Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Hackney's planners blight Dalston's Curve Garden and public realm

Last Wednesday 6th June Hackney's Planning Committee gave permission for the Curve Garden's new Big Bad Neighbour to be built on the Thames House site next door.


The development will be like a 30 metre high cliff running right along the Curve Garden's southern boundary, not only blocking out most of its morning and early afternoon sunshine, but dominating the open space and destroying its feeling of intimacy.  You'll see the plans reported previously here.


In granting permission the Committee also pulled the final curtain across the Council's long planned Eastern Curve pedestrian 'green' public walkway. Sunshine will now be almost completely blocked out for the entire length of the proposed new public realm which curves eastwards from the Peace Mural along the former railway line round towards Dalston Lane bridge where it once joined up with the North London overground line.



The decision will have a particularly devastating impact on the community's Curve Garden and the 130,000 visitors each year who enjoy the natural environment in a dense urban setting, find solace there and enjoy its diverse cultural events.  


School children, who have very little access to open green space locally, come to play in the sunshine and learn about plants in a secure and secluded environment. The space will now become overshadowed and overlooked. 


The designs for the  new Thames House redevelopment have also been criticised for its sub-standard accommodation - the  new affordable family homes have been pushed into the darkest corner of the site (Block C) where 75% of kitchens,45% of bedrooms and 31% of living rooms will fail to meet BRE standards for natural light. Also contrary to planning policy, there will be no common amenity areas for the private residents and office workers.The cramped and overcast open spaces are said to be for "access only".


Strong objections were made to the Committee by Dalston Ward Councillors Soraya Adejare and Peter Snell as well as an impassioned plea from the Curve Garden's Marie Murray. Bill Parry-Davies, for OPEN, referred to the clear breaches of the Dalston Area Action Plan and the Council's recent Appraisal which warned that the greatest threat to the Conservation Area's character and numerous local heritage assets was from "large scale redevelopment" of precisely this type.


Planning Committee Chair Vincent Stops celebrating Hackney's "regeneration"

Such was the Committee Chair, Vincent Stops's, enthusiasm  for the scheme that he proposed the Committee move to discussion and vote as soon as the objectors' allotted 5 minutes was completed. He had to check himself when realising that, in his "excitement", he had not thought it necessary to invite the developer's agent to justify its proposals. The Committee voted 5:1 to rubber stamp its planning officer's recommendation to approve the Thames House re-development scheme.



Despite the hundreds who have recently expressed their concern for the Curve Garden to the Council's planners it all seemed, once again, that the public's opinion - and even objections from our elected representatives - carried very little if any weight. Criticisms had been made of the planned development from the outset, but little was changed. Those criticisms were repeated again and amplified when the application was formally published and again when put to the Committee for approval.


The Eastern Curve public realm

Hackney's planned Eastern Curve public realm started life as a proposed "linear park" in the draft Dalston Area Action Plan (DAAP). That received public support but, after the consultation closed, the Council changed the proposal to a hard surfaced "shopping circuit", linking Dalston Square to a proposed re-developed Kingsland Shopping Centre, with "some"green spaces. Despite OPEN's objections to the loss of bio-diversity, and the lack of evidence that a 'retail led' plan was viable, the government inspector approved the amended DAAP in October 2012.


The Eastern Curve planned new public realm started to take on its cliff like form when the 14-storey Kinetica Apartments tower obtained planning approval in 2007.


Next to it came the 8-storey Point1 Apartments in 2008


Finally, after the slow recovery following the 2009 banking crash, came Martel Place with its token  "public space" in a north facing canyon where the sum rarely touches the ground. The Thames House redevelopment will pull the final curtain across the Council's Eastern Curve public walkway and block out the remaining sunshine except at the very end of the day in summer.

The future of the Curve Garden

The damage to the Curve Garden's setting, and indeed its survival, will be compounded by new risks arriving with the Council's latest plans to "regenerate" the Dalston "Cultural Quarter". Hackney bought  the bomb damaged  1-7 Ashwin Street (Site 2), and the buildings and land bounding the Curve Garden's entrance, in 2009. It reported that its "masterplan has identified the need to regenerate the north side of Dalston Lane and Ashwin Street as a natural progression of the ongoing development to the south with Dalston Square” ( It didn't explain what was "natural" about the Dalston Square  development. Ed.)

In 2010 it then demolished the charming old houses at 2-8 Ashwin Street, without a full structural survey to investigate their potential for retention, to create another redevelopment site. Both sites, and 10-16 Ashwin Street  which has been occupied for decades as affordable cultural workspace, and an unidentified area of the Curve Garden's land,(all within Site 3) are now included in Hackney's plans for sale to a "private development partner" on terms which  will "maximise capital value and rental revenue for the Council". The Council will shortly unveil plans for a new public consultation on these proposals.



In September 2006 "The story that was never told"was published here. It described the authorities plans for demolition and "regeneration" of the south side of Dalston Lane. The story concluded with a prediction : "the authorities have already started work on Dalston Lane North. The planned destruction of historic Dalston is almost complete. The writing is on the wall." Since then we have witnessed the Council subsidising private developers to destroy the Dalston Colosseum, the  Dalston Lane Georgian terrace and the demolition or blighting of listed and locally listed buildings by TfL/Taylor Wimpey's developments to the north of Dalston Lane



The Dalston Cultural Quarter contains the last remnants of Dalston's architectural and cultural heritage and is now up for grabs. The Curve Garden, affordable cultural workspace and affordable housing are all at risk..

This short film gives a Dalston background story and an explanation of why the character, cultural uses and affordability of the area is again under threat from "regeneration

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Shiloh Pentecostal Church are offering Dalston a MASSIVE treat!!

Next Sunday 3rd June stars from the  London Community Gospel Choir  will be performing at the  Shiloh Pentecostal Church, Ashwin Street Dalston. Pastor Francis Lewis will open its doors at 6.30pm and inviting everyone in our local community, of all faiths and none, to share this massive treat. This event begins at 7pm and will be unmissable! It is part of the DalstonArts150 events celebrating Dalston's 150th anniversary of its association with the arts

Pastor Lewis, and musical director Jonathan Tuitt, have assembled some the finest stars of UK gospel music who will be performing a Night of Praise. The London Community Gospel Choir  travel the world enthralling audiences with their vibrancy, passion and the beauty of their music




Also performing will be Howie Hutchinson, born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1969, and who from an early age was said to have been created by God to sing. They were right! He is now a hugely popular reggae star





Also performing is Hackney's very own singing star Shezar - a young woman who is deservedly attracting more and more attention!

This will be an unforgettable evening as part of DalstonArts150 events celebrating the 150th anniversary of Dalston's association with the arts.  And if you arrive in good time then pop into the Printhouse at 18 Ashwin Street to see the DalstonArts150 exhibition. It tells the story about Dalston's diverse cultural and architectural heritage and is open from 3-9pm over the weekend




Thursday, 24 May 2018

DalstonArts150 is kicking off. Unmissable!

2018 is the 150th anniversary of  Dalston's association with the arts. It all started in 1868 with the building of Reeves and Sons Artists Colour Works factory in Ashwin Street. The local community is organising a number of cultural events over the year to celebrate this. And now they're starting to kick off

This short film gives a Dalston background story and an explanation of why the character, cultural uses and affordability of the area is again under threat from "regeneration

On Saturday 2th June there's an exhibition opening about Dalston's cultural and architectural heritage and the battles to preserve it over recent years. The exhibition is hosted by the Bootstrap Company in the Reeves and Sons  Printhouse Gallery,18-22 Ashwin Street E8 from Saturday 2nd June until Saturday 9th June. You can visit between   9am to 11pm on weekdays (until 4pm only on Monday Tuesday and Wednesdays and from 3pm on weekends). There will be several films, maps and photographs ancient to modern, campaigner's literature, artists artifacts, contemporary art works and  lots more. Unmissable!


An invitation from Pastor Francis Lewis of Shiloh Pentecostal Church to visit this historic building and to hear their fabulous Gospel Choir arranged by its musical director, and drummer, Jonathan Tuitt.

Don't miss this! On Sunday 3rd June at 6.30pm the doors of the 1871 Shiloh Pentecostal Church will open to welcome everyone, of all faiths and none, to see inside one of Dalston's best preserved heritage buildings and to hear, starting at 7pm, one of London's finest and vibrant Gospel Choirs lift their voices to the heavens.


In the Eastern Curve Garden you can pick up the beautifully designed and illustrated DalstonArts150 Heritage Trail map which will guide you around local places and tell some of their stories (And secrets. Ed.). And if you'd like a personally guided walk lead by local sage Sean Gubbins, email him on sean@walkhackney.co.uk. His affordable tour will begin outside Reeves and Sons  Printhouse Ashwin Street at 1pm on Saturday 2 June.

Other events coming soon will include local artists' open studios, an arts and crafts makers fayre and, hosted by Cafe Oto, there will be special film and music events including a screening of "Legacy in the dust - the Four Aces story" and an attempt on the world record for the longest continuous performance of improvised music. The attempt will need everyone locally, of all ages and abilities, who can sing, play, pluck, strum, bow, strike, blow or tickle anything resembling a musical instrument to bring it to to the event. More details of the events will follow as they emerge.



 

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Gillett Square plans - co-operative development or gentrification?

Hackney Co-Operative Developments, which owns and converted the 3-10 Bradbury Street terrace of houses to affordable commercial uses, and manages Gillett Square, has made a planning application to develop the terrace. All of its tenants  ( except the shops) will have to vacate elsewhere whilst the development takes place.


An artist's impression of the back of the Bradbury Street terrace overlooking Gillett Square, after the development 

The plans include constructing an additional 4th storey along the terrace and extending the rear elevation of the terrace further into the Gillett Square and encasing it within polycarbonate plastic and steel cladding. You can access  the HCD planning drawings and reports using application number 2018/0792 here The public consultation officially closes on 7th May. If there are numerous objections the application will need to be decided by Hackney's Planning Committee  in due course and not just its Head of Planning. You can comment on the application here or by sending an email quoting reference 2018/0792 to  planning@hackney.gov.uk 



Architect's drawing of Gillett Square presently

The proposal has attracted controversy.The  exterior walkways,  and award-winning "market-pods" which  provide affordable and start-up business space, will be removed despite having won widespread acclaim and which do so much to animate the square. The new exterior finish will be one more characteristic of a glossy corporate headquarters rather than affordable work spaces for local people. Hackney Co-Operative Developments (HCD) hope to build replacement pods on the other side of the square.


Architect's drawing of Gillett Square after development 

HCD has been revealed not to be the model landlord one might have expected. Very few of its tenants have security of tenure and will simply be evicted if they don't accept HCDs terms for vacating. Although the development will be part-funded by public money from the GLA, HCD has refused to publish its financial viability projections for this costly scheme which  produces relatively little new lettable space to justify the expense.  To pay for the scheme rent rises in the future look likely . A joint letter from interested parties last October, urging  HCD to adopt a more inclusive approach, was rejected.


Architect's drawing of  the Bradbury Street front elevations showing the new 4th storey with pitched roof on top. 

HCDs historic terrace  is mirrored by a terrace of similar scale and period on the south side of  Bradbury Street. HCD's heritage consultants comment that "The view along Bradbury Street is deemed an important View within the [Dalston] Conservation Area....[the terrace]possess aesthetic value and make a positive contribution to the Conservation Area." 


Bradbury Street looking west lined with the historic Victorian terraces. the terrace to be developed is on the north/right side of the picture

The Dalston Conservation Area Advisory Committee, which is composed of independent  local architects and heritage experts, has commented on HCD's scheme "The proposed building is too large and too high. The volume is overbearing on the Gillett Square side, but also detracts from the collection of buildings of Townscape Merit on Bradbury Street. The dominant pitched form of the roof extension is inappropriate in the predominantly Victorian context and would damage the quality and character of the conservation area."   Despite the damage which the scheme would cause to the heritage value of Bradbury Street, HCD's consultants (somehow) conclude that  the scheme will "will preserve and enhance Bradbury Street." 


A computer modelled image of annual average overshadowing of the Gillett Square public space. 

Although the public open space of Gillett Square will still meet official BRE guidelines for a minimum  annual average of 2 hours sunlight over 50% of its area, the new development will reduce that area by about 18%. Then, when the north side of Gillett Square is finally developed, the area of sunlit public open space will be reduced further.


An Alternative Scheme 

Here is  a more modest alternative proposal for increasing affordable workspace by creating a simple mansard roof along the terrace. Without the high pitched roof  which HCD proposes, a mansard  would not dominate either Bradbury Street or Gillett Square. Neither would it involve spending valuable funds enclosing the building in plastic to create "break out spaces" which generate no additional rental income to pay for the scheme. This alternative  would also leave the  outdoor "market pods" in place, and the open walkways which add to the square's vitality. The alternative scheme would still generate sufficient income, from the new 4th story workspaces, to enable all the terraces facilities to be upgraded to contemporary standards. So what's wrong with that? HCD hasn't yet adequately explained its reasons for rejecting this alternative option.

You can access  the HCD planning drawings and reports using application number 2018/0792 here. The public consultation officially closes on 7th May. If there are numerous objections, and numbers do count, the application will need to be considered by Hackney's Planning Committee in due course You can comment on the application here or by sending an email quoting reference 2018/0792 to  planning@hackney.gov.uk 



Thursday, 26 April 2018

Celebrating Dalston's 150 years of association with the arts

2018 is the 150th anniversary of Dalston's association with the arts. Here's a new 10 minute film which tells the story of our architectural and cultural heritage from 1868 to 2018 and the risks which it is now facing.


There's a call going out to all those who want to contribute to the celebrations of this anniversary - all contributions will be welcomed. Get in touch through DalstonArts150 via twitter, instagram or facebook

There's everything to celebrate, to protect and to conserve for future generations!

Monday, 19 February 2018

Eastern Curve Garden's big bad neighbour is back!

You may recall the outcry last spring about a big bad development which would cast our community Eastern Curve Garden into shade. We wrote about it here. The planning application was later withdrawn but, after some minor design changes, it is now very much alive again.


This image is of the Thames House site at 4 Hartwell Street  as proposed in 2017. This view is looking north from Dalston Square, with the Eastern Curve Garden partially obscured from the view, and from the sun, behind the planned new tall buildings

The original application for re-development was for 3 blocks of 9 storeys, 8 storeys and 4 storeys containing 39 flats and 4,209m2 of commercial floor space. Now the two tallest block have been reduced by one storey each to 8 and 7 storeys to make them "policy compliant". The Dalston Area Action Plan (page 32) envisages six-storey buildings for this site "punctuated by taller building elements where appropriate" not exceeding 8 storeys. 


This image shows the newly amended plans Thames House scheme. This view is looking south, with the Eastern Curve Garden in the foreground. The planned buildings will block sunshine from the east and south to the Garden. A proportion of the new homes within the densely packed development will also be below standards for natural light. 



This computer modelled image shows the average annual shadows which will be cast at 10am by the new Thames House development (shown in blue). 




In winter months, when the sun is lower in the sky, the Garden will get very little sunlight  during the day at all.

The developer says the one-storey height reductions will "minimise the impact on the Eastern Curve Garden". It will not. The new buildings will be so tall that the shadows will extend way beyond the Garden.The Council's own consultants, BRE, predicted that, under the 2017 scheme, the Garden could still receive, on average over the year, at least 2 hours sunlight a day over 78% of its area  With the new 2018 building height reductions, the BRE now predict that that area will increase by only 1.7% to 79.7%.

With 75% of Hackney children living in flats without gardens, and a desperate shortage of green space locally, the Garden meets a special public need. Sunlight is so important to the childrens' play space as well as to the Garden's horticultural and cultural activities. Beware - we know from experience that  the Council does not value sunlight for our kids! It could well recommend that the overshadowing is acceptable because the BRE's guidelines for open space requires only a yearly minimum average of 2 hours sunlight over 50% of open space.



Click this link to watch the video showing the overshadowing effect on the Garden before and after the development (shown as yellow) is built. It has been made by local architects based on the developer's own site modelling 

The new blocks will be stacked up so tightly into the Thames House site itself that, in the low rise block which has the social rented family homes, 75% of kitchens, 45% of the bedrooms, 20% of the living rooms would fail to meet the BRE minimum guidelines for internal natural light. The developers claim that the sub-standard natural light to its new dwellings are because neighbouring Springfield House is so tall and built right on its boundary, such that it is a "bad neighbour".



With Springfield House on the left, this view is of the Thames House development, as it will appear from the Matalan car park.  lt will infill the final vacant air space and block out the remaining sunlight along the Eastern Curve public footpath. 

The Thames House development is itself a "bad neighbour" to the Eastern Curve Garden, because the two tallest blocks will still extend like a cliff right along the Garden's southern boundary and are predicted to obstruct most of its existing morning and significant afternoon sunlight, making it colder and damp.

The BRE does not comment on the open spaces within the Thames House site itself, but its shadow plots illustrate that they rarely receive any direct sunlight and so they will also be cold, damp and gloomy too. All these factors indicate over development of the site.


In other respects Hackney have insisted that the development should meet policy requirements - for example the site is within the local "employment priority area" and 3,968sqm (51%) will be for office space (Although only 10% of it will be "affordable". Ed.) and, of the 36 new flats, 7 flats will be for "affordable" sale  and 11 for "affordable" rent ( But probably not affordable to local residents on average incomes. Ed.). The developer has also claimed  its designs respond to the extended conservation area by using decorative features like green glazed and stock brick cladding and decorative metal panels (But will they actually appear on the finished buildings? Elsewhere locally approved decorative panels have later been replaced by bland brickwork  Ed.).

The  Garden is presently designated as a temporary amenity with future use of its land for a pedestrian "shopping circuit" along the Eastern Curve linking Dalston Lane with a planned redevelopment of Kingsland Shopping Centre. But even as a public thoroughfare, with ( hopefully) planned green areas and kids play areas, the open space will need adequate sunlight. 


This illustration shows how, by comprehensive planning with adjoining landowners, pedestrian movement within the area could be improved without the need to use the Garden land as a thoroughfare. 

The Thames House development, as presently designed, will also add to the overshadowed gloom of the Eastern Curve footway which extends beyond the Garden round to Dalston Lane. All of it has already been blighted, by the curtain effect of the towers of Kinetica, Point One Apartments and Martel Place through which sunlight rarely penetrates.( The Eastern Curve is Hackney's much trumpeted planned new "green lung" ! Mushroom farms anyone? Ed.)


The Eastern Curve public walkway, extending from beyond the Garden around to Dalston Lane, is already cold and gloomy with very little sunlight and with accelerated winds due to the effect of the towers.

The developer has acknowledged that in earlier consultation events the key public concerns, whilst welcoming the high proportion of "affordable" housing,  were the negative impact on the Eastern Curve Garden, the height and density of the scheme and the poor natural light to many flats. These concerns have not been mitigated by any significant changes to the design of the Thames House development. The public's concerns have been ignored in favour of maximising the development potential of the site.

You can find the Thames House planning application and documents under reference 2017/0320 and comment on-line there. You can read OPEN's objections to the amended 2018 Thames House scheme here. You can also make your views known to Hackney by email to planning@hackney.gov.uk with reference 2017/0320 in the Subject line. (Numbers count so even a short objection can make a difference. Ed.).

The public consultation officially closes on 5th March, so don't delay. However, until the Planning Committee's decision is made, it's never too late. All public comments received by the planners must be reported to Hackney's planning committee prior to it making a decision.