Dalston Western Curve - Notes of meeting on 12.5.24
David Pelle – Taylor Wimpey (TW),
Sebastian Balcombe - TW,
Chris Tapp – RMA Architects (RMA),
Alister Henderson – Planning Perspectives,
Liza Fior – MUFF Architects & Art;
Kirsty Norman – Kingsland CAAC (Conservation Area Advisory Committee),
Caomimhe McQueen – local resident,
Fiona Darbyshire – Kingsland CAAC,
Shaun Russell - Architect,
Hedy Parry-Davies - Architect & Dalston CAAC,
Colin Jones – local resident,
Adam Hart – Hackney CoOperative Developments,
Bernard Tulkens – Architect & Dalston CAAC,
Ray Blackburn – Dalston CAAC,
Anthony Darbyshire - Landscape Architect,
Victoria Perry – Architect & Urban Design consultant,
Brian Cumming – OPEN & Designer,
Bill Parry-Davies – OPEN & Solicitor,
Apologies received from Lord and Lady Low and Marie Murray
BPD introduced the meeting which he had convened to discuss land use and designs prepared by RMA Architects on behalf of the TfL/TW joint venture for development of two vacant sites within the Western Curve.
BPD was grateful to the TW/TfL team for their after-hours attendance and to the Eastern Curve Garden for hosting the meeting.
BPD made reference to the Council’s 2009 Western Curve Design Guidance, the DAAP, the particular construction constraints affecting parts of the sites above tunnels , the presence of local historic assets and the deficiency in open & green space locally.
DP outlined the background of TWs involvement with TfL, the sites which they proposed to develop, the limited development potential of the covered tunnels ( Sites D1 & D2) and that TW had no remit for site D1 owned by TfL and the vacant sites on south side of Shiloh Church and 2-8 Ashwin Street which were owned by Hackney Council.
CT of RMA outlined their analysis of the local built environment, explained the thinking behind the design approach to the sites and showed designs prepared to date.
LF outlined the work which she had undertaken locally (Making Space in Dalston) and emphasised the opportunities to improve public realm locally and the importance of creating new green spaces.
Discussion followed and various observations were made by individuals. These notes briefly record those observations, and subsequent comments, by the community members present. They do not necessarily reflect the views of OPEN Dalston’s membership.
- The northern and southern parts of the western curve sites contain a number of sites which were demolished by TfL to enable renewal of the Western Curve rail tunnels. TW/TfL propose to now develop some of these but not others, with no indication of future uses for the latter (eg 1 – 3 Dalston Lane and the north west extension of Boleyn Rd site). Furthermore no proposals have been brought forward for the vacant sites owned by Hackney Council (1 – 7 & 2 – 8 Ashwin Street). A comprehensive, rather than piecemeal approach,is required to ensure that local needs, including public realm requirements, will be met from the total number of sites available.
- The relationship with the public realm appears to have had insufficient attention and requires further work. These sites play a crucial part in linking all of North and North West Hackney to the public transport links at Dalston and their relationship with the rest of the urban environment is critical.
- The treatment of the junctions/public realm at Boleyn Road and Abbott street with Kingsland High Road was key to attracting and encouraging new pedestrian routes ( Examples are Kingsland Green adjacent to Barclays and John Campbell Rd. adjacent to Rio as good models)
- There is concern that the proposed schemes’ excessive commerciality, which maximizes building mass, has so far militated against an adequate contribution to quality urban and public realm design
- There is presently no provision for public realm/open green space in the scheme. A holistic/comprehensive approach is required to include consideration of other vacant sites.
- TfL as landowner ought to be more involved and visible, with its development partner, and its apparent disinterest and lack of proposals for all the sites affected by the London Overground project i.e. to fully restore the urban fabric and to provide opportunities for enhancing green space in a borough where there is so little, would colour the communities view of any planning applications coming forward.
- DP acknowledged that as a joint venture partner of TfL he had direct connections with relevant TfL personnel. DP confirmed that he is in discussion with TfL regarding the provison of public realm and open green space, following previous discussions with BPD and CMcQ, but stated that TfL’s decision making process is very slow. It was disappointing that , as landowner, TfL were not present at the meeting. Consideration should be given to postponement of any planning application until an appropriate comprehensive scheme for all TfL sites is worked up.
- Whilst TW/TfL consideration of ‘meanwhile’ uses for vacant sites pending development is welcomed there is a need for permanent open green spaces
- More detailed consideration should be given at this stage, as part of a comprehensive Town Centre plan, to identify Crossrail 2 (Chelsea/Hackney tube) requirements even if only as a safeguarded site. Increasing interest in Crossrail 2 was noted at policy level nationally.
- The buildings’ mass/heights proposed are considered generally to be somewhat overscale
- There is to be only 15-20% affordable housing, well below policy target (50%), although DP indicated that the social/intermediate mix of affordable housing would be policy compliant (70/30).
- The uniformity of design across both development sites was regrettable, some variation of typology would create more interest. Some felt the designs are somewhat be “bland”, “boring”, “grey and rather grim”, “monolithic”.
- Detailing and brickwork should be high quality both in choice and execution and lighter than shown in the illustrations. For an excellent simple treatment precedent see the new social housing in Riversdale road, on corner of Green lanes N4
- Note: The Dalston Western Curve Planning and Design Guidance:3.53 Street Rhythm
- Apart from the scale of the buildings’ the materials palette is otherwise compatible with the historic buildings affected.
- In the current economic climate commercial/retail units could lie vacant for years. DP acknowledged this possibility, commenting upon the disappointing take up of commercial units in Dalston Square. One consideration would to increase conventional ground floor retail ceiling heights to accommodate a greater variety of uses eg indoor markets.
- ‘Meanwhile’ uses of retail units should be encouraged to avoid blight.
The Northern site (Kingsland Rd/Boleyn Rd)
- The buildings, particularly height, seemed overscale. The Boleyn Rd/High street junction is acknowledged by RMA not to be a landmark site but 6-8 storeys fronting the high street would dominate the surrounding, including itslisted, buildings. It was noted that a similar scheme for an 6- 8 storey building fronting onto Kingsland High Street as part of the Dalston Green Development was vociferously opposed by OPEN Dalston and unanimously rejected by Hackney Planning Committee.
- The proposed development would take afternoon and evening light from the northern part of the site, particularly the area covered above the tunnel which has the least commercial development potential and which therefore presents an opportunity of public amenity green open space.
- There would be imbalance with the buildings on the south and west side of Boleyn Road( 2-4 storeys).
- Uniform height of new buildings was not necessarily desirable and deeper setbacks of upper floors could achieve adequate quantum of development compatible with surroundings.
- It would be possible to make something more of the backlands on Boleyn Rd, which lends itself to small scale, housing and/or commercial.
- The very tall, sharp corner of the building is an example of over-building and excessive height. Could have much more interesting windows (oriel) on the corner so that people could look down the High Street.
- Regard should be had to the fact that although there has been an influx into Dalston of younger people nevertheless the public realm is intensively used by all age groups including mothers with children and the elderly
The Southern site (Kingsland Rd/Ashwin St)
- The Kingsland Rd/Ashwin Street building as designed would enclose and conceal the attractive elevations of the Rowney’s Printhouse/Colourworks buildings which are presently fully visible from the High Street.
- The lack of increased east/west permeability will be a missed potential opportunity.
- The busy High Street pavement with its bus stops, on the west side of the Ashwin Street building, is very narrow. It presents difficulties for successful active retail shop frontages. Consideration should be given to widen it or set back the new building.The Dalston Western Curve Planning and Design Guide requires pavements at least 4m wide. There was a further suggestion that a colonnade could be designed to run under the Kingsland Rd frontage.
- The height of the building at the north end would mean that the approach along Abbot Street would be narrow and unattractive, presenting a blind corner which could seem quite threatening at night, and would give no indication of the activity further round Ashwin Street at Arcola Theatre, Café Oto and Bootstrap.
- The height generally will take afternoon and evening light from Ashwin Street and make it much less attractive than presently.
- There was emphasis on the current success of “vibrant” Ashwin Street, and the desire to attract a similar clientele, without any clear understanding of the dynamics of how that came about. Bootstrap Company, Café Oto and Arcola Theatre were established as social and not purely commercial enterprises. The new units are expected to go out a commercial rent, perhaps changing the character of the area.
- Proposed retail units facing Ashwin Street are not naturally compatible with current creative/arts uses in Ashwin Street. More compatible uses would contribute to Ashwin Streets existing offer.
- Residents looking down into Ashwin Street may well object to the nigh time noise and possible noise from the well used Shiloh Church. Residents may buy in and only later find that the noise level is unpleasant, and put the Council under pressure to change opening hours. Distances between the flats and the theatre/bars are tight, and the street is enclosed, amplifying sound. Design needs to help mitigate potential clashes.
Relationship between the northern and southern sites.
The design as proposed misses a valuable opportunity to foster east-west links across Kingsland Road, encourage the use of Ashwin Street as a pedestrian/cycle route to the railway network and the potential to create two distinctive restaurant/bar commercial units at ground level.
• By setting back the façade from the site perimeter and providing curvature to the northern elevation of the Ashwin Street building, and giving similar treatment to the southern elevation of the Bolyen Road building, the two junctions start to be brought into alignment(see attached sketch).
• Setting back the façade from the site perimeter at these points also gives more public space just off the congested main road and provides an opportunity to create attractive ground floor units with outdoor space that would work well as café/ bars/ restaurants. The Peabody Trust flats and café/bar on nearby Newington Green/Leconfield Road (Rivington Street Studio Architects) is a good example of a curved design which helps ‘turn a corner’ in architecture and urban design terms and also provides well used commercial space just off a busy junction).
• Setting back the façade at these points would help to make the junctions and crossing a more inviting - and safer - route. It would also allow glimpses of the warehouse building in Ashwin Street to be retained from the high street, provide greater visibility of what is ahead and, by creating ‘an entrance’, encourage pedestrians and cyclists off the congested intersection of the High Street and Balls Pond Road down through Ashwin Street.
• The set back and use of trees and ground floor café/bars on the Boleyn Road and Ashwin Street entrances, with additional green space on route,could then contribute to a green pedestrian/cycle route, from Dalston Lane towards north west Hackney/Stoke Newington, as part of a strategic green route from London Fields through Dalston Town Centre to Butterfield Green and Clissold Park. This could then provide a pleasant route both for commuters and for leisure activities.
BPD May 2012