Thursday 25 December 2014

Festive greetings from OPEN Dalston

OPEN Dalston sends best wishes to all our members and supporters in this festive season. We celebrate the generous support given by our local Dalston community and by the many eminent people and the local and national amenity societies who have backed our fight  to preserve something of the character, identity and diversity of  Dalston.

There has been 30 years of deliberate neglect of our Georgian houses since Hackney first acquired them. Ever since, a cloud of suspicion has hung over Dalston Terrace . For 10 years we have tried to persuade Hackney Council to save them. But it stood idly by, mouthing platitudes about being the champions of our heritage, whilst watching decay. Eventually, Hackney designed a profit-led scheme to attract a developer. It will load the sixteen ancient houses with 44 flats, all for private sale. Hackney pleads  its own negligence that, due to years of  dereliction, the houses are now too weak to withstand their scheme. They still call it a "genuine conservation scheme" although nothing will be conserved. We are are now in a desperate fight for their survival. It could be Dalston Terrace's last Christmas.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Demolition of our Georgian houses has started. Murphy refused to wait for the Court of Appeal.

No 66 Dalston Lane is the old "Sound and Music"shop, an 1807 house. It is in Phase 1 of Murphy's demolition programme. Murphy started stripping out No. 66 Dalston Lane last week. They removed all the windows and the chimney pots and all the roof tiles to let the rain in.

OPEN's solicitors wrote to request they cease demolition works until OPEN's case has been considered by the Court of Appeal. Murphy have refused, saying they've been delayed long enough already. OPEN has now applied to the Court for a hearing when it will ask for an injunction to stop the demolition until its appeal is heard.

You can see from this photo that the roofs of 66 Dalston Lane have been stripped of their coverings

If you see heavy equipment on site, or contractors damaging the houses, please immediately contact SaveDalstonLane on twitter or facebook  . OPEN solicitors may then need to make an application to the Court for an injunction to stop them.

Monday 15 December 2014

OPEN has applied to the Court of Appeal to Save Dalston Lane

OPEN has today filed an application in the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal against the decision of a High Court Judge that he could not to stop the demolition of our Georgian houses in Dalston Lane. The Judge could find no procedural error which would enable him to overturn the planning permission, given by Hackney Council last March to its development partner Murphy, to demolish the sixteen antique houses. You can read about the Judge's decision here.

Also today the Spitalfields Trust, after waiting months and months, had a meeting with Hackney's Property Services officers. The Trust presented a genuine conservation scheme which not only involves restoration faithful to the antiquity of the 1807 houses, but also involves developing the remainder as 24 affordable flats in partnership with a housing association. ( What more could be of public benefit! Ed ) You can read about the Spitalfields Trust scheme here. The Hackney/Murphy scheme involves complete demolition and building bogus replica houses "in heritage likeness" and provides no affordable housing at all. The Trust now awaits Hackney's response to its proposal.

If you oppose the demolition of our Georgian houses, and support the Spitalfields Trust scheme, please sign the petition here and, even better, add your comments. The petition and comments will be sent to Hackney's Mayor Pipe - who still hasn't replied to OPENs letter offering to arrange a meeting for him with Spitalfields Trust.

OPEN has had a rollercoaster battle in trying to save these houses from municipal vandalism which began many years ago. We have been supported financially and in spirit by local and national amenity societies and by many eminent people. The Judge's decision was a sad and heavy blow to our campaign but it is the numerous smaller donations from the Dalston community which have inspired us to carry on! These sums have added up to over £10,000!! But more is now needed and we urge everyone to give what more they can to fund OPENs application to the Court of Appeal  (Click here to donate). You can also buy quality campaign T-shirts and bags here which would also help us carry on the fight (Christmas present problems solved! Ed.).

We have not given up hope that these surviving fragments of Dalston's history can be saved and be admired by future generations. We also hope that, by providing affordable homes, at least some of our local families won't be driven out of the community by the exhorbitant local rents.

Friday 5 December 2014

Dan Cruickshank condemns the demolition of our Georgian houses of Dalston Lane

Dan Cruickshank, the eminent historian, writer and broadcaster,was one of our guests of honour at OPEN's fabulous fundraising soiree hosted at Dalston's Passing Clouds last Sunday 23 November.

Dan Cruickshank

Dan expressed his fury that the history of Hackney, as illustrated in the Survey of London ," has been desecrated largely by Hackney Council itself . . ."

Dalston Terrace: Six pairs of Georgian houses in Dalston Lane were built in 1807, with later shops built over their front gardens in 1890. After inheriting them from the GLC in 1984 Hackney left them empty and unmaintained to slowly decay. Watch the video here  

Dan went on: "I’ve got so many people to be angry with: English Heritage in particular. The fact that the terrace is not listed is a disgrace." 

JONS Scooters and Pizzey Flower shops were damaged by arson, then ignored and  left unsupported  by  Hackney Council which then demolished them without any planning permission

"Every day I see beautiful and useable buildings destroyed in villainous circumstances: this is one of the most villainous stories I know about!

"NO MORE  OF THESE BUILDINGS MUST BE DEMOLISHED because buildings represent continuity, identity, pride and memory. Memory is so important. You lose the buildings and you forget what you were, what these places were. . . The fabric of this history is gone, largely swept away, which is why these houses in Dalston Lane are so incredibly important." 

"They are important for three reasons: they are beautiful, they absolutely have a possible future use as family homes, and they are part of the memory of what was here. They are also of major architectural importance and interest . . . as they capture a moment of English taste." 

"We appreciate around the world the Georgian city: Bath, Edinburgh, Bedford Square . . . these buildings are part of this great admired tradition.  By some alchemy, some magic of god-given quality, those unlikely forces of speculative Georgian development created beauty that is inspirational, is much admired and loved, and is a model for urban living, a beautiful urban world, a ‘rus in urbes’.  But no one knows, no-one cares because so much is gone."

Dan concluded: "The Spitalfields Trust are absolutely determined, willing, ready and able to step in and take the buildings on. There should be something for everyone in Dalston by saving and developing the terrace in a sensitive and thoughtful way that preserves history." 

Saturday 29 November 2014

Judge rules that he can't save Dalston Georgian houses from demolition. OPEN is considering whether to appeal.

A High Court Judge has ruled, on OPEN's judicial review, that he cannot overturn the planning permission granted by Hackney to demolish all of our sixteen Georgian houses in Dalston Terrace. Hackney's Planning Committee granted the permission to Murphy last March and OPEN has disputed the decision ever since.

The Honourable Mr Justice Collin's decision last Monday means that, unless OPEN can urgently obtain permission from the Court of Appeal to continue its challenge, demolition could start before Christmas.

The story of Dalston Terrace is a grubby chapter in Hackney's history. Once described as "remarkable survivors of Georgian architecture" by English Heritage, many of the 200 year old houses have been reduced to perilous ruins since Hackney first acquired them in 1984. This sorry tale reminds one of the Council's earlier dealings with the 1886 Dalston circus buildings, and the charming old houses of Ashwin Street,  all of which the Council needlessly destroyed.

The Council appears to place little value on its own policies, Dalston's architectural heritage, the views of our local community or of national and local amenity societies and independent experts. The Hackney/Murphy scheme also fail to meet the needs of local people and small independent businesses for affordable homes and workplaces.

When first objecting to the Hackney/Murphy scheme, OPEN stated to the Planning Committee that the damage already done to Dalston Terrace was bad enough, and that its loss by total demolition would be unforgivable. The total loss of Dalston Terrace is now a very real possibility.

There will be further expense in pursuing the judicial review on appeal. We urge everyone to keep donating to the fight so that the prospects of succeeding on appeal can be urgently considered.

You can also help by buying a limited edition "Save Dalston Lane" comfy organic cotton T-shirt or a Tote bag. Buy them here  (Ahhah - my Christmas presents problem is finally solved! Ed)

Background to the Judge's decision

The history of Hackney's dealings with Dalston Terrace is scandalous. Whilst claiming to be champions of our heritage, and adopting clear conservation policies for their restoration, the Council did nothing to maintain or protect the houses throughout its' period of ownership. Several £100,000s were lost in rents over the years as the houses were left empty, and most were allowed to become derelict. JON's Scooters and Pizzey's Flowers shop were also left unsupported after an arson attack and were later demolished by the Council.

The Council had refused to sell the houses to its tenants, or to market them individually, on conditions for refurbishment. A conservation-led scheme, designed by Heritage of London Trust and funded by English Heritage, was prepared in 2009 but this was ignored by Hackney as "not relevant" to the current 'regeneration' plans.

In 2012 Hackney decided to exploit the development potential of the site by a design which would load the fragile houses with 44 new flats, all for private sale, and  demolish ground floor walls to create open plan shops. Its' primary aim was to maximise the price Hackney could get on sale to a private developer rather than to conserve the houses.
It is a MIMBY scheme ( 'Mammon's In My Back Yard' Ed.)

Inevitably the ancient structures would be put severely at risk by the profit-led scheme, but Council officers nevertheless recommended that the scheme was viable and "conservation led", so Hackney granted itself planning permission. Hackney had advice at the time from structural engineers but , when later employed by Hackney's development partner Murphy, the same engineers advised that on closer examination the poor build quality of the houses and years of neglect meant that even the facades could not be retained in any new scheme.

Hackney advertised its scheme for buyers, in the European Journal. It weighed the two offers received with an emphasis on price (55%) over quality (45%), and accepted Murphy's offer of £2.3m. Where else can you buy a site to build 44 new flats in Dalston for £2.3m? And, now that there will be total demolition and new build, an independent expert has calculated that Murphy could make over 30% profit on the development. Yet, despite this, Hackney still considers that it is "not viable" for Murphy to provide any affordable housing.

Hackney has refused to reveal the terms of its' development agreement with Murphy. After signing the development agreement in June 2103 Hackney authorised Murphy to commence demolition unlawfully last December, without planning permission.  It was only the community's outcry, seeing bulldozers on site, that stopped the illegal action. Hackney then shamefacedly had to admit that it had failed to publicise the demolition plans on its website ( due to "adminstrative error"). Next, the report of Hackney's independent consultant, Alan Baxter, which advised that some of the houses could be saved, was not published either. Neither was its existence revealed to OPEN, or to the Hackney Society, at  later meetings with the Council. The report only came to light when Murphy included it with its planning application papers to demolish the houses. How Murphy obtained it is not known to us.

Spitalfields Trust's Tim Whittaker has sketched  how the Georgian terrace could be faithfully restored and have affordable housing (See Spitalfields Life ) (This scheme could be a PR triumph for Hackney! Ed).

Hackney officers and its Mayor have refused to meet the Spitalfields Trust to discuss whether its alternative scheme, for restoration and for 22 affordable flats, might be possible.  Instead the Mayor is reported to have had a private meeting with Murphy to hear their pleas that the approved scheme can not be built and to seek his agreement for total demolition and replacement with phoney replicas.

All this subterfuge is by a Council destroying publicly owned heritage assets whilst claiming to protect them, claiming to be transparent whilst concealing expert's reports and claiming to consult the public whilst disregarding what they say.

The Judge who dismissed OPENs judicial review was aware that Hackney's own independent engineer, Alan Baxter Associates, believed that the older 1807 houses could be repaired, and that the eminent Morton Partnership had reported that most of the houses could be saved. The Judge was also aware that there were hundreds of objections, including all the main national amenity societies. He was aware that the Planning Committee's votes were divided equally, and that the Chair used his casting vote in favour of the Council officers' recommendation that Murphy be permitted to demolish everything.

The Judge made clear from the outset of the Court hearing last Monday that he had no jurisdiction to substitute his personal views for those of the Planning Committee. Regrettably the Judge was not persuaded that there was any procedural or other legal error which could justify him overturning the planning permission.

OPEN is now appealing for funds to commission an expert to examine the Judge's reasoning and asses whether his decision can be successfully appealed. Any application to appeal must be made to the Court by 15 December.

Friday 21 November 2014

OPEN's judicial review battle is in the High Court on Monday 24th November.

On Monday 24th November a High Court Judge,The Honourable Mr Justice Collins, will decide whether Hackney granted planning permission lawfully, to its 'development partner' Murphy on 5th March, to demolish our 16 Georgian houses at 48-76 Dalston Lane.

On Sunday 23 November, the eve of the Court battle, OPEN has organised the "Fabulous Save Dalston Lane Fundraiser", hosted at Passing Clouds, when we will celebrate the 200 year history of the houses and our fight to save them. A stellar cast of  performers, including Dan Cruickshank, Iain Sinclair, Michael Rosen, Rucksack Cinema, the Dulce Tones and others, will be on hand to inspire and entertain you.Tickets will be £10 on the door from 7:30pm.

 The Story of Dalston Terrace 1807 -2014 (Video)

The Council has had a conservation-led policy to regenerate these houses since 2006, but just watch this video to see how total neglect over the years has brought them to their current perilous condition and cost our community £millions.

The argument in Court will focus on the history and whether Hackney properly considered whether the Murphy scheme, which involves demolishing all the houses and building phoney replicas without any affordable housing, was the best option. A Judge has already found that OPEN's case is at least arguable.

Hackney has had a long standing conservation policy for the houses. Its' officers, and independent experts, had advised that a scheme which did not involve total demolition was possible. But that all changed at the last minute. At the Committee meeting on 5th March Muphy's design team advised that, due to the condition of all of the houses, total demolition was necessary. Hackney had received advice from its own independent engineers, and evidence from the intenationally know Morton Partnership, that the buildings could be saved. Hackney's officers recommended demolition. In the face of powerful objections from the public, and national amenity societies, the Committee itself was equally divided. It's Chair used his casting vote for total demolition.

OPEN later wrote to Hackney's Mayor, Jules Pipe, asking him to meet the Spitalfields Trust which has offered a scheme to restore the houses and develop 24 affordable flats with a Housing Association. What scheme could be more for the public benefit? Regretably the Mayor has not acknowledged our letter and Council officers cancelled a meeting planned with the Spitalfields Trust to discuss its proposal.

Spitalfields Trust's Tim Whittaker has sketched  how the Georgian terrace could be faithfully restored (See Spitalfields Life)

OPEN has raised £0,000s to fight this case and we are grateful for the inspiration and support which has been provided by the Dalston community and by organisations like the Hackney Society, the Georgian Group, the East End Preservation Society, The Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings, the Victorian Society, SAVE Britain's Heritage and many others.  However there is no certainty in the outcome of the Court case  - the Court's powers to intervene are very limited.

You can follow the campaign, and learn the outcome, on Facebook and on Twitter @savedalstonlane and @opendalston 

Whilst Hackney stood idly by and watched the decay we have tried our best, over many years, to defend these final fragments of Dalston's Georgian architectural heritage and to prevent their destruction. They deserve a better fate than this.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

OPEN's fabulous fundraising "Save Dalston Lane" event on Sunday 23 November. Don't miss it! Stellar line-up!!

OPEN has lined up a stellar cast of performers to entertain you at a cultural-political soiree "Save Dalston Lane"on Sunday evening, 23rd November, starting at 7:30pm. The event will be hosted at the super cool and popular Passing Clouds community centre and nightclub. There will be plenty of tickets for sale on the door. The event will raise funds for OPEN's Court battle on 24th November against Hackney Council's decision to allow total demolition of our 17 Georgian houses on Dalston Lane. You read all about  the Court case here.

Dan Cruickshank

The evening will include a presentation by the broadcaster and architectural historian Dan Cruickshank who has inspected the Georgian houses and has been following the fate of Dalston's heritage architecture over many years with grave concern. Dan is also a trustee of Spitalfields Trust, which has proposed a genuine conservation scheme for Dalston Terrace, but which Hackney has so far refused to discuss.

Iain Sinclair

The internationally renowned author, poet and film maker Iain Sinclair has also been following, and writing about, the erasure of Dalston's identity over many years. Iain will speak at the event and will surprise and startle you with his insight, wit and mesmerising poetry and prose.

Michael Rosen

We also have the poet and broadcaster Michael Rosen, now a national treasure but with strong family ties to Dalston. Michael has written at length in the national press, and indeed on this blog, about the neglect of Dalston's local community and its architectural heritage by the authorities.

Michael will also be performing some of his improvised jazz poems with Dalston's musical maestros the Dulce Tones who include Ali Friend of Red Snapper and Loz Speyer of Time Zone. We hope the Dulce Tones will also kick off with some of their great dance tunes

This promises to be a fabulous evening not to be missed.  Reserve your tickets here Tickets will be £10 on the door.


OPEN has to raise further funds to meet the legal costs of a full Court hearing on Monday 24th November. We urge everybody to donate whatever you can afford to support the campaign. We've raised £0,000s from the community so far, which has inspired us and for which we hugely grateful. It's the small sums that are really adding up!! You can donate using the Menu Bar above or by PayPal here:

or by direct transfer to OPEN's bank account:  OPEN Dalston Barclays Bank  Sort code: 20-46-57 Account 33274659

If we win we should recover most of our legal costs. All donations , after legal costs and expenses have been met, will be refunded pro-rata. 

You can also follow the campaign on Facebook and on Twitter @savedalstonlane and @opendalston 

Wednesday 8 October 2014

OPEN's Dalston Terrace court victory - Press round-up

"..Mr Justice Foskett said he was persuaded that OPEN had an arguable case that the council had failed in their duty to consider alternative possibilities for developing the site"

OPEN Campaigners win hearing over ‘Georgian Disney’ development. Council decision to forge ahead with demolition will be examined at judicial review in November

"Hackney has pursued a longstanding policy of studied neglect..."

"Hackney Council has succeeded in destroying some decent Georgian houses, and driving a number of businesses and people out of the area while losing large sums of money at the same time. Brilliant!!


Emma Bartholomew @EmmaReporter

Bill Parry-Davies "feels like jumping up down" over judge’s decision for full Judicial Appeal hearing on council Dalston Terrace decision

Bill Parry-Davies ‏@BillParryDavies Oct 3

@EmmaReporter I can't risk jumping up down in Dalston Lane. I'm told all the buildings might fall down!