Saturday, 28 January 2012

Dalston Kingsland towerblock. Where's the public benefit?

You still have time to comment about a developer's application for planning permission to build an 18-storey, 50 metre high towerblock of private flats next to Dalston Kingsland station.

Is it a beacon, a landmark building, adding to Dalston's identity and character?
The 50 metre high tower will dominate and cast shadows across the Kingsland area. Like a lighthouse in reverse, it will steal the sunlight from public space, homes, businesses, locally listed buildings and Ridley Road market. The tower will cause higher wind speeds locally so that some public areas around the building will become "unsuitable for standing" (sometimes, the consultants say, "the criteria for safety of all pedestrians including sensitive pedestrians and cyclists is exceeded").

Will it meet housing need locally?
There will be 130 flats for sale but only 17 flats (13%) are to be "affordable". Policy guidelines are for 50% affordable housing. The "exemplary" design is so poor that 30% of flats don't meet the official minimum sizes. The remaining private flats (87% unaffordable) are in the exclusive "Dressed in Green" tower, with its a own secure entrance. The penthouse duplex apartments there will each cost around £1,000,000 (£1 million).

Is it environmentally sustainable?
The build quality does not reach the Code 5 standard for sustainable homes. Although the building is 'dressed in green' there is no explanation of who will undertake the necessary maintenance of the planting, or the urban agriculture proposed, or pay for it. No vegetation is sustainable on the bleak North Face of the tower. Is it green - or is it greenwash?

Does it respect its neighbours?
This 1902 Grade II Listed building, Cooke's old Pie and Eels shop, is next to the development site. It is one of an exquisite group of buildings with diverse architecture and fine detailing. The tower will overlook four conservation areas. The listed buildings directly affected also include the Rio Cinema, Colvestone Primary School and locally listed buildings opposite at 74-76 Kingsland High Street. Does the development acknowledge and respect its all?

Is it gross exploitation of Dalston - a developer's try on?
The 2012 Dressed in Green development is six to eight storeys on the high street, eighteen storeys behind. Densities well exceed the London Plan guidelines. It dominates the 3/4 storey high street. It diminishes it's neighbours. It extracts huge development value from the site - but at the expense of the surrounding area.

Where is the public benefit to justify this over-development of the site?
The developer expects to net a profit of over £10,000,000 (£10 million). What will Dalston get back for all it will lose? About £500,000 - which is about 1% of the development's resale value. The developer will give the money to Transport for London and Hackney Council to spend.

What some of the locals say (from

You can see details of the application 2011/3439 on the Council's web site here.

It's not too late to make your views known to the Council. Send them in an email to and put "Planning Application 2011/3439 : 51- 57 Kingsland High Street" in the Subject line

The "Dressed in Green" tower is being promoted by the developer's PR company, Four Communications, which has recruited Hackney's Deputy Mayor Karen Alcock and Councillor Alan Laing (formerly a member of Barratt's PR firm Hard Hat). "We are keen to use Alan’s extensive network of contacts within London politics" "said Councillor Laing's new Managing Director whose company is also promoting the new Sainsburys planned for Stoke Newington and the controversial Stamford Hill school development.


  1. I grew up in Dalston and have had to leave because of 'affordable' housing going up everywhere. Its not affordable, its for city workers and rich people.

    I am not against regeneration and building new housing in an area. I'm also not against new people moving into an area, but it must be done sensitively with the existing community in mind.

    Dalston will always be in my heart no matter where I live, but things like this make me feel further and further away from it.

  2. Not a good plan.

  3. Awful. Whilst the council is supposed to provide affordable housing in the area they are tearing down places in order to build apartments only 'affordable' to the wealthy. Its sad to see this area loose its character and culture at such an alarming rate

  4. I object to a huge tower block proposed for the very centre of Dalston in Kingsland High Street. Please think of the character the area has already and also please think carefully about real affordable housing, this idea is a waste of money, effort and logic.

  5. you cant stop hackney council from robbing the good people of hackney they've done it before and they'll do it again.

    They sold those Edwardian terraces on Dalston Lane off to a family member back in 2002 only to rebuy them for 1 MILLION quid....

    There should be a public inquiry about whats going on. They're all filling there boots.

    1. Isn't that strange. This post was made on the 28th Jan but receives no comments until 30th when 5 opposing comments are made in a few hours (4 in just over 1 hour). What a coincidence!

  6. This building looks so incongruous in the setting. Why did Alan Laing become a councillor I wonder? To benefit the local community, or gain inroads into local government for commercial gain? The latter I think.

  7. By definition, all progress is "out of context". It is the primary function of residential architecture to address contemporary housing need, not to evoke the past with low-rise buildings clad in anachronistic brick. London is a world capital with an existential housing crisis, not a stagnant provincial heritage town.

  8. I don't agree that "all progress is out of context". There are numerous examples in London, and Hackney, of imaginative contemporary design sitting comfortably alongside heritage buildings. But it wont work if the developer simply wants to exploit the site regardless of its context - then you end up with schemes like the Dalston Kingsland proposal. Yuk!

  9. "sitting comfortably alongside"? What does that mean? Low-rise (ie not many homes) and clad in brick?

  10. I have moved to Dalston,10 years ago . When people wanted to be friendly they said Dalston is up and coming but for most of these 10 years there was nothing up and coming about it. Now for the first time after the new Dalston Junction station finished it became true. Dalston is changing. I have seen the Arcola theater moving nearby, new cafes are opening up and the new Vortex Jazzclub open its door. Let's not ruin this opportunity of Dalston becoming a nice place to live in. Surely there is another solution than planting oversized towers everywhere that dwarf everything around them. This particular tower looks completely out of place.

  11. Volker - "oversized" for what exactly? We have a housing crisis so large that the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) is predicting a shortage of 325,000 homes in London by 2025! That's equivalent to a city almost the size of Birmingham!
    The European Environment Agency (EEA) describes low-rise urban sprawl as the "worst-case scenario". Now, think of a solution.

  12. I think the character and community of Dalston should be protected. Why turn it into another Canary Wharf? Lets not divide the community by creating ghastly towers. It's why so many have been torn down. They're horrible places to live. This type of development is designed for the buy-to-let landlord and transient dwellers. No affordable homes. Shame on Hackney.

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. So this block will have duplex penthouse apartments for £1million and the 17 affordable flats, which were in the noisy lower floors overlooking the station & high street, have been dropped. Benjamin says London's housing needs are being met. Whose needs are those then?

  15. Anonymous 10:01 - "Benjamin says London's housing needs are being met. Whose needs are those then?" No single development can meet all of London's needs. (That misquote has all the hallmarks of a politician?).
    What I and others are saying is that high-rise, high-density housing helps to address our chronic shortage of supply and delivers it in a sustainable manner. It is this shortage of supply that keeps prices high. This developer can ask £1m for a duplex precisely because supply is short, and yet you simultaneously moan about the price and the increase in supply - it's perverse! This is basic supply & demand.
    As for the social provision, my personal preference is for a decent percentage of social rental (since "affordable" housing can be resold later at market rate), but for some reason, that I'm not privvy to, the developer has - if recent reports by OPENDalston are correct - been allowed to make that provision in the form of the station re-fit.
    You lament the fact that the affordable flats were to be on the lower floors but you overlook the fact that, if OPENDalston et al got their way and kept everything low-rise, all flats would be "in the noisy lower floors overlooking the station & high street".
    There's a lot of muddled thinking here from the anti contingent. For example James seems to think that protecting the "character and community of Dalston" are one and the same thing. They're not. In a market such as ours with an increasing population and chronic low supply with resultant high prices, if you "protect the character" (by which I guess he means keep everything low-rise and probably brick) then you keep supply low and thereby exacerbate the inflationary tendency which results in the current community being priced out of the area. If one is genuinely interested in protecting the current community one should encourage as much building of as many homes - of all kinds - as possible.

  16. Benjamin - I don’t read this blog as being against tall or dense residential development per se. Your characterisation seems reductive and, frankly, arrogant. I think OPEN Dalston are reminding us that buildings have context and that unless development is managed carefully irreversable damage is done to the character and identity of our communities. You might describe this as NIMBYism but who other than locals are defending our environments against overscale, ugly and exploitative schemes which we will have to live with for the next 30 or more years. The Dalston Kingsland scheme isn’t like Dalston Square which we were led to believe was supposed to have some justifiable overarching public benefit to do with the Olympics. This is a purely private scheme to extract maximum profit from the site at the surrounding areas expense. Most of it will be bought by overseas buy-to-let investors and the fact that they will then sub-let the flats to tenants on short-term leases doesn’t make the design any better.
    Your ‘supply and demand’ explanation of high house prices is also oversimplistic eg government /developer schemes, to lend deposit money for new build to people who cannot otherwise afford to buy, also keeps property above market levels. These are similar to the schemes which led to the 2008 credit crash. Banks have since demanded 20% deposits because they know the stock is overpriced.

  17. I note that once again opposition to environmentally sustainable high-density housing boils down to throwing around subjective words like "overscale, ugly and exploitative". "Overscale" if you want to live in a provincial heritage town. Perhaps undersized if one was wanting to address a housing crisis in an environmentally sustainable manner. And do you not realise that virtually all of London's period terraces were constructed by developers seeking profit? Thankfully, you and OPENDalston weren't around then otherwise nothing would have been built, (except perhaps a faux 17th century cottage which attempted to preserve the character and identity of the area?).
    We are all entitled to our architectural tastes (personally I like to see the juxtaposition of period and modern, with the contrast in style and scale acting as a foil to each other and that allows for functional architecture that addresses contemporary needs and provides an historically honest reading of a streetscape) but to deny people housing in a housing crisis on the grounds of your subjective - and probably ephemeral - aesthetic tastes, is frankly arrogant, cruel and perverse. You feign concern for the community whilst ignoring the fact that it is the housing shortage (and Tory policies) that are pushing communities out of London.
    As for your explanation of London house prices - if the government schemes that you mention had any significant inflationary effect you'd expect to see it across the country. But even if this statement weren't self-evidently nonsense enough, you also contradict your argument by saying that "most of it will be bought by overseas investors". You are the only person I have ever communicated with that does not think that London's exhorbitant house prices are principally due to demand far exceeding supply (oh, except a Tory politician who once told me that "I don’t give a monkey’s if London is a world capital or not"). No wonder you post anonymously!

  18. Benjamin - I'm not against tall buildings per se. I like modern design and dislike historic pastiche. Where I think we disagree is that you seem to believe that the housing crisis makes it OK to maximise the number of 'units' regardless of context. Where would you stop? What are the principles that determine what's acceptable for you? Why stop at 18 storeys - why not 50 storeys like is proposed for Shoreditch? Is it OK to build them on greenfield sites? Public parks? Conservation areas? Redevelop historic buildings? Overlooking and overshadowing schools and public amenity space? Does it matter if children live on the 18th or 50th floor? How much profit should a developer make before he has to give something back, like affordable housing? How much public benefit should be returned to the community? Do aesthetics and good design matter at all?I haven't noticed any balancing of interests in your arguement. Most people commenting seem to think the Dalston Kingsland tower is over-scale but you simply condemn them as wanting to live in a "provincial heritage town" which doesn't help your arguement.

  19. Blimey! - and there was me thinking this was a blog condemning a specific 18-storey proposal in Dalston, and I was offering an opposing view. It appears that you want me to write you an entire planning policy document! I could go through your lengthy request of points one at a time, but it would make heavy reading and this blog does ask that comments are kept relevant. Yes, I've noticed that lots of people commenting on this heritage blog think it too tall - hardly surprising. That isn't a justification not to address a housing crisis in an environmentally sustainable manner. I'm simply presenting a counter argument that conservative housing policy has delivered neither the volume nor in an environmentally sustainable manner, and the conservative's inability to address these central issues leaves their argument (or lack thereof) moribund.
    Incidentally, if you want to take the pressure off green space and historic buildings the best way to do it would be to maximise the development potential out of sites like this one.

  20. You didn't answer any of my questions, so try these.
    Obviously house building in London has fallen far short of needs but there are thousands of empty homes, new and old, up and down the country. Is that the fault of conservationists too?
    If high-rise slums are caused by poverty, not architecture, then where will poor people live when all the new London towers are being taken by investors and the better off?

  21. OK, as you wish, I'll go through your questions one at a time;
    "Where would you stop? What are the principles that determine what's acceptable for you? Why stop at 18 storeys - why not 50 storeys like is proposed for Shoreditch?".
    The height of building that can fit on the site in question is determined by a number of factors, such as the size of the footprint, the length of the sides which provide access to the street, access to public transport, whether the building is residential , commercial or offices or a mix, fire regulations (over a certain height added measures such as lifts, stairwells are needed which take up floorspace and therefore may not be viable), and probably umpteem other considerations that I cannot think of right now. So its impossible for me to tell you what would be the maximum height that I think would fit on that site. All I can say is that I think it would be perverse to set an arbitrary upper limit. I don't know much about the 50 storey building or its site in Shoreditch, but providing it reaches all the required criteria and building regs - why not?

    "Is it OK to build them on greenfield sites? Public parks?"
    No it's not OK since having access to green space is imperative to a healthy life. This is one of the reasons why I'm against low-rise developments in inner London - because they increase the pressure to develop greenfield and green belt. One of the advantages of building up is that you don't have to build in green areas. Even from a conservationist perspective it is quite plausible to argue that if a building is to be redeveloped its replacement should be as tall as possible. It would be more pertinent if I asked you the same question.

    "Conservation areas?"
    Yes, I wouldn't have a problem with high-rise in a conservation area. Personally, I think buildings of historical merit should be preserved, but not areas. In my experience all they have delivered us is low-grade pastiche that demeans the period architecture and turns the area quite Disneyesque. The line between sympathy and parody is of course subjective.

    "Redevelop historic buildings?"
    That's too vague a question to answer succinctly. It depends on the merit of the building, what state of repair it's in, is it empty/for how long, can it be brought back into use easily etc, etc. But I'm certainly not against it in certain cases.

    "Overlooking and overshadowing schools and public amenity space?"
    Too vague to answer. But I generally don't think that a shadow is a good enough reason to deny large numbers of people a home.

    "Does it matter if children live on the 18th or 50th floor?"
    The overarching priority for family accomodation is room numbers and room size, both of which can more easily be achieved in greater number in high-rise. Whether a family chooses to or not should be a decision of the parents, but building large numbers of high-rise apartments takes the pressure off other housing for those parents who wish to live away from the clean air and fab views and "in the noisy lower floors overlooking the station & high street" as you put it.

    "How much profit should a developer make before he has to give something back, like affordable housing?"
    I don't know - I'm not an economist, but I like the principle.

    more follows...

  22. cont'd
    "How much public benefit should be returned to the community?"
    Too vague to answer. But don't forget that housing provision is in itself of benefit to the community.

    "Do aesthetics and good design matter at all?"
    Of course they do, but we're going to have to separate the subjective from the objective in that glib question. Determining what qualifies as good design depends on how you define the design brief. If the brief is to provide housing for large numbers of people in an environmentally sustainable manner in a location with good transport links, close to jobs so as to avoid the "worst-case scenario" (as the European Environment Agency puts it) of low-rise urban sprawl - then the Dalston proposal is good design. If, on the other hand, the brief is simply to create a visually homogenous streetscape regardless of housing provision, then it is a bad design. I hope that London planners are viewing the brief closer to the former than the latter.
    As for subjective aesthetics, I've made my preferences clear; personally I like to see the juxtaposition of period and modern, with the contrast in style and scale acting as a foil to each other and that allows for functional architecture that addresses contemporary needs and provides an historically honest reading of a streetscape.

    "Obviously house building in London has fallen far short of needs but there are thousands of empty homes, new and old, up and down the country. Is that the fault of conservationists too?"
    Most empty homes are in areas that people don't want to live in for lack of jobs eg parts of the North East. As for empty homes in London, local authorities should do what they can, but in reality they are very reluctant to use compulsory purchase laws against private property and the numbers of empty homes in London are a drop in the ocean compared to the shortage, so this is a bit of a red herring.

    "If high-rise slums are caused by poverty, not architecture, then where will poor people live when all the new London towers are being taken by investors and the better off?"
    I'm sorry but I can't make sense of this question. Is it a joke? Could you reword it?

    Anyway, now that everyone is bored to death with your digressionary inquisition, perhaps I could ask you a fundamental question;

    How do you address London's vast housing shortage in an environmentally sustainable manner?

  23. Benjamin - so from what you say I understand you support the Kingsland tower despite the adverse micro-climates it will create(widespread overshadowing & high wind speeds); the damaging effect on the historic environment (see English Heritage expert's view); the inadequacy of public benefit (you think private housing alone is sufficient benefit); families & kids living at height(you say it's their choice - although the housing crisis means they have nowhere else to live); the more units that can be built on the site means its a better design ( personally one of my gripes isn't that its modern - its just plain ugly). I think your views are shared by a very small minority and lack the balance which the issues demand (and aspirational planning policies reflect). My impression is you probably mourn the demolition of Hackney's high rise estates and want them rebuilt.
    You ask 'How do you address London's vast housing shortage in an environmentally sustainable manner?' Some of the questions I ask are why,in the internet age, service industries and bureaucracies can't relocate to where there are empty homes & space; whether towers and district heating schemes are actually as carbon efficient as claimed; why taller denser housing hasn't been built in brownfield areas eg Thames Gateway, Olympic Park etc. I suspect that unless people resist the incremental erosion of their local environments by predatory state and private developers, and demand public benefit from development, then those in power won't have to find the difficult answers to the question you raise. Until then vast numbers will continue to live in overcrowded squalor or be priced out of London.

    1. "why,in the internet age, service industries and bureaucracies can't relocate to where there are empty homes & space"?
      So that's your solution to the London housing crisis...tell employers to f#*k off elswhere? Good grief! You don't get cities do you?!

  24. So, no answers just yet more digressionary questions!
    "why taller denser housing hasn't been built in brownfield areas eg Thames Gateway, Olympic Park etc"? You should ask Conservative London Assembly member Andrew Boff about that since this Member of the Planning and Housing Committee told me;
    "The first phase of development on the Olympic Park has been changed from your dreary idea of [high-rise, high-density] accommodation to mixed tenure terraced houses with gardens after lobbying from yours truly..."

  25. Benjamin - so you do wish they'd rebuilt Hackney's Holly Street and other high-rise estates

  26. Andrew Boff, it's quite telling that you can't write under your own name, can't answer fundamental questions and would rather discuss other sites than the one in question.

  27. Benjamin are you one of those overpaid architecture and planning consultants? Your comments seem to imply that you are. You should declare your interest if you are one. Local people don't want the development just as they didn't want the Dalston Square development, which is another monstrosity pushed through the council by dubious means. I note that the billboard advertising the envisioned cafe culture around the Dalston Square development does not contain one Afro- Caribbean face which, call me a cynic, may infer the way the wind is blowing. Beechwood Road and its surrounding estate is now in the shadow of these monsters, their sunlight has been stolen. As some one who regularly walks to the shops and market I can assure you the microclimate has changed considerably. The same thing will happen again if an 18 storey tower block were to be built on Kingsland Road. Historically the people of Hackney have been asked many times about the type of development they'd like to see and what they have said is low or medium rise units. Local people want local solutions to their problems not a solution imposed on them so that someone else can make a quick buck.

  28. Andrew Boff, it's quite telling that you can't write under your own name. Benjamin, sweetheart, I never anonymously blog. I'm too vain to not let people know its me.

  29. "are you one of those overpaid architecture and planning consultants?"
    Have you got such a low opinion of the people of Hackney that you think it impossible that someone might express an informed opinion on environmental urban development without receiving money for it?
    I used to get irritated when people made that erroneous allegation, but more recently I feel heartened since it reflects the fact that oponents of modern high-density housing that addresses critical environmental issues have run out of credible arguments and instead resort to making false allegations.
    Don't you think it strange that no-one on this supposedly "environmental" blog can answer the fundamental question - how do you address London's vast housing shortage in an environmentally sustainable manner?
    And Andrew, if it's not you, someone's pinching all your best lines.

  30. It seems to me Benjamin has read part of the London Plan (the bit about building tall to accommodate London's expanding population)but not the rest (about development responding to local context).

  31. Benjamin you clearly have a hidden agenda and your arguments smell a little copy-and-paste to me. Bit lame.

    Don't suppose you have first option on the penthouse!!

  32. James, there is nothing sinister in "copying" my own points, however, if my arguments are "Bit lame", why not try to counter them?
    Since "arguments" against the proposal are now limited to repetition of false allegations, perhaps I might introduce a previously unmentioned theme - the benefit to local shops.
    Since struggling local businesses and empty shops are of great concern to all, surely the benefit of hundreds of new residents in the heart of Dalston would be a good thing? Where will these residents get their groceries, eat, socialise etc?

  33. Interestingly the recent GLA Report rejecting the Forest Gate housing/retail led "regeneration" scheme commented that "given the focus on one and two bedroomed units it is likely that residents will leave the area for work for much of the day and as such the spending power of new residents in the area will be reduced".
    A similar analysis can be applied to the Dalston Kingsland scheme.A reduction of the scheme to an appropriate scale/density is hardly going to drive local retailers into penury.

  34. Blimey! What a flawed logic. Surely they come home from work at some point and shop for groceries, eat at local restaurants, go to cinemas, socialise etc?
    Also, "appropriate scale/density" for what exactly? The "worst-case scenario" of low-rise urban sprawl as the European Environment Agency puts it?
    Are you not aware that retailers are currently going bust on a daily basis?


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