Thursday 27 December 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas (in Dalston )

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me.... Twelve legends dining

This image, by OPEN's Brian Cumming, shows some of the stars of popular entertainment who were associated with the now demolished 1886 Dalston Circus and Theatre buildings.You can learn about the demolition of old Dalston by watching the trailer to Winstan Whitter's short film "Save our Heritage" . Hackney Council demolished the historic buildings in 2007 and sold the land (for a peppercorn) to help fund New Dalston's unaffordable private towerblock flats, brand name shops and a bus station built on The Slab in Dalston for the 2012 Olympics .The Slab turned out to cost £63 million but is only to be used by one bus - the 488 extended route from Clapton. Although it was promoted as "essential transport infrastructure" for the 2012 Olympics no use was made of it for the Olympics at all. Possibly the most expensive bus stop in the world!

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me.... Eleven pipers piping

Last year Hackney Mayor Pipe's Cabinet approved the grant of a lease of the new Dalston Square Library's cafe to a local business selling Starbucks coffee. The Council's report bemoaned the failure of its extensive marketing to attract a national cafe chain store as a direct lessee but recommended that some Starbucks franchise branding was better than nothing. It would, the report said, confer "a sense of place for the new Dalston Town Square... and will be beneficial for local economic development." Sadly it appears Starbucks' commitment to our economic development is not its primary concern 

Another of Hackney's investments may have come back to haunt it., It made a £1.3million investment in 2009/10 in strengthening TfL's Western Curve tunnels to enable their development. TfL now argues ,unless it can exceed Hackney's guidelines on building heights, the schemes are not "financially viable" so that  neither TfL nor Hackney will get their money back. Even then, it says, there can be no public green space, only 10 of 108 new flats can be affordable and the loss of sunlight and damage to local historic assets is unavoidable. .

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...........Ten Lords a leaping

OPEN's Patron is Lord Low of Dalston. A non-party, cross bench, peer who speaks for the greater common good. He is the President of the European Blind Union amongst his many accomplishments. Last year the Low Commission, which Colin Low chaired, achieved substantial reversals of the government's proposed cuts to welfare benefits for disabled people. For many thousands it will "make a difference between existing and a life worth living".

In 2013 the Low Commission will be reporting on the effect of the abolition of huge areas of legal aid next April, and particularly those preventing appeals in cases of welfare benefit and housing injustice. Another area of government cuts is to the right of citizens to challenge unlawful decisions by public bodies. It seeks to prevent bad planning decisions being overturned by objectors. The government seems to think that letting developers do whatever they want is essential for the economy.

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me....nine sites for listing 

A leaked report has revelaled that the "intrinsic character, local distinctiveness and unique identity of Dalston " is at risk. Dalston town centre is facing a tsunami of property development proposals in 2013. The report comments that Dalston's historic town centre environment has "wholly inadequate heritage protection at present " and recommends nine historic buildings should be listed and the creation of the Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area to protect the character of the area from excessive property development..

On the eigth day of Christmas my true love gave to me........Eight days a week

The Eastern Curve Garden has been fitting eight days of activities into each seven day week. Dalston's only community managed public green space has been so successful that last year it won the national Landscape Institute President's Award. This year its Pineapple Hot House was built and it had a visit from HRH Camillla, the Duchess of Cornwall, as part of her tour of Chelsea Flower Show fringe gardens.  The events list at Eastern Curve Garden is never ending, but the Council says that Dalston's only public green space was always intended to be for temporary use only. Lets hope it never ends!

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me.....Seven members voting

This year, after a campaign led by OPEN Dalston, the Council's Planning Committee unanimously rejected a proposal by Rothas Ltd. for an 18-storey "dressed in green" private towerblock on the Peacocks site next to Dalston Kingsland station. We also said goodbye to Councillor Alan Laing who resigned his seat but continued to be employed by the developer's PR company Four Communications.

In 2013 Rothas Ltd. will re-apply for planning permission, this time for a 19-storey rotunda tower. Dalston also faces major development applications by TfL for the Western Curve plus a nine-storey development of the Eastern Curve plus  a plan to redevelop the Dalston Cross shopping centre with 15-storey residential towerblocks. 

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me.......Six blackened buildings

In previous years they burned down old buildings on Dalston's development sites  or painted our surviving Georgian houses black - a somber reminder of the charred remains or a dark vision of more funeral pyres to come? The Council, after four fires, three demolitions and OPEN Dalston's long campaign,  bought the terraces back from the off-shore slum landlord to whom they sold them at auction (For double what it had sold them for in 2002 - Ed).

Now, in the age of austerity when money is scarce, the Council has secured a deal to redevelop the terrace for housing and ground floor shops.  It will not be the "conservation led" scheme originally promised and only, they say, the Georgian facades of the houses will be retained.

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me.........Five Gold Rings

Gold Dust by Mike Wells on Vimeo.

Last year saw the publication of banned Hackney author Iain Sinclair's latest book "Ghost Milk" which explores issues concerning the 2012 Olympics including the excavation, stockpiling, and burial of 7,000 tonnes of radioactive waste on the site  without any prior  regulatory inspection or planning permission at all. What will the environmental legacy be for the future generations who will live on the 2012 site ? Consultants have advised that they shouldn't eat anything grown in their gardens. Iain Sinclair's  ban from speaking on Hackney Council premises has never been lifted but he was able to read and discuss his work at an OPEN event  at Dalston's  Cafe Oto.

The award winning writer and journalist Anna Minton was also a guest speaker at the event. Her book Ground Control is increasingly relevant to Dalston where a major gated community is plannned by TfL on its Western Curve sites...."this  is the architecture of extreme capitalism, which produces a divided landscape of privately owned, disconnected, high security, gated enclaves side by side with enclaves of poverty which remain untouched by the wealth around them. The stark segregation and highly visible differences create a climate of fear and growing mistrust between people which...erodes civil society." Anna Minton 'Ground Control'

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me.........Four Aces Club

OPEN Dalston member Winstan's Whitter's documentary Legacy in the dust tells the story of Dalston's legendary reggae club, its relationship with the Council and the police and how it went on to become the rave venue Labyrinth.

In 2007 the authorities demolished the club's original home in the historic Dalston Theatre buildings at 14 Dalston Lane. They crushed it, ground it up and used it in the foundations for Barratt's New Dalston tower block development of 90% unaffordable flats.

Thus we lost our historic buildings in Dalston and the thirty year cultural legacy of our African-Carribean community. So now the authorities are calling the new tower blocks after the artists who performed in the club they demolished - Sledge Tower, Wonder House, Marley House etc. Patronising hypocrisy...or what? Did anyone ask Stevie Wonder if he wanted a Dalston tower block named after him?

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me......... three green oasis 

A TfL image illustrating its present proposals for "greening" Dalston which is limited to planting some street trees.

In one of the most populous wards, in one of the most populous boroughs in London, Dalston has virtually no public green space at all. OPEN Dalston, with backing from award winning Growing Communities, has identified three areas on TfL's Western Curve development sites which would be suitable for small managed public green spaces.TfL have so far rejected our proposals but the issue has been raised with TfL's boss, Boris, the Mayor of the Greater London Authority.

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me........two subsidies

This year Barratt, who are building the Dalston Square towers, succeeded where Oliver Twist failed. Last year it got second helpings of the tasty tax- payers subsidy which it first had earlier in the year. This yeat it announced profits for shareholders. With house builders struggling, and banks asking for 25% deposits on new build properties, the government has set aside  further £millions to lend first time buyers towards their deposits on Barratt's and other flats.  Barratt loves it - it helps keep prices, and profit margins, high. With insufficient homes, and rents soaring, buy-to-let landlords think they have found a safe haven and taken 60% of the East London new build market.and Barratt has opened an office in Beijing
Barratt have also been pulling strings to support the recently announced "simplification" of planning rules - the "presumption in favour of development". Hello to the Big Business Society. Goodbye bio-diversity and local character and, if you can't pay the rent or the bank, then its goodbye to you too.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me.........a retail opportunity

In 2012 the Dalston Area Action Plan ( DAAP  - Hackney's blueprint for the "regeneration" of Dalston) - was examined in public by a government Planning Inspector. One of Hackney's big ideas is "creating the conditions for national high street stores to be attracted to the area" by creating a new "shopping circuits" linking Dalston Square with a re-developed Dalston Cross shoppping centre. Hackney hopes this will mean locals don't need to go shopping at Westfield, Stratford City or the Angel. How paying money into the off-shore bank accounts of national brand stores, rather than local independent businesses, will boost our local economy remains a mystery.

The Eastern Curve Garden - a managed green public space

Late amendments to the DAAP saw the Council's "vision" change from a Dalston Park, where the award winning Eastern Curve Garden presently is, into an overshadowed pedestrian thoroughfare lined with shops and nine-storey blocks of flats which they call a "shopping circuit". How will this fit with Hackney Mayor's recent announcement that  "What we do not need is retail space and housing that, using the government's affordability criteria, is well out of the reach of most Hackney people "

Hackney's vision of the Eastern Curve Garden transformed into a shopping circuit

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

Monday 24 December 2012

Leaked report calls for Dalston's environmental protection

The "intrinsic character, local distinctiveness and unique identity of Dalston " is at risk of being damaged or lost, a leaked report has revealed.  Dalston town centre is facing a tsunami of property development proposals in 2013. The report comments that Dalston's historic town centre environment has "wholly inadequate heritage protection at present ".

The Railway Tavern and Peace Mural on Dalston Lane

The report was produced for Design for London which, like Transport for London (TfL),is an agency of Boris' Greater London Authority. It recommends a new Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area, an extension of the Dalston Lane (West) Conservation Area and the listing of several of Dalston's notable buildings.

Presently unprotected, the former 1902 Shannon factory, now Sprinfield House, Tyssen Street, is recommended for inclusion on the National Heritage List for England and inclusion within an extended Dalston Lane Conservation Area. A 9-xtorey blocks of flats is planned for the neighbouring Eastern Curve  site.

Dalston Square was Phase 1 of TfLs redevelopment scheme many unprotected heritage buildings were lost. The redevelopment of TfL's Western Curve tunnels is Phase II. Major developments on other sites in the town centre are also planned, including towers of between 9 - 19 storeys locally.

Presently unprotected, the Reeves and Sons Printhouse and Colourworks in Ashwin recommended for inclusion on the National Heritage List for England and for inclusion within an extended  Dalston Lane Conservation Area. It is currently occupied by the  Bootstraps Company, Cafe Oto and Arcola Theatre.
(I was told that the vats in which Constable's paints were mixed are stored in the basement - Ed)

Local Council's have responsibility for creating local conservation areas but Hackney has invested over £1.3million in partnership with TfL to enable development of the Western Curve tunnels. A letter has been sent to English Heritage pointing out Hackney's conflicting interests and asking it to consider using its reserve powers to designate the new, and extended, Conservation Areas. You can read the letter here.

Cooke's Eels and Mash shop, currently Shanghai, is Grade II listed but the remainder in this 1902 group on the Western Curve are unprotected. They are recommended for inclusion in the new Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area.   

Unless within a Conservation Area, unlisted  non-residential buildings can be demolished without any planning control at all. Even residential status doesn't prevent some owners disregarding planning controls over demolition. Conservation Area status also gives some protection to prevent damage to the settings  of notable buildings affected by new developments.

Shiloh 1881 Pentecostal Chapel, Ashwin Street is recommended for inclusion on Hackney's Local List and for inclusion within an extended Dalston Lane (West) Conservation Area

 Hackney Council  response to the report's recommendations presently remains unclear. However the importance of many of the buildings identified in the report was not drawn to the Government Inspector's attention by Hackney during his Dalston Area Action Plan Inquiry last summer.

74 -76 Kingsland High Street (Nat West Bank) next to Ridely Road market is recommended for inclusion on the National Heritage List for England and for inclusion within the new Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area. It is opposite Dalston Kingsland station where a revived application for a 18-storey tower, which was rejected last year, is to be proposed in 2013.  

The new Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area would also include heritage buildings on Stoke Newington Road  .

Princess May Primary School is recommended for inclusion on the National Heritage List for England and for inclusion within the new Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area.

House of Simpson's art deco clothing factory, at  92 - 100 Stoke Newington Roadcurrently occupied by Beyond Retro, is recommended for inclusion on the National Heritage List for England and for inclusion within the new Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area.

St John's Court, former Magistataes Court, at 82  Stoke Newington Road,  is recommended for inclusion on the National Heritage List for England and for inclusion within the new Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area.

The former Savoy/ABC art deco cinema, currently EFES Snooker Club at 1-17 Stoke Newington Road is
recommended for inclusion on Hackney's Local List and for inclusion within an extended Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area

Thursday 20 December 2012

Boris comments on "greening" Dalston.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of the Greater London Authority, has replied to a question concerning his agency, TfL's, profit led development proposals for Dalston's Western Curve. The question was asked by local resident Andrew Boff who is Leader of the GLA Conservative Group on the London Assembly and scourge of bureaucratic wastrels. Watch the video here:

TfL is an agency of the Greater London Authorty and has applied for planning permission to build a major gated community above the Western Curve railway tunnels which run north west from Dalston Junction and which will have no public green space at all..

Boris is nominal boss of TfL but may also have planning powers as the GLA's Mayor over the Western Curve scheme. He says, of TfLs proposal, "Nemo iudex in causa sua" . In Dalston we say "Audi alteram partem".

OPEN Dalston objects to the scheme as presently designed and you can read our analysis of the scheme here and here.

Since April we also have been asking TfL to provide green space on  its other sites in Dalston for which it has no plans presently. Boris hints that there could be "improvements" there.

The Council's public consultation on the scheme officially closes today has been extended. We advise you to submit comments by 23 January so they can be reported at the Planning Committee hearing expected (presently) on 6th February . You can send comments to Hackney here and we urge you to do so.

An image from TfL's plannning application documents illustrating its "greening" proposals for Dalston which is presently limited to planting some street trees

Despite the severe deficit of public green space in Dalston, TfL's development partners, Taylor Wimpey, have said that "the only viable opportunity for open green space will be that for use by the residents and guests of the proposed scheme". 

Despite the damage to local heritage which TfL have already inflicted on Dalston, with its Dalston Square scheme, the effect of TfL's new scheme will  also leave listed and heritage buildings locally without " acceptable sunlight access to the buildings"  and only 10 out of the 108 new flats in the proposed gated community will be for affordable social rent. (Will Boris waive the rules on heritage and affordable housing, like Ken did on Dalston Square? - Ed.)

Monday 17 December 2012

Hackney's conflict of interest over TfL's Western Curve development

Hackney's has a financial conflict of interest, when assessing TfL/Taylor Wimpey's development application, after it invested over £1million in TfL's Western Curve sites.

TfL/Taylor Wimpey's proposal for an 8-storey building on the corner of Kingsland High Street Boleyn Rd. Council approved planning policy specifies 4-6 storeys for the site

Hackney invested public money to subsidise TfL strengthening its railway tunnels to allow more intensive development of its sites north of Dalston Junction. TfL's development partners are now believed to be arguing that, unless it can exceed the Council's and an independent Planning Inspector's approved heights for the development, the schemes are not "financially viable" so that  neither TfL nor Hackney will get their money back.

TfL/Taylor Wimpey's proposal for an 6 storey continuous terrace on the east side of Kingsland High Street.
Even if an 8-storey development on the Northern site and a continuous 6-storey terrace on the Southern site are allowed, the developers argue that there can be no public green space, that of 108 new flats only 10 can be at affordable social rent and that the loss of sunlight and damage to local historic assets can not be avoided.

Views of the historic Reeves Colourworks, and light, will be lost by the Western Curve development on the Southern site which will enclose Ashwin St.

Hackney have commissioned an independent assessment of the developers' "Financial Sustainability Report" but will not release it publically because it is "commercially confidential". The official benchmark of whether a development is "financially viable" for a developer assumes that they will get a 20% return on their investment ie £200,000 proft for every £1million spent  (Trebles all round! Ed).

Sunday 9 December 2012

TfL reject "small green oasis in the heart of Dalston"

There is no public green space and virtually no affordable housing planned in a major gated community scheme for which Taylor Wimpey/TfL (Transport for London) have now applied to Hackney Council for planning permission.

TfL's plan to "green up" Dalston is limited to planting some street trees. This image is from their planning application documents.

The Taylor Wimpey/TfL application is, as previously reported, to develop two sites fronting Kingsland High Street just north of Dalston Junction. The Southern site is on the east side of the High Street adjoining Ashwin Street. The Northern site is on the west side adjoining Boleyn Road.

Developer's image of the 8-storey Boleyn Road northern site. It will have 59 flats and 850sq m ground floor commercial uses

There will 108 new flats across both sites,with ground floor shops bars and offices, but only 10 flats will be for "affordable" social rent. The rest will be for sale. The railway sites are public land owned by TfL,which is an agency of the Greater London Authority whose policy target (like Hackney's) is to achieve 50% affordable housing.

The Council's public consultation officially closes on 20th December. The Planning Committee decision is expected in early January or February. You can see the planning application documents here and make comments here

The Northern site block will be 8 storeys. The buildings surrounding it are 3 and 4 storeys

Since April we have been suggesting that small parts of the development sites should include pockets of managed green public space, to create a "green route" north from Dalston Lane up Boleyn Road towards Butterfield Green and Clissold Park.
Hackney's award winning social enterprise Growing Communities, and Grow Cook Eat which manages the award winning Eastern Curve Garden, have both welcomed the idea and say our scheme for "small green oasis in the heart of Dalston" is viable.
Taylor Wimpey acknowledge the public support for the idea but have told us that "the only viable opportunity for open green space will be that used by the residents and guests of the proposed scheme". So, very little public benefit is planned for this development.

Shanghai is in a Grade2 listed building and is part of an exquisite 1902 terrace on the High Street next to the northern site

TfL/Taylor Wimpey say that creating "open space would not be compliant with the Dalston Area Action Plan (DAAP)" but in fact the Council's design guidance for the sites states that "new and improved areas of green open space and/or public realm will be encouraged".
Contrary to the DAAP guideline for 4-6 storeys on the sites TfL/Taylor Wimpey are packing an 8-storey building onto the northern site and the scale of it will dominate this 1902 historic terrace. It will overshadow it to such an extent that, according to TfL's own consultants "there will not be acceptable sunlight access to the buildings". Even the design for their private amenity space within the gated development "does not provide adequate daylight according to the garden and open space sunlight assessment".

This developers' illustration shows the shadow effect of the 2 developments in summer - when the sun is at its highest.

On the southern site TfL propose a 6-storey continuous terrace which will block sunlight and views from the High Street of the Ashwin Street locally listed Reeves Printhouse and Colourworks building and the Shiloh Church.

Developers illustration of the southern, Ashwin Street, site. It will have 49 flats and 750 sq m of commercial uses including retail, cafes and bars.

To service the commercial uses Ashwin Street will become a "shared space" for pedestrians and HGV delivery/waste collection vehicles. Some windows of Reeves Printhouse, presently used by Arcola Theatre, will lose over 25% of their light and the outdoor seating areas in front of Cafe Oto will also become significantly overshadowed.

This developers' illustration shows how Ashwin Street will be enclosed by the 6-storey development where once there were 2-3 storey buildings. The scene is late morning before the shadows lengthen. Afternoon & evening sunlight, and views, from the west will be blocked.

Consultants recommend high sound insulation for the flats, due to the railway and High Street traffic noise and so, they say, noise from performances and punters in the Ashwin Street creative hub shouldn't be a problem for new residents. (I hope they don't need to leave their windows open or sit out on the balconies. Ed),

TfL schemes are not noted for prioritising design excellence. TfL's Dalston Square development is creating, as predicted, a hard landscaped, overshadowed, wind-tunnel in the canyon between the tower blocks. The development resulted in the loss of historic Dalston Theatre and locally listed Georgian houses. Experience does not fill us with confidence in TfL's current proposals.

OPEN Dalston urges all of Dalston's community to consider the current planning application carefully. We will report more details as they emerge. Think of the needs of our future generations, as well as your own needs, before you send your comments to the Council

Monday 19 November 2012

Taxpayers boost Dalston Square developer's profits

Barratt, the nations biggest housebuilder which is currently completing the towerblocks on The Slab in Dalston Square, has just announced a return to healthy profits after several years of government subsidy by British taxpayers .The subsidies, for first time buyers, have helped maintain house prices, and profits, so Barrattt can now consider paying dividends to its shareholders. Barratt is also expecting to receive about £35m in low-cost development finance next year under the government’s Get Britain Building Scheme.

Local taxpayers have also played a big part in subsidising the Dalston Square scheme despite there being only 10% 'affordable' homes planned. Hackney contributed its £15million neighbouring site for a peppercorn, and  replace our historic buildings with towerblocks as part of the authorities' deal to help subsidise The Slab - a massive concrete raft over TfL's Dalston Junction station on which Barratt's towers are being built. In return Hackney has rented back a three storey shell which has since been fitted out as the CLR James Library and a cafe with Starbucks coffee

The Slab went way over budget from £39million to reach an estimated £63million
and, after allowing for the value Hackney's land and the government and TfL chipping in £10million each, the £24millon overspend had to be picked up by the Greater London Authority.

As predicted, Hackney's gentrification has been boosted by the new Dalston Junction rail link, and the Olympic effect, so that local rents have rocketed. Hackney's rising rents are so attractive to off-shore buy-to let investors that Barratt has opened an office in Beijing.

With only 28 family flats for affordable social rent planned in Dalston Square, out of some 550 new flats, the development has done little to meet social needs locally and Hackney has become unaffordable to many.  As a result Hackney Council, like many London Council's, is now starting to move families out of the borough. With rising rents, and caps on Housing Benefit, things can only get worse.


Saturday 13 October 2012

TfL plan private gated community for Dalston

Transport for London (TfL), and its development partners Taylor Wimpey, have unveiled plans for a major private gated community in Dalston. Land with obvious potential for public green space in Dalston is to be entirely enclosed within the new development. TfL has informed OPEN Dalston that "the only viable opportunity for open green space will be that used by the residents and guests of the proposed scheme". In effect a private gated community which will have very little 'affordable' housing and no public open space whatsoever.

TfL/Taylor Wimpey's plan for the Western Curve's northern site at the junction of the High Street with Boleyn Road. The 8-storey scheme will enclose potential public open space for private use.

TfL's plans are part of its redevelopment schemes for the north and south sites of the Western Curve and follow the reinstatement of the railway tunnels for the East London Line extension from Dalston Junction north west to Highbury & Islington station.

TfL's statement also rejects the use of any of its other sites for open green space.

The open aspect and views from the High Street of the listed Reeves Printhouse building and Shiloh Church will be lost by TfL's plan for the southern site of the Western Curve where the possibility of some open green space there has also be rejected.

TfL, and its builders Taylor Wimpey, consulted the Council and some local Dalston businesses about its plans in the early summer. You can read about those plans here and a detailed critique of the schemes here. TfL were then to come back to discuss proposed amendments to the scheme but instead have simply published its plans, with minor amendments, for which it will soon apply for planning permission.

This is a view of TfL's proposed scheme enclosing Ashwin Street. In the foreground is Shiloh Church and the listed Reeves Printhouse building where Arcola Theatre, Bootstraps Roof Garden and Cafe Oto are based. The new development will enclose the space, block sunlight from the street and amplify sound. There will densely packed residents on the upper floors overlooking the street and ground floor shopfronts.

TfL plans do not comply with the guidelines in the Council's Dalston Area Action Plan (DAAP). In July the Government's Planning Inspector conducted a public examination of the Council's DAAP. TfL sent him a written submission that the guidance on building heights on the Western Curve sites, of between 4 - 6 storeys, was unduly restrictive. TfLs present plans include buildings of 8 storeys on the High Street.

You can read OPEN Dalston's written submissions to the Inspector here and here. OPEN Dalston, represented by solicitor Bill Parry-Davies, criticised the Council's DAAP for its failure to make provision for additional public space and increased bio-diversity in Dalston and for the loss of sunlight to public spaces, homes and businesses which will result from the DAAP's proposed building heights.

The missed opportunity for desperately needed affordable housing and open green space in Dalston comes when another proposed development threatens to compromise the intimacy and calm of Dalston only green sanctuary - the Eastern Curve Garden which is also one of Dalston's few secure play areas for our local young children.

The proposed 9 storey redevelopment of Thames House which is on the south and east side of the Eastern Curve Garden. The development will compromise the privacy and sunlight of the Eastern Curve Garden

The Council's DAAP once proposed that the area of the Eastern Curve Garden should become the Dalston Park. Sadly, after public consultation closed, this was changed to designate it as a public thoroughfare and shopping mall.

We will report further if there are any changes to the schemes before the applications are made to the Council for planning permission. If you wish to help bring these schemes to the public's attention please email us at

Friday 20 July 2012

Dalston Junction "step free" access? TfL must be joking!

TfL make a great play that their East London Line stations provide "step free" access - meaning level access so that disabled people can use the trains too. With £63mn spent on the Dalston Junction Transport Interchange you'd think they'd have got it right. Here's an account of a bus trip to the Dalston Junction Transport Interchange by local resident John Thornton.

"The media, in particular The Telegraph, have been quite incorrect when stating that "the stop is only being used by one bus route, the 488 from Bow to Dalston Junction". As I discovered to my horror, The Slab does not serve the 488 "from Bow to Dalston Junction"  at all! It does serve the 488 from Dalston Junction to Clapton and Bow, but NOT in the other direction.

TfL's bus map showing the 488 route from Bow stops at Forest Road - way past the Dalston Junction station and the entrance to the Dalston Juntion Transport Interchange 

The 488 from Bow to Dalston Junction terminates at the bus stop "D" in Kingsland Road, near Forest Road (see TfL 488 bus map).  Passengers must alight there and then walk back along Kingsland Road, and up the steep ramp, to get to the Overground station.  Anyone mobility impaired such as myself, a wheelchair user, or someone with a heavy suitcase, etc, (or a non-disabled person in icy weather) will have great difficulty climbing this steep ramp so access to the station (for me) has to be via the entrance in Dalston Lane (which is quite some distance to trek from bus stop "D" ).

The ramp where the 488 buses to Bow emerge from The Slab and pick up passengers. The 'step free access' to the rear entrance of Dalston Junction station is to the left at the top of the ramp.

On one occasion I persuaded a 488 bus driver to drop me off at the drivers'  Rest Stop on the actual Slab. However, the idiots who designed and built the bus station didn't bother installing a dropped kerb there and, as I approached the station entrance from the Rest Stop, I discovered the footway gets progressively narrower and narrower until ... it gets too narrow for the wheelchair at all and I just tipped over and fell off the high kerb into the road!

The old Dalston Junction station entrance set back from the road with bus shelters and space for set downs and a taxi rank (Photo Steve White2008)

Bus stops at transport interchanges should contain facilities similar to the ones we enjoyed at the old Dalston Junction bus stops (in Dalston Lane) in the mid-1980s, namely; distinctly separate but adjacent stops dedicated to different routes e.g. West-bound [30, 38, 56, 277] or South-bound [242], shelters, seating, timetables, wide pavements, public telephone boxes, litter bins, access to alternative transport such as taxi ranks nearby. Oh, they should contain that recent addition, which didn't exist in the 1980s, the Countdown signs - although there were always plenty of friendly bus inspectors around to tell you when the next bus was due! "

Todays entrance to the Dalston Junction station - narrow pavements and not even a bus shelter for rainy days. (A set down and taxi-rank lane was originally planned by TfL but the Dalston Square buildings had eventually to be built forward right onto Dalston Lane to counteract the accelerated wind speeds which are created by tower blocks - Ed.)

Dalston Junction station entrance in about 1897


Friday 13 July 2012

Government Inspector to decide Dalston Area Action Plan

An Examination in Public by a government appointed Inspector was held at the Town Hall on 3.7.12 to consider whether the Council's Dalston Area Action Plan (DAAP) is lawful and sound. He is expected to publish his report in August.

Since the Council first published the DAAP the government has introduced the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which includes the "presumption in favour of sustainable development".  Where a planning application accords with an up to date local plan, like the DAAP, then the "application should be approved unless there material considerations indicating otherwise". The content of the DAAP is therefore critical to Dalston's future environment.

At the time when the Council was consulting the public in May 2009 OPEN organised an exhibition and its own public consultation about the DAAP . Taking on board what hundreds of people told us we made detailed representations to the Council which included the need for improved public realm, including more green open space, the need to avoid damaging the settings of attractive buildings in the area and the need to nurture local independent buinesses. You can read OPEN's, and other, representations to the Council here. After the public consultation closed the Council made further changes to the DAAP which it adopted in November 2010. It is that document which is being considered by the Inspector.

The Eastern Curve community garden

One of the major changes the Council made to the DAAP, after public consultation closed, relates to the Eastern Curve - the former railway line that is currently the Eastern Curve Garden. That site was originally promised to become Dalston Park but the DAAP was changed to identify it as a proposed "shopping circuit" linking Dalston Square to Dalston Shopping Centre. The Shopping Centre is proposed for redvelopment with tall buildings. The aim, the Council explained, is to create conditions to attract national chain stores to Dalston so residents don't need to go shopping elsewhere ("to curb spend leakage"). How Dalston will be regenerated by local residents putting money into the off-shore bank accounts of these chain stores remains unclear.

Artist impression of the eastern Curve "shopping circuit"

You can read here the written representations made on behalf of OPEN to the Inspector in advance of the hearing.

At the inquiry itself the Council produced an independent light consultant's report, said by the Council to have previously been "witheld". The report illustrates the overshadowing effect of the DAAP proposals for an 8-storey building along the Eastern Curve, 15 storey tower(s) as part of a redeveloped shopping centre and a 15 storey tower at Peacocks site next to Dalston Kingsland station. The report illustrates extensive overshadowing across the Eastern Curve, Ridley Road market and the Dalston Kingsland area.You can read OPEN's seperate representations regarding that report here.

Dalston is one of the densest Wards in one of the densest Boroughs in London and has a severe deficit in open green space and children's play areas.The DAAP fails to outline a 'masterplan' for creating better public and green spaces locally which could be achieved by utilising parts of the many undeveloped demolished sites in Dalston owned by TfL and the Council. OPEN was represented at the Inspectors inquiry by Bill Parry-Davies and argued that the DAAP proposals conflict with the NPPF guidance that local plans should contribute to "protecting and enhancing our natural, built and historic environment", "achieving gains in bio-diversity" and "supporting strong, vibrant and healthy communities".