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

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