Thursday 27 February 2014

Dalston Terrace - OBJECT NOW to Hackney's recommendation for total demolition. Wednesday is too late!

Next Wednesday, 5th March, Hackney's Planning Committee will consider its Council officers' recommendation that sixteen Georgian houses in Dalston Terrace should be entirely demolished. Our historic buildings are irreplaceable. The existing damage to the houses is bad enough. Their total loss would be unforgivable. It is not too late for you to object - click on this link.  (...and see below - Ed.).

You can read OPEN Dalston's objections here

The old 1807 and 1820s houses in Dalston Lane, with modern development behind.  (c) Mooneyphoto

The few surviving 200 year old houses in Dalston Terrace represent the history, the character and the identity of Dalston's present and past generations. They represent the spirit of the place. Despite the neglect and indifference of the owners, we have fought long and hard to see the restoration and re-use of these houses (See page 72 - Ed.)  We will not give up.

This video shows the appalling neglect and vandalism of the houses by the owners and, despite its promises to us,  Hackney's historic indifference to their fate and its community's views 

In August 2012 Hackney's Planning Committee were advised that the facades and shop fronts could be retained and restored, as well as having 44 new flats built on the back. Its' members voted for a 'conservation led scheme', which required the retention and restoration of the facades and shop fronts Yet all the experts now realise that if the developer, Murphy, implements the present designs, the buildings will have to be entirely demolished.

Early this year Murphy started demolishing the backs of the houses with Hackney's authority. It was unlawful, as they admit, and we stopped them.

The present designs include creating "open plan" shops. This would involve demolition of ground floor structural walls and would probably lead to the facades total collapse. That is why the developer, Murphy, has now applied for permission to demolish everything. But those designs are totally unnecessary - shopkeepers have been trading from the Dalston Terrace houses  without "open plan shops" for over 100 years. 

                The ground floor interior of one of the 1807 houses planned for demolition (c) Mooneyphoto

Last year the Council's appointed independent expert conservation engineers, Alan Baxter Associates, who reported that, with care, there is potential for some of the surviving 1807 and 1820s Georgian houses to be reused. We think that only one main design change is needed. Don't create "open plan shops". Most of the existing structures can then be retained, repaired and reused. And new flats can also be built at the back.

If Hackney's Planning Committee refuse permission for total demolition Murphy will have to amend its designs by not creating "open plan shops". It could implement the existing planning permission, reusing as much of the structures as is reasonably possible, in a "genuine conservation led" scheme ie one in which the scheme is subservient to the buildings, rather than destroying them.

Retention of the historic houses of Dalston Terrace is a requirement of the Dalston Area Action Plan, which was approved by the Government Inspector and adopted by Hackney's full Council in January 2013. It states, in summary, that  "Existing buildings and open spaces of historic or architectural merit must be conserved... features will be protected and enhanced in relation to....the conservation-led regeneration of the terrace extending from 46 to 86a Dalston Lane..appropriate contemporary design is possible which compliments the restored elements of the Terrace"

Demolition would also be contrary to the Council' policies as landowner, as expressed in The State of Hackney's Historic Environment "Safeguarding  historic physical asserts is a key element in the Council’ regeneration programme and is a proven and sustainable strategy.”

Our objection is not to do with the politics, deception, vanity and greed on display -those are not planning considerations. It is about the value and public benefit to our local culture and identity by conserving historic continuity. It is about Dalston.


Saturday 22 February 2014

Hackney is brilliant! (Official)


"OMFG! IRL??"  Director of Public Communications and Brand Guardianship, Hackney Council

PRIVATE EYE - is available this week in your local newsagent. £1.50p

Thursday 20 February 2014

Eastern Curve community garden under threat - but public must remain silent (again).

"The Dalston Area Action Plan (DAAP) has no policy protection for the (Eastern Curve )Garden" Council officers will advise Hackney's  Planning Committee, at its "special" meeting  next Tuesday at 6:30pm in Stoke Newington Town Hall. Plans for a major re-development of the Kingsland shopping centre will be presented to the Committee by representatives of the site's owner, Criterion. It is a public meeting, which you can attend, but you are banned from speaking. 

Hackney's DAAP vision is for the Eastern Curve Garden to be a "shopping circuit" with some planting

Criterion's plan is to build 445 flats in tall blocks on top of shops, and underground parking, in 4 Phases over the next 6 years. Phase 1 starts with the Eastern Curve. Although Hackney own the entrance and southern end of the garden, and Criterion own the rest of it, the future of the garden is left deliberately vague in the plans.  

The Eastern Curve garden is Dalston's only bit of community managed public green space. It's a haven for our kids as well as plants and wild life.

Hackney have refused to make any formal agreement for its use as a community garden and have always described it as temporary.

Some of us have received an email from the Council inviting us to attend the meeting. 
"The Council’s Planning Service encourages community involvement in the planning process at an early stage...." it says, and goes on to say " The public will not be able to actively participate in the proceedings on this occasion by addressing the Planning Sub Committee." ie we can attend but can't speak as we listen to our futures being discussed! Sounds familiar? 

The Eastern Curve Garden is not the only community amenity under threat - there is no sign of the playground for older children in the new shopping centre plans either, despite the promises in the DAAP .

Even at this short notice ( we've only just learned about it) we urge everyone one who is free to attend the meeting in Stokey Town Hall on Tuesday evening. Even if we are banned from speaking at this public meeting we can make our presence and concern very clear to Hackney and the developer. 

Would Hackney's Mayor Jules Pipe feel he'd been stiched up and silenced if he was refused the right to speak at a public meeting

Monday 17 February 2014

Hackney agrees to tower block on Kingsland High Street

Hackney's Planning Committee has, on Council officers' advice, consented to Rothas Ltd's 15-storey steel and glass tower development next to the Dalston Kingsland station at 51-57 Kingsland High Street. The public petition objecting to the scheme had 293 signatures and there were 82 written objections sent directly to the Council.

The 4 storey-plus frontage block and 15-storey tower, on the Peacocks site next to Dalston Kingsland station, was reduced from a 19 storey tower during the recent public consultation.

The development will have 98 privately owned flats, of which only 15 will be for "affordable sale". The developer claimed that its exclusive development "contributes to and enables a balanced and mixed community in the area".  However, in reply to Committee member's questions, the Council's officers advised that the development had "not been designed" to have any flats for affordable rent and that there could only be 15 "affordable sale" flats in the scheme because it would not otherwise be financially viable for the developer. (  The developer is predicted to make £8-£10million profit from the scheme. Hackney's target is 50% affordable flats of which 70% should be for rent. Ed.)

One Committee member expressed concern about more "unaffordable affordable flats" following advice that to purchase one of the "affordable" flats would require a household income of £45K for a one-bed, £55K-£59K for a two-bed and £71K for a three-bed flat. ( More than half of Hackney residents have a household income of less than £30K. Ed.) 

Islington Council described the designs as "inelegant". The development was last reviewed by the Council's independent Design Review Panel in February 2013 which commented that "overall the tower is not of sufficient design quality to form such a prominent landmark in this busy area of Hackney". The Committee declined to refer it back to the Panel and were advised that the reason the frontage block ( 4 storeys plus parapet plus roof terrace) is designed to overbear the High Street, and dominate its historic neighbours, is because the "design is modern". (Local planning policy provides that new developments must respect the scale and historic character of the High Street and adjacent conservation areas which are predominantly 3-4 storeys. Ed.).

Would Hackney's Mayor Jules Pipe feel he'd been stiched up and silenced if he was refused the right to speak at a public meeting

The application has attracted controversy. The previous 18-storey application would have compromised development of the station and was thrown out unanimously by the Committee. The Chair of the Committee had subsequently agreed, following Croydon's example, to have a pre-application "extraordinary" meeting for the developer to present its new scheme to the Committee, at which the public were not allowed to speak. (Croydon was flattened in the 1960s and is about to be flattened again 'regenerated' with a £1bn shopping scheme. Ed.)

Rothas's previous application, for a 6-18 storey scheme, was unanimously rejected by Hackney following OPEN's public campaign.

TfL has finally started discussion about a £1.2m upgrade to Dalston Kingsland station but commented that the £100K contribution offered by the developer is insufficient in comparison to the direct benefit which it would receive from the station upgrade.

The developer's agent informed the Committee that it should allow this scheme because it didn't appeal against the refusal of the previous scheme, which had 6 storeys fronting the High Street "to which it was entitled". The Planning Committee, whose Chair has recently expressed concerns about the cost and risks to the Council if developers appeal against refusal of planning permission, duly granted its consent to the development.

OPEN thanks all members of the Dalston community who wrote such thoughtful and well argued  petition comments and letters to the Council objecting to this development. The Council's consent decision will now be reviewed by the GLA.

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Dalston Terrace demolitions - was there a cover up?

A recent independent structural engineer's report, by Alan Baxter Associates LLP, which assessed the conservation potential of Dalston Terrace's sixteen Georgian houses, has only now been revealed. It makes grim reading. But the good news is that the report found that there is some potential for restoring some of the houses - provided Hackney doesn't implement the present designs of its "conservation led" scheme, which would probably require their complete demolition.

                                                          The Story of Dalston Terrace 1807 -2014 (Video)

Some of the houses can still be saved and, whilst conserving their structures, flats can also be developed at the back. But it is the Council's current plan, to rip out the ground floor walls to create 'open plan' shops, which makes demolition inevitable. It is unnecessary. Shopkeepers have been trading in Dalston Terrace, without 'open plan', for more than 100 years.

We urge everybody to object to the planned demolitions. You can click here to view the planning documents on Hackney's web site, under application reference 2014/0323, and make your views known here to the Council here.

Help the fighting fund by donation to OPEN Dalston, Barclays 20-46-57 Account 33274659

The independent Alan Baxter report, which shows that conservation is possible, was commissioned by Hackney and prepared in September 2013. Hackney did not reveal its existence in December 2013, when it met members of OPEN Dalston,  nor when members of the Hackney Society met Hackney in February to emphasise the need for such a report. The report has only now been published, not by Hackney but by the developer, Murphy, which has included it as part of its new planning application for total demolition.

Why Hackney has not previously published the Alan Baxter report requires explanation. The Council's failure to publish an earlier structural report by Peter Dann was said, by Councillor Nicholson, to be due to an "administrative error". Hackney had relied on that report to authorise total demolition of the houses and, without knowledge of  it, the public would not have been alerted to Hackney's intentions until too late. Fortunately it was discovered and, when challenged, Hackney conceded that demolition without planning permission would have been unlawful.

Hackney's failure to reveal the more recent Alan Baxter's report may have some connection with its uncompromising conclusions. "Buildings constructed of these materials have stood the test of time and, provided they are well maintained and carefully considered in any redevelopment proposals, or proposals to alter them, they can be expected to last indefinitely. At Dalston Lane the problem with the facades is not to do with the strength of the brickwork, they are due mainly to a failure to maintain the buildings adequately, linked to some flaws in the original construction"

English Heritage reported that the 200 year old Dalston Terrace houses were "remarkable survivors of Georgian architecture". Sadly, since the Council acquired them in 1984, their chances of survival diminished year on year. Hackney did nothing to preserve them despite its vacuous platitudes about "championing the historic environment" and wanting a "conservation-led scheme".

The Vandals: an eastern Germanic tribe which earned notoriety by sacking Rome in the 5th century, but which was later defeated by the Goths.
Vandalism: the gratuitous anti-social destruction of the environment and artistic creations.
Municipal vandalism: the destruction of our cultural heritage by corporate ignorance, deliberate neglect, greed and vanity, all in the name of regeneration and progress

Sunday 9 February 2014

The story of Dalston Terrace - crime and tragedy in one

This is the story of how a row of 16 Georgian houses and its shopkeepers in Dalston Terrace, Hackney, have been neglected and abused by its owners to the point of destruction. It is crime and tragedy in one.

 The Story of Dalston Terrace 1807 -2014 (Video)

The story was told to a packed house at the Rio cinema on Saturday. The audience also watched Emma-Louise Willams' poetic film Under the Cranes and heard discussion, between the poet and broadcaster Michael Rosen and OPEN's founder Bill Parry-Davies, as they tried to understand the language of regeneration - words like "genuine" conservation-led development and unaffordable "affordable" housing.

(c) Mooneyphoto

We urge everybody to object to the planned demolitions. You can click here to view the planning documents on Hackney's web site, under application reference 2014/0323, and make your views known here to the Council here.

Help the fighting fund by donation to OPEN Dalston, Barclay 20-46-57 Account 33274659

We are now working to obtain a specialist conservation engineer's report to asses how much of the Dalston Terrace can be saved. We will report back with the findings, on this blog and elsewhere.

You can get involved, and be kept informed, if you sign up to receive information by email and you can follow the latest on Twitter @SaveDalstonLane and @opendalston.

Monday 3 February 2014

Hackney Council recommend "Teardrop Tower" to get planning permission

A proposed 15-storey tower, on Peacocks site next to Dalston Kingsland Station, is to be recommended by Hackney for approval by it's Planning Committee next Wednesday 5th February at 6:30pm. It's a public meeting and you are entitled to be there.


The proposed 15-storey tower, next to Dalston Kingsland station, which the Planning Committee will consider

Despite the proposed tower being reduced from 19 to 15 storeys it has still been condemned by Islington Council which states that the "location is highly inappropriate for a tall building" and that the design is "inelegant". (Islington recently won a celebrated Court victory by defeating a developer's inappropriate tower. Ed)

The scheme was last considered by Hackney's Design Review Panel in February 2013 which stated "Overall the tower is not of sufficient design quality to form such a prominent landmark in this busy area of Hackney". OPEN has asked the Council to postpone the decision to enable the Design Review Panel to consider the recent design changes.

The 19-storey tower in this photomontage has since been reduced to 15 storeys, but the podium facing Boleyn Road has been increased from 4 to 5-storeys. The amended image is not available to us for display  
The scheme will provide no flats for social rent and only 15 are for "affordable sale" (15% of the total). ONE Housing Association have advised Hackney that household income of £45K would be required to purchase a 1-bed flat, £55-£59K for a 2-bed and £71K for a three bed flat. (Note 54% of Hackney households have a total income of below £30,000. Ed.)

The development of 98 flats are predominantly 1 and 2-beds, with only 23 x 3-bed family flats of which only 3 are for "affordable sale". Families are the most in housing need in Hackney.

On the roofs there will be a 220sqm private roof gardens for the private owners, but only 115sqm childrens' play area - which is below the policy requirement.

Reports demonstrate that the tower will reduce the natural light to some neighbouring buildings to below British standards as well as cause accelerated wind speeds locally.

OPEN has repeated the objections to the application which it made last October (see Pages on the sidebar) and has also asked for a proper assessment of the towers' impact on neighbouring heritage assets, including the Jewish Burial Ground within Islington ( Kingsbury Conservation Area)

The scheme attracted controversy when the original designs were rejected unanimously by the Planning Committee and more recently when the developer was invited to an exclusive meeting with the Planning Committee when the public were not allowed to speak.





Saturday 1 February 2014

Council suspends plans to demolish Dalston's Georgian houses

Following complaints from OPEN's solicitor and others, Hackney Council has suspended its plans to totally demolish its' sixteen Georgian houses in Dalston Lane without first obtaining full plannning permission. You can hear about this, and other developments, at the Saving Dalston Lane event at The Rio cinema on Saturday lunchtime.

The 1807 Dalston Terrace, in 1904, looking west to Dalston Junction (c) sludgegulper

In June 2013 Hackney obtained an updated structural report recommending total demolition and it decided that this discharged the planning conditions. Councillor Nicholson, Hackney's Cabinet Member for Regeneration, has now written to OPEN's Bill Parry-Davies to concede that the decision could not overide the Plannning Committee's original permission, which was to retain the front facades of the houses and demolish only the rear to build 44 flats.

The report, which the Council relied upon, was not published when the demolition decision was made, due to an "administrative error" Cllr. Nicholson said. (Ahem... meaning "genuine incompetence" rather than concealment. Ed.). Without publication of the report the public could not have been alerted to the fact that Hackney had approved total demolition of the houses. 

This artists impression shows the latest plan for redevelopment of the terrace by Murphy which will sell all the new flats privately and lease the ground floor shops back to Hackney.

Also, in June 2013, Hackney entered a development agreement to sell a 125 year lease of the site to Muphy for £2.38million. It is not yet known whether the agreement permitted Murphy to demolish everything, although demolition of rear extensions has already occured this year.
Hackney's 'development parnter', Murphy, has now made an application to Hackney for planning permission to "demolish and rebuild" the houses. The proposal will now involve full public consultation. We will publish details, and how you can comment, on this blog in due course.

The planning permission allows the backs and interiors of the existing terraced houses to be demolished and redeveloped as 44 flats. None will be "affordable" 

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings has written to Hackney offering specialist advice and, commenting on the demolition and rebuild scheme, stated "Any sense of patina or age will be eradicated and a great deal of the sprit of the place will be lost for ever"

Postcard of Dalston Terrace in 1940 (C) sludgegulper