Friday 21 December 2007

Another box of tricks from Hackney

This is the 2007 Christmas Card signed and sent by the Speaker of Hackney Council. It shows a gift to the people of Hackney, TfL's railway logo and the Council's "I love Hackney" logo.

Commenting on the new Dalston Junction station TfL had stated as recently as November "We'd ask you very strongly that you'd not refer to it as "the Tube"...You should not describe it as the Tube as it is not the Tube". Regretably the Council's Speaker has been sadly misinformed.

The Council Speaker's misunderstanding about this is not suprising. Before the last Council elections the Labour Party described its ambitions for Dalston as including a "tube". The promotional material for TfL's planning application, for its Dalston Junction towerblock development, also described it as a "tube" station, as this image from March 2006 shows.

GLA Mayor Livingstone's London Development Agency also used the tube logo in the images promoting its planning application, for the Council's neighbouring Dalston Theatre site, to demolish Dalston's historic buildings and redevelop with towerblocks. The Hackney Gazette & the Council's Hackney Today paper were also mislead and even now still refer to the proposed Dalston Junction station as a "tube" station.

But despite what Hackney Council, the GLA, TfL and the LDA have all been claiming for the last 2 years, the new Dalston Junction railway station will not be a tube station. It is an overground line station, just like Dalston Kingsland. It will be part of the Overground not the Underground network. Nor does it go to the City or to the Olympic site.

Even the Council's Deputy Mayor and Chief Whip of the Hackney Labour Party, Luke Akehurst, seems to have believed the spin when he said as recently as July 2007 "A derelict theatre or a tube station, which do you think people in Hackney want more?" Whatever the public might have wanted, Dalston will have neither. Furthermore the demolition of Dalston's historic buildings had nothing to do with funding the new station. Funding for the East London Line Extension to Dalston had already got Government approval in the summer of 2004. Dalston's ELLX railway station was going ahead in any event.

The authorities eventually admitted in OPEN's Court proceedings that the profits, from the demolitions and building towerblock flats for sale on Hackney's site, were in fact to be used to subsidise a £39million bus station on a slab above the new Dalston Junction station. Mayor Livingstone's GLA required Hackney taxpayers, and not London communters, to pay the £19million funding shortfall. No one mentioned that Dalston's heritage buildings were to be sacrificed not to pay for a tube but for a bus station.

However, now that the buildings have been demolished and the dust has settled, TfL has put new promotional material, including local childrens' paintings, up on the hoardings fronting their site.

So was it a simple error that caused the authorities, including TfL, to describe the East London Line Extension as a tube? Or did they think the public might be prepared to pay a higher price if what we thought we were getting was to be the tube?

The Vandals: an eastern Germanic tribe which earned notoriety by it sacking Rome in the 5th century but which was defeated by the Goths.

Vandalism: the gratuitous anti-social destruction of the environment and artistic creations.

Municipal vandalism: the destruction of our cultural heritage by corporate ignorance, deliberate neglect, deceit, vanity and greed all in the name of progress

Monday 3 December 2007

Hackney Council demolishes more Georgian houses

This is 60-66 Dalston Lane, part of an 1827 Georgain terrace, as it looked in March 2004 when the new owners, an off-shore company, applied for planning permission to demolish the terrace and build rabbit-hutches.
OPEN called in English Heritage who, in August 2004, advised that:
"this is a strong group that has clear local history, despite the poor condition that detracts from their cohesion. Overall the buldings make a valuable contribution to the area, representing early 19th century development in Hackney, an area that grew considerable in this period....inclusion on the local list or within a Conservation Area would be an appropriate designation and recognition of the buildings significance"
Within one month of that report there was an arson attack and 62-64Dalston Lane were burnt down. Mysteriously, bricks from the flank wall of 60 Dalston Lane, and part of the roof, were later deliberately removed.

OPEN has previously written here about the history

In January 2005 the Dalston Lane (West) Conservaton Area was declared. Councillor Nicholson, Hackney Council's Cabinet member for regeneration, said at the time "We're keen conservation areas are used to bring buildings back into use and create improvements to the built environment."
OPEN has since then been urging the Council to take action to bring them back into use and improve the environment. In November 2006 the Council wrote to local shops about its responsibility for and committment to "preserving Hackney's built heritage". Eventually in September 2007 the Council exercised conservation area powers to make the buildings structurally sound and watertight. But it was too little and too late. They had become struturally unstable - and so the Council has done what the owners had wanted all along. It demolished them.

OPEN has asked the Council what its powers and intentions are to rebuild them. Answer came there none.