OPEN Dalston readers will remember the outcry back in 2013 when Hackney gave planning permission for huge blocks containing 120 flats on the corner of Dalston Lane and Martell Place. Now the wraps are coming off as the new development nears completion.
The community's objections in 2013 weren't just that only 15 of the 120 flats would be for affordable rent ( a derisory 12% when the target at the time was 50%), or that existing affordable workspace for 60 artists and two businesses would be lost, or that Hackney was selling the developer our neighbouring green space which had been earmarked for a playground.
Without any local safe playground, Dalston's older kids are forced to play on the street and skateboard on the station's underused bus turnaround
There were 136 letters from objectors, who included our local Councillors, and a petition. Local residents, with their kids, attended the Planning Committee to object in person. All objectors agreed that that the blocks of 5-10 storeys amounted to overdevelopment of a site which had been designated for 4-6 storeys in the Dalston Area Action Plan. What had been described as a "corner site" was now claimed to be a "landmark site".
"It would form an inpenetrable cliff along the Eastern Curve" our Dalston Conservation Advisory Committee said "Its' sheer size will have an adverse impact on the neighbouring Conservation Areas."
The new blocks under construction. Although the ground floors are of conventional concrete construction, all the upper floors structures are made entirely from cross-laminated timber
At the meeting Planning Committee members' concerns about the overall size of the scheme were allayed when samples of the proposed facade cladding - multicoloured glass reinforced concrete panels - were passed around. The design and effect of the ornamental panels, the Committee were advised, would make the blocks appear smaller rather than overscale and monolithic. This advice was reinforced with a picture of the artist Bridget Riley and of her brilliant op-art images. Planning permission was granted
"Ornament (pattern) becomes a pervasive surface condition, the variation of which here, are based on an intensity of pixellization" - Waugh Thistleton, Architects
But now the are wraps coming off we can see that the new blocks aren't faced with multicoloured glass panels at all.
The new blocks are faced with brick. And the blocks look huge, looming over Dalston Lane and the neighbouring Conservation Area
Cross-laminated timber ( multiple layers of wood bonded with plastic resin) has been used to construct the blocks. It is said to be far more sustainable than building in concrete, which produces 1 tonne of CO2 for every 1 tonne of concrete. Plus the units are factory manufactured and delivered, like flat-pack IKEA boxes, for quick assembly on site. But these contruction savings don't seem to have made affordable rental flats more viable, with only 15 planned out of 120 flats (12%). Nor can cross-laminated timber, unlike solid timber, be recycled. This has led to some controversial exchanges with the Chair of Hackney's Planning Committee, Vincent Stops.
(Note: The original planning permission required Hackney to seek the views of the Hackney Design Review Panel regarding final external finishes, but this was not done when Hackney agreed to substitute brick finishes on the basis that “Drawing upon a warehouse and factory building typology…the brick is in keeping with the character of adjacent conservation areas” Ed.)