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"