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"


  1. You state that there are no "additional significant regeneration benefits" to this development. Surely the additional housing and shops will enhance and regenerate this stretch of high street no end?
    Furthermore, surely the building of high-density housing near transport hubs in inner-city areas (such as what is proposed around Kingsland) is exactly the sort of urban planning that Rogers advocates?
    And surely you realise that we live in a free-market economy and that all housing - even the period housing that you admire - was built for "mammon"?

    1. Whether the benefits, of breaching the DAAP policy, can be justified compared to the adverse consequences is what the Committee should have considered. Like them, you seem to have made up your mind without considering the alternatives. Of course most London housing is speculative development - so what? The Committee's role is to balance commercial interests against human and environmental needs. UT seems to have been badly advised on this one.

    2. "The Committee's role is to balance commercial interests against human and environmental needs."
      But surely the overarching human need facing Londoners today is the extreme shortage of housing that is forcing prices ever higher - with huge social and economic ramifications? If we are sincere in our concern for human needs we need to address this shortage.
      Besides, commercial interests and human interests are not exclusive to one another - a development makes money because it provides humans with their needs; housing.

    3. To adddress London's overcrowding is why Dalston is designated for "densification" in the London Plan and why we are witnessing the social and cultural cleansing of Hackney. The issue is not whether there should be development but how it is done. Unless we remain vigilant, housing standards and local character will be swamped by commercial interests who claim, as you do, that "overarching" needs justfy their self-interest. Your analysis is one-dimensional, it ignores the balancing of wider human needs, and if followed through would result in the rebuilding of the old Holly Street and other high rise estates which were socially catastrophic, concreting over open and green space which are essential to human health and biodiversity, the destruction of local character which provides us with historic continuity and identity and the creation of an homogenous social, natural and built environment which is unsustainable.

    4. We are witnessing the social cleansing of all inner-London because of the housing shortage that OpenDalston refuses to address.
      You go on to conflate social housing estates with private housing. There is no correlation between building height and social problems. There is, however, a link between social problems and poverty (whether in low-rise or high-rise). Incidentally, Holly Street estate was mostly low-rise blocks surrounded by large open, public green spaces;
      It was replaced with tightly packed little houses with comparably little open public green space;
      I'm not sure what this new estate does for our "historic continuity and identity".
      Most people would agree that preservation of green space and buildings of historic architectural merit is a good thing. This is best facilitated by concentrating new residential development on brownfield sites, such as this one in Kingsland. High-rise, high-density housing can be the friend of open public space, eg. it is because of Dalston Square's height that it can afford its open square with trees, play area and fountain.
      Do you think it unreasonable for those who are concerned about London’s extreme housing shortage, to ask those who are opposed to high-rise, high-density housing on brownfield sites in our inner-cities to come up with a viable alternative way of tackling the housing shortage?

    5. In theory building high, as the London Plan argues, will conserve green space, heritage assets and local character. In reality, because of all powerful commercial interests, it doesn't. Dalston Square saw the demolition of some of Dalston's oldest and finest buildings and a hard surfaced windswept square. It is these aspects that OPEN Dalston criticises. To support your arguement you choose to interpret our position as against high rise per se. If you continue to misrepresent our position you can hardly expect a platform here for your views.

    6. "Dalston Square saw the demolition of some of Dalston's oldest and finest buildings and a hard surfaced windswept square. It is these aspects that OPEN Dalston criticises. To support your arguement you choose to interpret our position as against high rise per se."
      OpenDalston constantly opposes developments on height grounds. On Dalston Square; "Nevertheless, the campaign achieved a 30% reduction in what was to be a grossly overdeveloped scheme..". That doesn't appear to be a matter relating to historic buildings or hard landscaping.

    7. The reduction from 800 to 500 odd dwellings on Dalston Square did not result in any reduction in heights of th towers. We criticise schemes which provide inadequate public benefit eg the Western Curve scheme exceeds height guidelines but will have just 9 flats for social rent out of 106, has no pubic green space and results in reductions in sunlight to listed buildings to below british standards. The theoretical benefits of building tall will, as usual, simply not be realised and the detrimental effects of building tall are legitimate ground for criticism.

    8. "The theoretical benefits of building tall will, as usual, simply not be realised.."
      But they demonstrably have been realised, such as in the case of Dalston Square's public open space with dozens of semi-mature trees, fountains, children's play area etc.
      The question remains; is it unreasonable to expect those who oppose/criticise tall buildings to present an alternative method of tackling the housing shortage?

    9. First, get your facts right.There is less open space and fewer trees in Dalston Square than there were before the redevelopment. As for fountains and a children's playground these are yet to be realised. Hackney admitted that it did not consider the costed alternative scheme which the community put forward for the site which included open green space and 100% affordable housing with Hackney retaining its equity in its land ( since sold to Barratt for a peppercorn)

    10. "There is less open space and fewer trees in Dalston Square than there were before the redevelopment." You're obfuscating.
      What we're discussing here is the benefits of building up (which you describe as merely "theoretical") as opposed to low-rise developments. If Dalston Square's 500+ homes had been built as low-rise there would not be the public open space which has been made available (the fountains and play area are "yet to be realised" because - as you may have noticed - the development is still under construction).
      We are comparing high-rise development with low-rise development, not high-rise development to no development.
      The question [still] remains; is it unreasonable to expect those who oppose/criticise tall buildings to present an alternative method of tackling the housing shortage?

    11. Not obfuscating - simply pointing out that the promised benefits of building high rise are not being realised in practice.
      It is self-evidently true that adding more storeys produces more homes so, if that's your only point it, doesn't require further debate. OPEN Dalston will continue to criticise developments, whether high or low rise which, for commercial reasons, fail to deliver adequate affordable homes, green space and social amenities and which have an adverse effect on local character, heritage assets and the local environment.
      Where we have proposed improvements and alternative schemes to developers,(see for example our recent "Linking Dalston's green spaces" proposal) they have largely been ignored in favour of short term commercial gain. We are therefore left with having to oppose development applications. As an association of volunteers, we give time, get involved and do what we can. Nuf said.

  2. We live in a victorian basement flat, we have 0% sunlight!

    1. The BRE sunlight test is only applied to homes which are expected to receive some sunlght ie not north facing basements for example. Still I gather its only the ground floor flats that are so badly overshadowed, so that's not so bad.....hang on a minute, that's street level where we all walk around. Oh shit!

  3. Capitalism is destroying the very fabric of life on earth. Mass extinctions, ecosystem collapse, catastrophic climate change, extreme weather not to mention mass starvation of the poor, suicides and social collapse amongst the rich. When will the elite minority of lunatics running this idiocy stop? Answer: when people stop believing in their lies and start fighting for their lives.
    Hackney's political elite have been in bed with corporate developers for years. Several were directly on the payroll. There is an unwritten agreement that developers can build any crap they like and make as much money as they like, regardless of planning law, policies or public need, provided LBH gets s.106 bribes and wealthy council tax payers. Hackney's population has increased 20% in 10 years.
    Stop profiteering from destroying our communities, landscapes and environment. It is short sighted, greedy, insanity perpetrated by evil psychopaths.

    1. s.106 money is paid to mitigate the effect of the development ie contribute to improve roads, expanding schools, libraries etc. It'll soon be history with the Community Infrastructure Levy & Hackney is now consulting on the CIL charge per metre on new build. Happily, the CIL can be spent however the Council wants - so it's trebles all round in the pensions and pay offs department!

    2. Russell; "Hackney's population has increased 20% in 10 years."
      And London's population is due to increase by another 1.5 million or so by 2030. The question is do you - as a sincere environmentalist - want that population to live near jobs and public transport hubs in inner-London, or in housing estates on green-belt where they face lengthy, costly and environmentally damaging daily commutes?


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