Thursday 25 April 2013

Hackney denies TfL's claim that it backs "exemplar" gated community

Hackney have publically denied TfL's claim that its officers have described TfL amended plans for a new gated community in Dalston as of "exemplar design".

TfL withdrew its planning application last January and last week it issued an official brochure promoting an amended scheme . The brochure states: "We have since engaged again with officers to resolve these design matters and have revised the scheme accordingly to meet their wishes. Officers have now confirmed that the revised and substantially improved scheme can be supported as an exemplar design"

TfL describes the new design of the Western Curve's northern block now as 'sculptural' and which 'responds' to local character.

A Hackney Council spokesperson has responded to say: "Hackney Council planning officers have not described the design proposals for the Dalston Western Curve sites as 'exemplar'. Officers raised concerns with regards to the design quality of the initial planning application on this site and revised proposals addressing previous concerns have just been submitted. This application and the consultation period is ongoing and officers have yet to form a view on the revised application."

"Exemplar design" is an important word in the planning world - exceptional design is used to  argue for a departure from plannning policies. The Dalston Area Action Plan policy for TfL's northern site is for buildings of 4-6 storeys. TfL's design is for 6-7 storeys.

OPEN's solicitor has sent  a request to both Hackney and TfL requesting production of their record of the discussions held concerning the design of TfLs amended scheme.

Monday 22 April 2013

TfL claim Hackney planners back its "exemplar" gated community

TfL reports that its amended scheme for a gated development on Dalston's Western Curve has been described as of "exemplar design" by Hackney's planners ie a model which Hackney would like to see copied or imitated. Previously its plans, TfL acknowledges, were described as "uninspiriring and repetitive".

TfL describes the Western Curve's northern block now as 'sculptural' and which 'responds' to local character.

TfL's amended plans follow the withdrawal of its plannning application last January, after criticism by the local community and Council plannners. The amended plans have removed the 8th storey ( except for the corner tower), and set back the 6th and 7th storeys, of the northern block on the corner of Bolyen Road and Kingsland High Street. TfL describes the reduced height as a "substantial concession" - although the Council and government approved Dalston Area Action Plan identifies 4-6 storeys only as suitable for the site.

The block on the southern site, extending north from Dalston Junction, will dominate the street scene and obscure views and light from Ashwin Street and the Reeves and Sons Printhouse building and Shiloh Church.

Other design changes include more variation to the frontages, upgrading cheaper to more expensive finishes, increased room heights to flats, more balconies etc.

From the outset TfL, a public landowner,  rejected OPEN Dalston's requests for public green space to be incorporated within the designs. It insists that all the public land would be enclosed as amenity space within its new private development in which some 90% of flats will be for sale.

OPEN Dalston's illustration of the potential for linking green spaces through Dalston above the Western Curve railway tunnels

We met TfL's bosses, the GLA, and put forward detailed evidence of need and designs to illustrate what would be possible. Providing green space is known to increase well-being. It also increases land values (see, for example, the High Line effect) but TfL say our plans would make their scheme "financially unviable" . TfL says that Hackney agrees that public green space would be "inappropriate", although the Council's official design brief for the sites refers to "encouraging" the provision of  open green space.

OPEN Dalston understands that TfL has now re-submitted its plannning application for the sites and we anticpiate  that Hackney's planners will recommend the scheme to the Council's Planning Committee. In the meantime we still await TfL's response to our proposals for greening other local TfL owned sites for which it presently has no development plans