Thursday 22 February 2007

Hackney rips the heart out of Dalston

How it was - despite the years of deliberate neglect by Hackney Council, the buildings had survived: the pair of 1820's Georgian houses, the original 1886 circus entrance, the 1898 Theatre Entrance in front of it (aka The Four Aces Club) and the Dalston Theatre behind (aka The Labyrinth).

"There is absolutely no doubt, based on my experience, that (these buildings) can be satisfactorily brought back to a situation where they can be reused. My experience suggests that repair will not be excessively expensive."
Brian A Morton MBE C.Eng MICE Dip Conservation(AA) IHBC Structural Engineer to Canterbury and Bury St Edmunds Cathedrals and the Spitalfields Trust

How it could have been - restored as part of a new housing and railway station development.

"[These buildings] represent the heart and soul of Dalston. We believe they represent both the past and the future of Dalston’s prosperity. We want to see them restored so that we can show our grandchildren how Dalston used to be and so they can share our pride in our heritage and identity."
Ridley Road Market Traders Association

How it is today - destroyed by Hackney Council with the approval and agreement of Transport for London, the Greater London Authority and the Secretary of State.

The Philistines
Noun: the natives or inhabitants of ancient Philistia
Adjective: those who pursue only material gain and who place no value on beauty, culture or artistic creations;
Philistinism: the vandalism of our heritage and culture as justified by institutional policy.

How did this happen ? See the posting "The story that was never told".

Wednesday 14 February 2007

Hackney destroys its local listed buildings

The destruction of the Dalston Theatre continues. The rear of the original circus entrance, with its 1886 arch under which elephants may have passed to enter the circus ring, has now been revealed. The Theatres Trust advised that this 1886 entrance is “important both architecturally and historically...actually very rare because it pre-dates all of the surviving British examples”. But the Theatres Trust letter of objection was not shown to the Planning Committee and the Council’s report advised that these buildings are “ not of such merit architecturally or from the point of view of historic interest to warrant retention”.
Now the Council’s contractors have also ripped the back off 10 Dalston Lane, one of the earliest surviving Georgian buildings in Dalston Lane, and which is "locally listed". The Council's policy is to "retain and enhance" such locally listed buildings. The Council’s most recent policy statement, in September 2005, claimed “Most buildings in Hackney are not listed but many are of group value and have particular historical associations or are cherished local landmarks. The Council is committed to keeping such buildings wherever possible and views them as an asset for regeneration and for their relevance to diverse local communities”. However the Council did not consider the possibility of retaining any of these buildings as part of the new development.

Wednesday 7 February 2007

The destruction of Dalston Theatre has begun

"We are championing the historic environment and using the Borough’s heritage as a key component of economic regeneration... " Hackney Council, September 2005

Independant environmental consultants, White Young Green, advised the Council "...given the strength of local public feeling towards the site, the nature of the development and the loss of the theatre building in particular...a more detailed analysis of alternative development schemes considered for this site would be helpful...". The Council did not consider any alternative to demolishing these buildings.

English Heritage commented in June 2005 " of the site have a strong historic character...These should be retained where possible and used positively to inform new patterns of development and reinforce the areas character and identity..". The Council officer's report to the Hackney Committee said that English Heritage had not commented.

Ken Livingstone's London Plan prescribes 50% affordable housing in new developments. Hackney Council's Planning Brief for the site prescribed 50% affordable housing and a maximum of 12-15 storeys. The new developments here will have only 24% affordable housing, towerblocks of up to 20 storeys and with families with children living up to the top floor.

The Council's property consultants, Drivers Jonas, stated that "Throughout the project it has been the intention of the client group (ie the landowners Hackney Council and Transport for London) that any land value arising from the Dalston Lane south proposals would contribute to the extraordinary costs of construction of the slab". In other words,they had decided before the public consultation started that Dalston's heritage buildings were to be demolished to pay for TfL's £39million new bus station which is to be built over Dalston station. That cost works out at over £2million per bus stand and Dalston being blighted.

The Council's own architects, Arup Associates Ltd., had proposed in their Environmental Impact Assessment report that an event be held to celebrate the history of Dalston Theatre before its demolition. OPEN had made a similar proposal to the Council. These suggestions have been ignored by the Council. There has been no event to celebrate this building's service which has been to provide public entertainment and performance arts in Dalston for over 120 years.

For a more detailed history of this site, please see the posting below "The story that was never told"

All photos are the copyright of Mike Wells
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