In 2002 Hackney Council faced a £70million debt and its Chief Executive ordered the sale of all surplus assets. It flooded the market with the community's "family silver". This included the auction of 16 Georgian houses at 60-76 Dalston Lane which, despite the Council's policy to offer them first to the existing business tenants, were sold for £1.8million as one lot to an off-shore company. A similar sell off had happened in Broadway Market, to a related off-shore company, where the tenants also lost out.
The new owners wanted to demolish and redevelop the site, but English Heritage, and later a government inspector, found the houses to be "remarkable suvivors of Georgian architecture". Permission to demolish the houses was refused.
The Council had been running down, emptying and boarding up the houses for years. Since their sale the destruction has continued. Between the time of the auction and the planning decision, three of the houses burnt down. Of the 16 businesses originally transferred to the Council by the GLC in 1982, only four now remained in occupation. The houses, the local economy and the environment were being destroyed.
In January 2005 Hackney Council declared the terrace part of a conservation area . "The future is looking very good for businesses and residents" claimed Guy Nicholson, Hackney Council's Cabinet member for regeneration, "We're keen conservation areas are used to bring buildings back into use and create improvements to the built environment"
But since then another of the houses has burnt down and two more of the businesses have been evicted. There have been 8 major fires in Dalston in the last 2 years, all affecting buildings subject to redevelopment plans, including the Council's former housing office in Roseberry Place.
Following a Council inquiry into its mass property sell offs, the Council agreed in March 2006 to begin work immediately to asses the use of enforcement and compulsory purchase powers to regenerate the houses. Nothing has happended since then despite the fine words - except further deliberate damage which has destabilised two more of the houses. A cloud of suspicion hangs over Dalston Lane.