging walls, only minor delamination of brickwork, a rebuilt parapet and with alterations already made to create an open plan shop on the ground floor on No 66. As for the "weak" bricks, Alan Baxter advised “With regards to the brickwork strength argument, this is flawed. It is not appropriate to judge buildings of this age and type as if they are modern construction…. they can be expected to last indefinitely…… numbers 66 and 56-48 Dalston Lane ... have some potential to be repaired.”  (You can read the report on 66 and on 56-48 here)

The side walls of No 58 and 66 Dalston Lane ( the old Sound and Music shop, were propped by a steel frame after JON's Scooters and Pizzey's Flower Shop (60-64 Dalston Lane)  were burnt down whilst owned by an off-shore company. They were later demolished by Hackney.

A month after Hackney had received Alan Baxter's report, Hackney's Planning Department signed off Murphy'structural assessment and method statement for demolition of Dalston Terrace. The following month, December 2013, and although no planning permission had been granted for demolition of the facades, it authorised Murphy to commence complete demolition. Community outcry stopped the works.

So when the Council came to its Planning Committee in March 2014, on Murphy's application for total demolition, it had already made up its mind the previous December. It recommended demolition of everything and rejected the opinions of its own independent consultant Alan Baxter and the other experts, amenity societies and members of the public among the750 objectors to Muphy's planning application.

The Spitalfields Trust scheme would restore the 1807 houses as family homes and redevelop the remainder with a housing association to provide 24 affordable flats. ( What could be more in the public interest? Ed.)

There has been no sound explanation given to justify the complete demolition of all of the houses - and Hackney's Planning Committee gave no reasons. The Spitalfields Trust proposed a scheme last May which could be built without total demolition, restoring the 1807 houses and redeveloping the remainder to provide affordable housing, but Hackney have still failed to properly consider it and the public benefit arising from it.

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