Tuesday 25 October 2011

Starbucks? Dalston's twitterarti get in a flap.

Dalston's twittering classes have gone ballistic since we posted news about a Starbucks franchise opening in Hackney Council's new Dalston Square library. We have had more hits on the OPEN Dalston blog than in any other week. Why so?

Fans of the freshly roasted bean say Starbucks' coffee is rubbish, others fear for the survival of those doughty entrepreneurs who have opened independent cafes in Dalston in recent years, others announce the arrival of gentrification and that Dalston will never be the same again, "cue funeral march " etc. One tweet asks "isn't there anything we can do to stop it?". Well yes, there is a chance to influence Dalston's future. Read on.

Last week we alerted people to the deadline for commenting on the Council's Dalston Masterplan (the DAAP) . Comments will be considered by a government Planning Inspector in due course. The Masterplan acknowledges that "the wealth of small-scale independent retailers is considered intrinsic to the community’s sense of identity" but there is a need for "balance", says the Council, by "creating the conditions for national high street stores to be attracted to the area".

Do you object to the proposed "retail led regeneration" of Dalston? Do you object to Dalston becoming a "shopping destination" for brand name shops. Will people spending money in those shops boost our local economy? Could Dalston become another non-place? Do you think there should be more intense, and high-rise, developments to help pay for the new "shopping circuits" which the Council proposes?

If you are concerned to protect Dalston's local character and identity you can, by 3rd November, send your comments on the Masterplan to the Council . Even if Hackney don't pay any attention to your views at least the Government Inspector will.

Monday 17 October 2011

Hackney secure Starbucks branding for Dalston Square Library

After a long search, to try and attract a national coffee shop chain, Hackney have finally secured the offer of a Starbucks franchise to operate out of the new Dalston Square Library. A report to Hackney's Cabinet recommends acceptance because it " will assist in providing a sense of place for the new Dalston Town Square... and will be beneficial for local economic development."

Hackney's move follows conventional political thinking. Former Labour Minster, Margaret Hodge, was impressed by the ideas of Starbucks' UK MD Darcy Willson-Rymer, who argued that the best way to save libraries is to put coffee shops in them, as Starbucks have all over the US. Hodge cited the head of Norwich libraries as a success story. "She has reversed the national footfall trend. She said that if she's ever stuck for an idea on how to run libraries, she visits Tesco." Hackney's decision does not go as far as some, like Croydon, which considered wholesale privatisation of libraries by their sale to Starbuck's USA partners LSSI.

Looking north from Dalston Square

Hackney say that the café operator will be permitted to locate tables, chairs and umbrellas within part of the public square outside the front of the café space. Unfortunately, as Hackney's Environmental Consultants advised before Dalston Square was built, the limited sunlight and high wind speeds (the canyon effect) created by the new towerblocks will not make Dalston Square generally suitable for sitting out. Still, it'll be the place to go if you want the froth blown off your capuccino and, furthermore, Hackney is one step closer to achieving its vision.

"....Towers for people who need gifts and coffee Only available from brandname shops...."
From "Regeneration Blues" by Michael Rosen

Tuesday 4 October 2011

The Council's plan for Dalston

The Council has published its new Dalston Area Action Plan (DAAP). You can read it here. From now until Thursday 3 November (4pm) you can make representations to the Council on the amended DAAP. In due course your representations will be considered by a government Planning Inspector before the DAAP is formally approved. Make a difference. Speak up - don't miss the deadline!

In May 2009 OPEN Dalston organised an exhibition and public consultation in response to the Council's proposed Masterplan for Dalston. We incorporated the views expressed by local people in our submission to the Council. The Council says it listened to the community when amending its plan.

The DAAP is a lengthy (132 pages) document, lavishly illustrated with maps, charts and well worn visionary phrases which sit uncomfortably with Dalston's recent history - retaining Dalston’s unique character and heritage is a key goal; supporting community and creative infrastructure ; provision of affordable housing and workspaces; re-use of heritage buildings; nurturing Dalston's cultural, creative and community hub ; improvements to Ridley Road Market and adjacent small-scale shops....

An artists impression of a new high street entrance to Ridley Road market

The DAAP also states that the Council's own resources and land ownership is insufficient to implement the changes it wants to make to our public spaces and so these are dependant upon the financial contributions which private landowners are required to make when they are granted planning permission for development (Section 106 money). Development of 'opportunity sites' is therefore encouraged by the DAAP. Two Dalston sites are identified for major development with tall buildings.

Dressed in green, a proposed new 17-storey block at 51-57 Kingsland High Street (Peacocks store) next to the overground station. If planning permission is granted the developer will be asked to invest in re-modelling the station. The scheme is being promoted by a PR company which employs Hackney's Deputy Mayor Karen Alcock and Councillor Alan Laing."We are keen to use Alan’s extensive network of contacts within London politics" said his Managing Director

What effect will the new tower have on the setting of this most picturesque group of buildings next door to it on the high street?

The DAAP states that "redevelopment of Kingsland Shopping Centre is the key to unlocking the area’s potential" and that its site is suitable for a 15 storey residential tower. The DAAP has a vision of creating new pedestrian 'shopping circuits' around Dalston to encourage retail led regeneration of the area

The Eastern Curve garden is Dalston's only green haven in a dense urban environment.The DAAP states that the garden is only a temporary use which is awaiting re-development of the shopping centre.

The DAAP vision for the Eastern Curve Garden - re-developed as a kind of 'green shopping mall'

The DAAP promotes the 'conservation led regeneration' of Dalston Lane's Georgian terraces. The Council plans to sell all its houses to a developer, and turn the existing shopkeepers' upper floors into flats, to make the scheme pay for itself. Will the existing businesses survive?

These are just some of the proposals set out in the Dalston Area Action plan. The amended DAAP will influence decisions on planning applications until the final version is set in stone by the government Planning Inspector. Don't miss the chance to make your views known before the consultation closes on 3rd November.

To comment on the DAAP you must complete a Representation Form. They are available at your local library. Alternatively complete the online Form here or download the Form here and email it to (putting 'Dalston Rep' on the subject line) or post it to Freepost RSLH-ARTC-GXRA, Spatial Planning, 2 Hillman Street, E8 1FB.