Friday 18 June 2010

Dalston's Olympic bus stop may cost £63 million

Last week we reported the uproar about the latest figures for the costs of Dalston's Olympic bus stop here.

You can see what Andrew Boff said in his TV interview, which caused the uproar, here (Clip2).

This is what it said in the London Development Agency's minutes dated 24.9.09 which Andrew Boff referred to:
"2.11 The podium slab works, undertaken by the East London Line Project, are currently running over the originally anticipated final cost of £39m due to engineering conflicts at the north end of the site between the East London line route and the safeguarded route for Cross Rail 2 (The proposed Chelsea/Hackney tube line - Ed). Our cost monitoring information shows that the anticipated final cost for the slab is likely to be £62.9m. The LDA's underwriting commitment towards the cost of the podium slab is capped at £19m, therefore the additional costs (£31.8m) of the slab will be covered by TfL".

On 27.4.10 TfL told Lord Low
"The final cost of the Dalston scheme is a commercial matter under discussion with our contractor. However I can confirm that the budget for the entire Dalston scheme is £39m. (Note 'budget' not actual cost - Ed) This figure includes the additional project management costs, the bus facility, the podium slab and railway costs resulting from the roofing over of the station."

So how much will the final bill be for Dalston's Olympic bus stop? And why did the estimates rise from £18m to £26m to £39m to £63m?And how much will it cost Hackney taxpayers?

Watch this space - the scandal which has emerged so far is just the tip of the iceberg.

Friday 11 June 2010

Andrew Boff finds it. Jeanette Arnold loses it

Andrew Boff, local resident and Conservative spokesman at the London Assembly on East London & the Olympics, has found minutes from September 2009 recording that the total cost of Dalston's Olympic bus stop could be £62.9 million, not £40million. £23 million over budget. See the minutes here -para 2.11.
He gave an ITV news interview on Wednesday and raised a question regarding the issue with Boris at GLA Mayor's question time yesterday. Also present was the Labour representative for Hackney and east London, Jeanette Arnold - a cheerleader for TfL's Dalston Olympic bus stop . She seemed to take it all a bit personally.

Jennette Arnold AM, former Chair of the London Assembly is pictured with Denis Oswald, Chair of the IOC Coordination Commission (left) and Sebastien Coe, Chair of the London Organising Committee.

You can watch the politicians discuss the issues on the GLA webcast here (scroll though to 01:47:00) but, in summary, it went something like this:
Boff: Can it possibly be true that The Slab in Dalston cost not only Dalston's heritage buildings but £62.9 million of public money? It says so in the LDA's minutes.
Boris: I will just read parrot fashion what I've been told to say. But £40million seems a lot to me for a concrete slab. I will ask questions of TfL today.
Arnold: The Dalston demolitions and The Slab are quite seperate. You're confusing my constituents... Bugger off Andrew...You can't tell me anything about Dalston Mr Boff. Go away! Go away!
Chair: Jeanette you're out of order. That's enough. Settle down please.

Ms Arnold suggests that The Slab had nothing to do with the demolition of Dalston's heritage buildings. But a letter from the GLA London Development Agency's Chief Executive, Manny Lewis, dated 29.11.06, to Lord Low (OPENs Patron) stated that, on the advice of it's architects ARUP (which designed the Barratt's tower blocks to replace them), "the buildings fronting Dalston Lane make very little contribution to the streetscape" and that "the provision of the over-station slab is reliant on a viable development scheme on the Dalston Lane site".

The LDA also wrote to the High Court judge to say The Slab scheme was in danger of collapse and urged him to lift OPEN's injunction which was preventing the demolitions.

The LDA repaid Hackney the cost of the demolitions.

This 1898 architect's drawing is of the entrance to Dalston's Theatre of Varieties, which was at 12 Dalston Lane. It was built in front of the original 1886 circus entrance ( the earliest surviving example in the UK - designed by Alfred Brandreth). An urban gem. These buildings were described by the LDA's Chief Executive, as "making very little contribution to the streetscape". Shortly afterwards the buildings were demolished.

Thursday 3 June 2010

Four slow deaths on Ashwin Street. And a burial.

As we reported last week, after decades of squatting and then dereliction, Hackney are now hell bent on demolishing rather than retaining anything of its four charming old houses at 2-8 Ashwin Street.

This is how the facades of 2-8 Ashwin Street looked in 2003, after 20 years of Hackney ownership.

Following extensive public consultation last summer, in which OPEN led a detailed community response, Hackney's draft Dalston Area Action Plan acknowledged the importance of the old houses to the Ashwin Street Character Area.

This is what the Plan says:
Development at 2 – 8 Ashwin Street: Any redevelopment and/or refurbishment of Nos. 2 – 8 Ashwin Street is encouraged to consider the retention of the existing buildings and/or existing building fa├žade. However, if full or partial retention is not viable, and is clearly demonstrated that demolition is the only practicable option, its removal will be considered as part of any proposals to develop the properties for a landmark exemplar building that will contribute positively to the character of Ashwin Street and Dalston Park.

So why is demolition proceeding now? Particularly when it is not part of any proposal for a "landmark exemplar building" to replace the old houses?

This is how 2-8 Ashwin Street looked today with demolition well under way

OPEN has now heard back from Hackney's solicitor who informs that the decision to demolish was made by it's Chief Executive "to maintain public safety" following "police reports". The houses have fallen into a dangerous condition.

We have also received a copy of Hackney's recent structural engineer's report following an external inspection. His report commented on distortion to the front walls of the houses, worsened by fire damage, and that "to ascertain the exact extent of wall sections worth retaining, would require a full... survey". But, it appears, no such full survey was undertaken. Hackney has refused OPEN's specialist engineer access to provide a second opinion. Hackney are proceeding to demolish the lot.

Ashwin Street on the morning when Number 8 was gutted by fire on 31.7.08 . The facades of the old houses frame the view of the locally listed Reeves Printhouse.

Where a building has become unsafe due to dereliction there is an exception to an owner's right to demolish. It is designed to prevent the mischief of owners using their own neglect or vandalism as an excuse to demolish residential houses without planning control. In those cases the owner must apply for full planning permission - unless it can show the building can not practicably be made safe or temporarily supported.

In the present case there already is shoring supporting the houses. And Hackney's engineer has described what would be needed to retain part and rebuild the remainder of the houses' facades. But no advice was given about what is needed to make the houses safe. But, despite ignoring that requirement, Hackney claim there is no need to apply for planning permission to demolish them.

2 Ashwin Street today, half demolished, with a glimpse of the Dalston Lane Peace Mural in the background.

Regular readers of this blog may now be experiencing of sense of deja vu. When Hackney sought to justify demolition of Dalston's circus buildings and locally listed Georgian houses in 2005 it also referred to fires (whereas there had been none), that its surveyors had inspected all the buildings (which they had not), that they were all beyond repair (which they were not) and that they did not need planning permission to demolish them (but a High Court Judge agreed with OPEN that they did).

But then Hackney went on to grant itself planning permission and destroyed them anyway. And now Ashwin Street follows on.

If you believe what Hackney says of itself ("We are the champions of the historic environment") then why is Building Design magazine this week publishing accusations by national and local amenity societies of Hackney's "cultural vandalism" ?

The former site of Dalston's Circus and Georgian houses destroyed by Hackney Council with the approval and agreement of Transport for London, the London Development Agency, the Greater London Authority and the Secretary of State, to fund Dalston's £40million bus stop.

The Vandals
: an eastern Germanic tribe which earned notoriety by 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, vanity and greed all in the name of progress.

How did it happen?
Read the posting "The story that was never told" for a more detailed history.