Saturday 26 July 2008

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

Hackney's report to its Planning Committee on 24 July, concerning Hammerson's 51-storey Bishops Place scheme planned for Shoreditch, indicated that the Council would like to spend substantially more public money propping up Transport for London's private towerblock scheme at Dalston Junction.

Hammerson's Bishops Place scheme on land owned by Hackney Council. Hackney has already subsidised TfL's £39million concrete slab over the new Dalston Junction station by demolishing historic buildings and disposing of its flattened site for a peppercorn to the developer, Barratt. The lack of any affordable housing on TfL's site has been an embarassment to the authorities. Hackney hoped that Hammerson would sign up to planning agreements providing for a £14million payment towards "off site affordable housing". Hackney proposed to then take the money from Shoreditch to subsidise housing on TfL's Dalston site - robbing Peter to pay Paul. However the Planning Committee, which had convened for a special meeting, decided to defer consideration of Hammerson's Shoreditch application.

The Dalston developer, Barratt, has been in serious financial difficulties with the crash in development land values and house sales. Its recent renegotiation of covenants with its bankers has been described in the Financial Times as "lifting the coffin lid a fraction." Other house builders are reported to be in even worse financial trouble and there is talk in government circles of intervention if insolvent house builders abandon unfinished developments.

There is however no sign of Barratt pulling men off the Dalston Lane development site and leaving us with concrete stumps. But TfL have been reported recently to have expressed doubts about the use of the concrete slab for a bus turnaround above the new Dalston Junction station - the cost of which predetermined the whole logic of the Dalston towerblocks scheme. OPEN objections to the scheme included a concern that it was a "profligate use of financial and natural resources".

Thursday 17 July 2008

A spectre of corporate malice is said to stalk Dalston's Ridley market

OPEN has previously written here about how Hackney's beancounters were going bananas in Ridley Road market.

We told the story of Janet Devers who is the sister of Colin Hunt, one of the original metric martyrs. The Council are prosecuting Janet for selling by the pound whilst not also showing prices in kilos, and for selling unweighed fresh produce by the bowl or the bunch. Now you can hear what Janet herself has to say in this video.

Sadly the situation has got much worse. Recently the Council have applied to add another 9 charges to those which Janet will face in the Crown Court jury trial in January. The Council are also making new allegations about her brother Colin. And evidence has now come to light which, reports suggest, show that Colin and Janet are being deliberately targeted for punitive action by the Council. A spectre of corporate malice is said to be stalking Ridley market.

The traders of Ridley Road Market in happier times - a day out for the ladies.

Hackney's Mayor Pipe has rubbished the traders protests that over regulation is driving them out. As for the recent disconnection of all the electrics in the market that is, he says, because the installations are damaged and dangerous due to traders breaking in to steal electricity. Nothing to do then with the last Council refurbishment of the market's electrics being so shoddy that it was unable to produce an electrician's certificate that the work was up to health and safety standards.

The traders of Ridley Road Market in happier times - a day out for the gents

So. No electric, no electric scales. The traders will just have to rely on their clunky old fashioned manual scales for their weights and measures which are only in er... pounds and ounces.

Mayor Pipe has also denied plans for Olympic redevelopment of market land. But he has yet to give his view of the consultant's recommendation to redevelop the market's Birkbeck Road site for residential use. Or to explain why its market's store has been left derelict for so long.

Do you know anyone in this photo? What are they saying?

Thursday 10 July 2008

Regeneration Blues - a new poem by Dalston resident Michael Rosen

Regeneration blues

Once upon a time
In days of old
Great minds tried to figure
How to turn metal
Into gold
They dreamed of the day
When a chunk of iron
Could make them rich
Turn junk into treasure
A magic formula

They failed
Never found it

But the news is: it's happened near you.
In the city centres
Along by the canals
Land worth a little
Is now worth a lot
The same patch of mud
Sitting under a shed
Under an old shop
Car park or cinema
Has turned into gold.

In the town halls
Councillors get excited:
“That old street
full of shops
run by people from
Africa, Turkey, the Middle East
With flats up above –
Aren't they on short lease
Cos we were once
Going to put a road through there?
That old pool 
That old school
Don’t we own that?
You know what?
Get developers in:
No time to wait
Reeee – generate.

Buy to rent
For young professionals
Yo-pros, don't you know.
Change the geography
Change the demography

So the developers arrive
With their brochures
And sharp shoes
Their power points
and bullet points

If the council plays a part:
If it compensates
Covers losses
Shares the load
Builds a road
It's a partnership
Public private
Private public
The area will be
The deal is done

A meeting is held
And on the screen
The derelict sheds
And the crumbling shops
'Look!', they say, 'The area will die.
We'll build towers of steel and glass
To the sky.'

Towers full of the salaried and sleek
Towers with no old people or babies
Towers for people who need gifts and coffee

'Transport links will improve'
Say the councillors we elect
'Everyone will benefit, don't object
There'll be a new library.
In there...

The meeting is noisy
The shopkeepers say
The tenants say
They want to stay

People say
They want the Turkish bread
And the Indian rice.
Why take away memories
They used to make places
Where we could walk about
Squares and cul-de-sacs
Not canyons between tower blocks.

Someone says
We're desperate for places where families can live
Clinics on hand, not miles away
And ground floor flats for the old and disabled

The meeting ends in a riot
When one of the councillors
And the people in it
Are the dregs on drugs

It goes to committee
And five men sit and take a vote
It goes 2-2
A great leap forward for the community
A revolution in thinking, a retail opportunity.

The shopkeepers and tenants have to quit.

Someone digs in files and papers
And finds that the chairman of the committee
Is on the board of a firm
That will supply the locks
In the high-rise blocks.

But it's too late to stop.

History doesn't matter
The people who live there don't matter
The people who run shops don't matter
Don't matter
Nurseries, clinics, opens spaces, good cheap housing,
Don't matter

Look say the councillors
And they don't mean
As the blocks go up
It's income up
But it's us who subsidize
Private high-rise
Regeneration is a lie
Regeneration is a lie
Regeneration is
Is degeneration

Monday 7 July 2008

Boris loves Dalston peace mural

Mayor Boris Johnson is a fan of the Hackney Peace mural on Dalston Lane. (1 minute 10 seconds in). Thanks to Clapton Pond blog for spotting this one.