Monday, 17 July 2006

One man, two votes: Hackney Planning Committee votes for demolition and towerblocks

On 13 July Hackney Council’s Planning Committee, in the presence of numerous local people and groups of objectors, was divided on whether to grant planning permission to the London Development Agency to demolish Dalston’s historic buildings and build a 19-storey tower and other blocks on the site.
The Committee were faced with a decision to demolish all or none of the historic buildings but no option to retain any of them although the need to consider alternative options had been pointed out to the Council by their own independent environmental consultants, White Young Green, who reported on 1 June that “a more detailed analysis of the alternative development schemes considered for this site would be helpful in justifying the choice based on a range of environmental and socio-economic reasons”. Independent planning and heritage consultants, Prometheus, had undertaken an assessment at OPEN's suggestion and written to the Council demonstrating their financial viability. The Council officers did not refer the Committee to this assessment.
The Chair of the Committee withdrew prior to the debate, having previously expressed objections to transport aspects of the scheme and the LDA’s “tired old arguments”. The Vice-Chair, Darren Parker, chaired the Committee. He is an employee of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) which stated that it was "very supportive of the scheme” (although it is not known what alternatives CABE considered). Councillor Parker voted in favour, and then used his second casting vote to obtain a majority in favour.
CABE’s support was subject to two caveats. To ensure the success of the scheme arrangements for the management and maintenance of the housing and open space must be secured and the architects needed to be retained through to completion to ensure the quality of detailing and the finishes. The Committee reserved its position on the open space only.

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