Friday 27 December 2013

The twelve days of Christmas

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

Plans were unveiled in 2013 for redevelopment of the Dalston Cross Shopping Centre and 2104 may see a formal planning application. It's to be a 'residential led' scheme - no significant increase in retail space but new blocks with 500 odd flats above the shops ( up to 14 storeys high) and with underground parking beneath them.

Artist impression of Dalston Cross redevelopment.  "...Towers for people who need gifts and coffee, Only available from brandname shops...." from "Regeneration Blues" by Michael Rosen

The route to the re-modelled Dalston Cross shopping centre from Dalston Square (and back) was to be a proposed linear Dalston Park, but late amendments to the Dalston Area Action Plan (after public consultation had closed) saw the Council's "vision" change . Now the route is not to be a park (where the award winning Eastern Curve Garden presently is) but a "shopping circuit"  - an overshadowed pedestrian/cyclists thoroughfare lined with shops and nine-storey blocks of flats.
Hackney hopes the scheme will stop "spend leakage" - meaning locals won't need to go shopping at Westfield, Stratford City or the Angel - because we'll have the same shops here as everywhere else. (Just like Heathrow? Sigh. Ed.). How paying money into the off-shore bank accounts of national brand stores, rather than local independent businesses, will make Dalston more properous has yet to be is how it fits in with Hackney Mayor's 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 "

Grey is the new green. Hackney's vision of the Eastern Curve Garden, transformed into a shopping circuit linking Dalston Square with Dalston Cross shopping centre.

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

In 2013 Hackney's Planning Committee granted permission to the Transport for London/Taylor Wimpey partnership to build on two Kingsland High Street sites. The scheme fails to comply with the Dalston Area Action Plan (DAAP) criteria as to exemplar quality of design and height.

After withdrawing an earlier application, a "revised design" was proposed for the northern site which, it was claimed "reduces its mass at sensitive locations to create a more responsive and sculpted form."

TfL and Hackney ignored the local community's desire for some green public space on the sites by enclosing all available open space within the development. It is, in effect, a privatised enclosure of public land to create a gated community and will provide only 9, out of 106 flats, for affordable rent. The designs exceed the DAAP height guidelines and will dominate the High Street and its historic buildings. The overhadowing of a Grade II listed building, TfL's own consultants say, will be "Substantially Adverse" .

The southern site will obscure views, and sunlight, from Ashwin Street's Reeves and Sons building which houses social enterprises like Arcola Theatre, Cafe Oto and the Bootstrap Company.

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

With the continuing desperate shortage of homes, the London property market continues to provide high returns and a save haven for foreign investment.  Government loans to home buyers indirectly subsidises the major housebuilders - Barratt, Taylor Wimpey, Persimmon etc -  by keeping house prices and rents high, and guaranteeing returns for 'buy to let' landlords. Housebuilders snapped up cheap public development land with favourable public loans but continue to hoard their landbanks and drip-feed the market to ensure demand exceeds supply.  
Barratt built the Dalston Square towers,and the TfL site behind the blue hoardings on Kingsland High Street is to be developed by Taylor Wimpey.

In previous years foreign investors invested mainly in high value new build development, but now the trend has extended to all new build developments. Even local Hackney estate agents have a China desk. Fearing another house price bubble, the government recently switched subsidies from housebuilding to business loans  and is finally to impose capital gains tax on foreign investors.
The big housebuilders, like Barratt, have been pulling strings to support the "simplification" of planning rules - AKA the "presumption in favour of development". So it's Hello to the Big Business Society and Goodbye bio-diversity and local character and, if you can't pay the rent or the mortgage, then it's goodbye to you too.

An image promoting TfL/Taylor Wimpey's 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.

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

No apologies for plugging OPEN Dalston member Winstan's Whitter's newly updated documentary film Legacy in the dust . It 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?

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

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

In 2013 we had a post-mortem on the cost of the 2102 Olympics - many London businesses had suffered, costs soared above all expectations and Hackney became unaffordable for many. Nevertheless Hackney claims to have secured a future legacy of 4,500 "new" jobs, by the sale of the publically-funded £295million Olympic Media Centre, to iCity. 40% of the site is to be leased to iCity to create a massive data-store, an activity requiring exceptionally few employees. Where will the thousands of new jobs come from to replace the previous thousands employed in the Lea Valley before the Olympic Games?

Of equal importance will be the sale of development land for housing on the Olympic park which saw 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. Curiously, the records of the extensive radioactive contamnination have become rather sparse - almost as if the radioactivity never existed - but consultants advised at the time that any new residents shouldn't eat anything grown in their gardens. What will the environmental legacy be for the future generations who will live on the 2012 site ?

Gold Dust by Mike Wells on Vimeo

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me.......Sixteen demolitions

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? In 2010, after four fires, three demolitions and OPEN Dalston's long campaign,  Hackney bought the Dalston Lane houses back from the off-shore slum landlord to whom it had sold them at auction. It paid £3.8million - double what it had sold them for in 2002.
Now, in the age of austerity when money is scarce, how would Hackney get its money back? The Council has agreed a 125 year lease to Murphy to convert the terrace into 42 flats and will take a lease-back of the ground floor shops.  It will not be the "conservation led" scheme originally promised because, they say, these fragile old houses  can not withstand such intense redevelopment. It is now proposed that all 16 Georgian houses should be demolished .

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

The proposed 19-storey tower, with £1million penthouses, next to Dalston Kingsland station. Only 14 of  the 125 flats will be "affordable". The developer expects to make at least £10million from the scheme.

Last 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, like Hackney's former Deputy Mayor (Karen Alcock, currently Hackney Cabinet member for Property and Housing) was employed by the developer's PR company Four Communications.

Would Hackney's Mayor Jules Pipe feel he had been stitched up and silenced at the Planning Committee meeting? 

In 2013 Rothas Ltd. re-applied for planning permission, this time for a 19-storey rotunda tower, and was invited to present its proposals at a 30 minute meeting with the Planning Committee at which the public were not allowed to ask questions, provide information or to speak at all.  The Committee is expected to make its decision in February 2104.  You can make your views known to the Council here and you can sign the objectors' petition here

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

OPEN Dalston member, Marie Murray, shows Camilla around the ever popular Eastern Curve Garden

Last year the Eastern Curve Garden, Dalston's only community managed public green space, had a visit from HRH Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, as part of her tour of Chelsea Flower Show fringe gardens.  On 2013 the events list at the Eastern Curve Garden were never ending and you could even  enjoy cakes and coffee in the new Pineapple House. But the Council says that Dalston's only public green space was always intended to be only for temporary use, until it is developed as a "shopping circuit" to support the future Dalston Cross shopping centre redevelopment. Public suppport for the Garden will be critical in 2014. Let's hope the Garden never ends!

The Eastern Curve Garden's greenhouse, decorated by users, is a popular new addition to the Garden

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

In 2013 a leaked report 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. 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. Hackney will be considering the reports' recommendations in 2014 but in the meantime the Planning Committee has already approved schemes which damage the environment,  and there are more in the pipeline.

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...........ten more storeys

In 2013 residents of Dalston Square campaigned successfully to oppose redevelopment of Dalston's Holy Trinity Primary school, which was to be funded by cramming another ten storey block of private flats into Dalston Square on the school site. Residents complained about poor design and the loss of sunlight and privacy. Hackney's Planning Committee agreed with them, and turned the scheme down.

The scheme, which would enable the school to double its intake, was suppported by the school and Hackney's Learning Trust. Boris' Greater London Authority decided to call in the application and overuled the local Planning Committee on the basis that the designs were adequate and extra school places were needed ( with a playgound on the second floor roof).  The London Mayor's overarching powers, as regional plannning authority, were last expanded during Labour Ken Livingstone's tenure.

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

Jules Pipe is the elected Mayor of Hackney, Chair of Hackney's 10 member Cabinet, and Leader of the local Labour Party. In 2013 the Cabinet decided to reduce transparency and accountability for its decisions by abolishing the all party Overview and Scrutiny Board and reducing full Council meetings from eight to five each year. Is there less need for scrutiny of decisions taken in the Mayor's name? Yes, if you read Hackney Today. No - if you read this or this or this  or this or this or this or this.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me.... Twelve o'clock closing

Hackney Council is treating Dalston as a Special Policy Area by restricting further growth of new licensed premises, and license extensions beyond midnight, except in exceptional circumstances. It is also working with the police to control anti-social behaviour. Dalston Councillor, Sophie Linden, who is now Hackney's Deputy Mayor, said "We want businesses to thrive and people to keep coming for a great night out but without spoiling residents' quality of life.”

Bar entrepreneurs and clubbers object that the bourgeois arrivistes are killing the fun although, in fact, many of the local residents complaining have been part of Dalston long before it became  the  new Shoreditch and gentrified. You can read the debate here and here.

Friday 20 December 2013

Hackney to demolish sixteen Georgian houses in Dalston Lane

Hackney has entered a development agreement with private contractor, Murphy, which now proposes the complete demolition, rather than restoration, of the Georgian houses at Nos 48-78 Dalston Lane. In 2005 English Heritage had declared the houses to be "remarkable survivors of Georgian architecture", and a "conservation led" project was to be the centerpiece of the newly designated Dalston Lane (West) Conservation Area. Now, due to years of neglect and vandalism, Hackney's plan is to demolish the houses and redevelop with front facades in "heritage likeness".

'Jon's Scooters' at Nos 62-64 suffered an arson attack and deliberate vandalism in 2004. Nothing was done to shore up, or rebuild, the houses which quickly deteriorated. There were two mysterious fires in other shops as well.

Hackney inherited the sixteen houses in 1984 when the GLC was abolished. In 2002 it ignored the shopkeepers' offers and sold them all, as one lot at auction, for £1.8million to an off-shore developer. Hackney refused planning permission for demolition and redevelopment in 2004 but, whilst awaiting the developer's appeal, two of the houses suffered an arson attack. The Council subsequently demolished Nos 60, 62 and 64, at public expense, in September 2007. Then, in 2010, it bought back all the remaining houses and the three demolished sites for £3.8million - double what it had originally sold them for at auction.. How would Hackney get its money back? (Don't you mean our money? Ed.)

Hackney demolished Nos. 60-64 following the fire damage and deliberate vandalism, and propped the neighbouring houses. No other attempts were made to repair or preserve the remaining houses whilst in the developer's ownership or after Hackney re-purchased them 

The findings of the most recent structural survey, which Hackney accepts, state that "the fa├žade of Nos 48-78 Dalston Lane had significantly deteriorated due to general neglect, weathering, fire damage and subsequent water damage " and is "generally in poor condition throughout, having suffered significant general deterioration".

In 2009 many of the houses were painted black to obscure graffiti. The structural engineers have advised that "The areas of brickwork previously rendered or painted could not withstand the required cleaning process."

In October 2012 Hackney eventually granted itself planning permission for re-development.The permission is to convert the upper floors into 44 flats, including adding a mansard storey, and was to include renovation of the existing Dalston Lane facades and shop fronts. But the structural engineers have now advised that it is "impossible for the facade to support any additional loading that may be imposed by the proposed additional floor at mansard level"  and that it would be "unsafe to attempt to retain the facades following any future demolition of the internal walls, floors or remaining roofs" because "there would be a high risk of collapse". However the Planning Committee voted for partial retention, not total demolition.

This artists impression shows the latest plan to redevelop the terrace. Murphy will have a 125 year lease and market all the new flats privately, with no affordable housing. It will lease the ground floor shops back to Hackney.

Of the existing shop fronts, they have also suffered severe deterioration, except for those of the two surviving businesses, 'Sound and Music' and 'Hy-Tec'. Of those, the surveyors comment, "the shop fronts to Nos 48 and 66 are to be retained however it will not be feasible to retain these in place without damage occurring during demolition and construction and they should be dismantled and stored off site". Mouldings are to be taken to enable reproduction of some of the decorative features of the shopfronts.

The backs and interiors of the existing terrace houses are to be demolished and redeveloped as flats. Open space will be created by taking in some of the estate car parking, which Hackney will compulsorily purchase.

The Dalston Lane Georgian houses have had a sad history. It was once a thriving street of independent businesses but tenants' leases were not renewed, shops were boarded up rather then relet, and no repair and maintenance was done. Despite the Dalston community's campaign, and Hackney's stated commitment to the historic environment, all are now to be demolished. We are now left to hope for a quality scheme and that new commercial tenants can be found for the ground floor shops.

Artists impression of the proposed redeveloped terrace, with reproduction shopfronts, additional mansard roofs and glazed in-fills between the pairs of houses.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

OPEN event: Imprisoned Oxbridge boat race protester to join Iain Sinclair and William Taylor event

Trenton Oldfield, who swam into the path of the Oxbridge boat race in April 2012, will speak at the OPEN event this Thursday evening, alongside Iain Sinclair and William Taylor.

Trenton Oldfield's action was a protest against elitism and took place on the eve of government cuts and the 2012 Olympics. Although he risked harm to no-one, save to himself, he was convicted and sentanced to 6 months imprisonment for causing a public nuisance (or, as the Judge put it "spoiling the enjoyment of others"). The Home Secretary considers that his presence in the UK is "not conducive to the public good" and decided to deport him (Trenton is originally from Australia) but this was recently overruled by a Tribunal

Thursday 28 November 2013

OPEN event - Iain Sinclair and William Taylor at Cafe Oto on 19th December

The Banned and the Damned

At this event Hackney's internationally acclaimed, but locally banned , writer and film maker Iain Sinclair will present and discuss his latest book American Smoke - Journeys to the End of the Light" and William Taylor, a Hackney Vicar and a former Director of OPEN, will discuss and screen the film "The UK Gold" - a damning indictment of the unethical practices of British financial institutions.

Iain Sinclair's book is his first full engagement with the memory-filled landscapes of the American Beats and their fellow travellers.  Filled with bad journeys and fated decisions, it is a "delirious expedition in the footsteps of Malcolm Lowry, Charles Olson, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Gary Snyder and more, heated by obsession (the Old West, volcanoes, Mexico) and enlivened by false memories, broken reports and strange adventures".

'Inventive, dazzling, arresting. A superb chronicle of an impossible dream that has descended to a nightmare' New Statesman
'Brilliant, superb. Sinclair has gone from cult author to national treasure' Robert Macfarlane, Guardian
'Wonderful, sharp, amusing, grippingly atmospheric. One of our most dazzling prose stylists'  Daily Telegraph

The UK Gold Official Trailer from Brass Moustache Films on Vimeo.

Winner of the 'Best Documentary' at London's 2013 East End film festival, this independent film, written and directed by Mark Donne, explores the complicity of the City of London as the tax haven capital of the world and the network of overseas British territories, which suck money from impoverished nation states.
" A shining piece of film-making on the darkness at the heart of the City....this is a film no-one should avoid" Daily Mirror
We are guided through the darkness by the film's hero, the William Taylor, who joins a battle where good argument is of little value in a world of closed doors and mutually protective silence - where democracy is no more than an illusion and the cards have been dealt in advance. 'The UK Gold' shows how deep deception is ingrained in our proudest institutions and traditions.
"Fascinating, disturbing and ultimately gripping" Screen International

"The economics of taxation may be quite complicated, but the ethics of saying one thing and doing another is not....In this corner of Hackney we recognise that we have a responsibility to our neighbours. But do the Citizens of the City of London? I’m not so sure" William Taylor, Vicar of St Thomas' church, Upper Clapton

“A story seismic enough to shift perceptions of finance and flag forever”

OPEN events have previously sold out. Book tickets here - book now to avoid disappointment

Saturday 24 August 2013

Dalston to get shaft (ed)

A new 19-storey, 62 metre high Dalston tower, with a four storey frontage building,  is proposed for 51-57 Kingsland High Street on the Peacocks site next to Dalston Kingsland station. We've nicknamed it 'The Teardrop'.
The developer's previous application, Dalston Green, got unanimously rejected by the Planning Sub-Committee. This new scheme does not comply with the Dalston Area Action Plan either.  You can  let Hackney's Planning Committee know what you think of the new plans and you can sign the objectors petiton - see below.

The Teardrop (as it would be seen from Ridely Road market) is planned next to Dalston Kingsland station and is designed by Jestico and Whiles. The total of 125 flats is double the average density expected for this 0.18 hectare site. The developer states it will contribute £100,000 to any improvements to the neighbouring station, although no specific proposals have been announced.

The developer claims the development "contributes to and enables a balanced and mixed community in the area". However, in this dense private housing scheme, only 14  "affordable" flats are planned for the front building ( all for shared-ownership, not social rent, and only 3 family flats) and 111 private  (unaffordable) flats will be in the exclusive tower behind. Prices will rise to over £1million for the 19th floor penthouses. The developer expects a net profit of over £10million (a 20% return on investment is more or less guarranteed). Where is the community benefit? 

The Teardrop will have no car parking (except for 2 spaces for disabled people) and 210 cycle storage spaces. There will be a 'children's playground' on a roof terrace. The site is west of Ridley Road Market but the tower, they say, won't start to overshadow the entrance until, on average, 5pm.

The huge profits come from stacking up the site with private flats. The Daylight and Sunlight consultant (GVA's) report concludes that the overshadowing effect of the proposed tower has no significant impact". However, of the 37 tests for residential sunlight, their report reveals that 26 (70%) failed the British Standard by exceeding a 20% loss and one amenity area has nearly 50% loss of sunlight in winter. Of 44 tests for residential daylight (excluding Boleyn Road to the west of the site), 33 (70%) will lose more than 20% of daylight.

 The "Teardrop" gets its name from its teardrop, rather than circular, plan form

The climatic effect on our 'public amenity space' ie our High Street pavements, was not tested at all.The tower will, in fact, deduct a bit of sunlight from all of us as well as increase local wind speeds ie the developers profits come at our expense by degrading the quality of our local environmental.  What will Dalston get back to mitigate these effects?

The "Teardrop" as seen looking north along Boleyn Road. The tower's aerodynamic design, it is said, prevents the increased wind speeds accelerating off the north west surfaces from exceeding conditions appropriate for "standing" ie you will be able to stand but will not be comfortable sitting outside.

The developer has already consulted the Planning Sub-Committee, at a recent 'pre-application' meeting, when the public were not allowed to speak. The meeting was intended to remove any 'misunderstandings' which had led to the previous scheme's unanimous rejection.
The Planning Consultants state that "Throughout the pre-application phase consultation took place... including OPEN Dalston ". This is untrue - in fact there has never been any consultation with OPEN Dalston for this scheme.

Four storeys, plus parapet, plus roof terrace, next to the exquisite 1902-3 High Street terrace, which includes Grade II Listed No 41 (Shangai, formerly Cookes) and the locally listed Kingsland pub. Does it enhance or does it dominate the terrace?

The  Heritage consultant (Tavenor's) report is laughably inept. On the subject of Grade II Listed Colvestone Primary school it describes an entirely different building. The consultant also assesses the environmental impact on the Kings Arms, although that pub was demolished several years ago. Fortunately, the Council's Dalston Area Action Plan requires Hackney to undertake its own Character Appraisal  of Dalston's heritage assets to inform its Planning Committee's decisions. Sadly, Hackney's report is not yet available.

The previous planning application for a tower on Peacocks site was rejected on grounds which included it's height , scale and mass being detrimental to the area's appearance, the absence of affordable housing, the reduction in retail floor space and because its design would compromise future development of Dalston Kingsland rail station. The new design is taller, has only 11 affordable homes (of which none are for social rent), has reduced retail floor space and makes no proposals to improve the station.





Saturday 20 July 2013

"It's not silencing the public because they didn't have a voice anyway."

A developer with plans for a 19-storey tower block on Kingsland High Street had  30 minutes of exclusive access to Hackney's Planning Committee last Wednesday. The public were invited but banned from speaking. When asked why the public must remain silent, Hackney Council's Press Statement to the Gazette,  said "It's not silencing the public because they didn't have a voice anyway". 
When will the Planning Committee allow members of the public 30 minutes, at a formative stage, to ask questions, provide information and give opinions to the Committee about the developer's plans

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Public refused right to speak at public meeting

Hackney has refused all members of the public the right to speak at the Council "Extraordinary" Planning Committee meeting tomorrow (reported here). The meeting is to allow Rothas Ltd, the developer of a proposed 19-storey tower block on Kingsland High Street, exclusive access to present the merits and benefits of its scheme to the Council's Plannning Committee. The Committee members will then be entitled to discuss and comment on the developers plans. Any member of the public attending must remain silent.

Would Hackney's Mayor Jules Pipe feel he had been stitched up and silenced at the Plannning Committee meeting tomorrow ? 

The Council's Constitution presently forbids lobbying of Planning Committee members before a planning application is formally made and considered. Its policies also enshrine the duty of the Planning Committee to act fairly and impartially as between developers and residents. . A change in Hackney's Constitution requires a vote of all members of the Council. Senior planning officers have persuaded the Committee that its new "pilot scheme for pre-application meetings" with developers is within the rules.

The last time the developer applied for planning permission, with the support and recommendation of Council planning officers, the Planning Committee members threw it out unanimously. The Council hopes that the new "pilot scheme" will avoid such "misunderstandings" in the future.

(Readers will recall our warning last year that, whilst the last application for an 18-storey tower on the site may have been buried, it was not dead. It has now returned to stalk our High Street. Ed)

Sunday 14 July 2013

19-storey tower for Kingsland High Street - Hackney tells public to "remain silent".

Developers' of a 19 storey tower block on Kingsland High St. have been given an unprecedented opportunity to influence the Council's Planning Committee at a meeting, before a formal planning application is made. To avoid allegations of secrecy, the Council has issued a letter to invited members of the public to watch the event live, in the Town Hall, on 17th July at 6:30pm.

This image is of the redesigned proposed tower, on the Peacocks site next to Dalston Kingsland station. The previous version of the tower, was rejected by Hackney's Planning Committee in March 2012. Penthouse apartments are expected to sell at over £1m, there will be fewer affordable homes ( 10% not 13%) and no improvements are now proposed for the station. 

The developer will be permitted 15 minutes to inform the Planning Committee of the merits and benefits of its plans and a further 15 minutes to answer the Committee's questions.

The Council's letter reminds the public, once again, of its "committment to community involvement in the planning process at an early stage" and that invitees are required to follow its rules for the event, which are:
1. You must reman silent
2. You are not allowed to ask questions
3. You are not allowed to give opinions or make pleas

When will the Planning Committee allow members of the public 30 minutes, at a formative stage, to ask questions, provide information and give opinions to the Committee about the developer's plans?

(Former Deputy Mayor, Karen Alcock, is Hackney's Cabinet member for Property and Housing Policy and has declared her employment by the PR company, Four Communications, which promoted the developers previous scheme. Ed)

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Environmental Alert! East London under threat from giant leeches.

Our guest writer, field biologist Clear Hardly, alerts us to evolutionary changes occurring in East London's invertebrates, particularly leeches, which are on the move since the authorities disturbed their ancient habitats in the waterways of Hackney Marshes to develop the 2012 Olympic Park in Stratford.

Hirudo leech: Segmented worm of the Phylum Annelida species, with anterior and posterior suckers, hermaphrodites, it explores the water environment and feeds on its host injecting anti-coagulents to assist predation and, when gorged with blood, it falls away.

Hirudo gigantae vulgaris: these huge leeches have emerged from the marshes to become wholly terrestrial in form. They feed on development sites, inject capital and rapaciously extract huge value from their hosts at the expense of future generations. They favour brownfield and, increasingly, greenfield land. When gorged they fall away and move on in search of new opportunities.

"Not to be mistaken for pond life, I urge local communities to keep a wary lookout for Hirudo gigantae vulgaris" said Clear Hardly "particularly around London's East End like Dalston Stoke Newington, Forest Gate and Shoreditch. Even community gardens, sports fields, and common land are no longer safe. When they bleed!

Friday 5 July 2013

Are we " building the slums of tomorrow" ?

In 2008 Sir Richard Rogers, former government advisor on urban design, coined the phrase "We are building the slums of tomorrow". He made the statement at the height of the debt-fuelled boom. Now, in the age of austerity, are standards improving?

Hackney's Planning Committee approved TfL/Hackney/Taylor Wimpey's Western Curve gated Dalston development  last Wednesday. Is their "public/private partnership" up to standard? 

TfL/Taylor Wimpey's Western Curve Dalston development, before and after the 'improvements'.

Because the development will breach Hackney's government approved Dalston Area Action Plan the Committee were supposed to consider whether those breaches were "required" for financial reasons, whether they will bring "additional significant regeneration benefits" and whether it will be an "exemplar" building. These requirements were not reported to or considered by the Committee when it's members approved planning permission. 

Nor was there evidence that the development will "strengthen and enhance" Dalston town centre's character and identity - in fact quite the reverse, because the "could be anywhere" designs will dominate and overshadow the High Street and its heritage buildings.

Some of the flats, to be packed into TfL/Taylor Wimpey's development, will have between only 0.0% and 3.6% probable sunlight hours annually .This is way below British Standards, and is "Substantial adverse", according to TfL's own consultant's report. The environmental effect of the scheme on our high street, and its heritage assets, will be as bad if not worse. Why are such low standards being allowed?

The Worship of Mammon 1909 by Evelyn de Morgan

“mammon”: (noun) possibly of Aramaic origin, meaning riches. First personified in English as the false god of wealth, avarice and injustice in the mediaeval poem Piers Plowman and later as the fallen angel, Lucifer, in Milton's Paradise Lost.
“mammonistic”: (adjective) consumed by the desire for wealth at the expense of beauty, creativity and the human soul.
"mammonists" : (secretive) the dark forces, including Philistines, pursuing material gain by the obliteration of heritage, identity, culture and sunlight in the name of regeneration, best value, necessity and progress.

TfL will now get a substantial payment for the site from Taylor Wimpey which, in turn, can expect a 20% return on its purchase and development costs. Hackney Council also invested over £1m and will hope for a 20% return too. Dalston loses out.

Sir Richard Rogers said in 2008 "There is something seriously wrong when new houses across the country form rootless estates and could just as well be in Beijing, Buenos Aires or Belfast. These are developments which have no regard for a community's sense of place, belonging or identity. I fear we are building the slums of the tomorrow, but it shouldn't be."
Sir Richard Rogers, Head of the Government's Urban Task Force, that focused on design-led buildings and reform of the planning system to allow greater involvement of residents.
The Independent 29 March 2008

Dalston! If you think the Western Curve development is poor, what do you think of what's coming next? 

Emerging proposals for a re-developed Kingsland Shopping Centre - same amount of shops but with 500 flats above them

Plans for a re-developed Eastern Curve Garden to create a new "shopping circuit"