Wednesday 16 April 2014

OPEN has issued Court proceedings for judicial review of Dalston demolitions

OPEN has issued a claim in the Planning Court to challenge Hackney's decisions to allow demolition of its 200 year old Georgian houses in Dalston Terrace. Hackney granted Murphy Homes Limited, its' "development partner", planning permission to demolish everything on 5th March. OPEN has warned  both Hackney and Murphy that, unless they undertake not to demolish the houses until the Court action is resolved, a Court injunction will be sought to stop them.

OPEN has been advised by specialist planning Counsel that it has an arguable claim. Thanks to everyone who has donated so generously to pay for expenses to date - you have given us inspiration and hope!! OPEN urgently needs more donations to boost its fighting fund. Another £5,000 is needed to get to the next stage. Please give whatever you can afford to help defeat municipal vandalism and save some of Dalston's surviving fragments of Georgian heritage.

 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.

                               (c) Mooneyphoto
Shopkeepers have been trading in Dalston Lane's traditional shops for over 100 years but Hackney's designs involve demolishing the ground floor walls to create "open plan" shops. Such structural intervention is very high risk. 

Hackney failed to properly consider the options available when Murphy claimed that implementing the  Hackney-designed scheme would cause the buildings to collapse. Instead, it granted permission for demolition and new build "in heritage likeness" ( Read  "One man. Two Votes" here Ed). Hackney now claims that in a "genuine" conservation led scheme nothing needs to be conserved. (Not even Hackney's claimed reputation as champions of the historic environment. Ed.)

Hackney inherited the houses from the GLC when it was abolished in 1984. During Hackney's ownership 11 of the houses became vacant, none were repaired or re-let and 4 roofs fell in. Hackney sold them to an off-shore company in 2002.

Local architect and OPEN member, Lisa Shell, commissioned the internationally known conservation engineers, Morton Partnership, who advised that by using specialist techniques nearly all the buildings could still be saved. Hackney's own appointed independent engineers, Alan Baxter LLP, advised that the "open plan" designs probably made demolition inevitable, but Hackney failed to ask them what design changes were needed to save the houses . Hackney simply dismissed these respected engineers opinions and supressed their reports. ( Read "Was there a cover up" here Ed.).

Hackney eventually bought the houses back in 2010, but by then four had been destroyed by fires and Hackney demolished them using its Conservation Area powers to make them "wind and watertight". Hackney says demolishing the remainder and building a "heritage likeness " scheme will "enhance the Conservation Area".

All of the 44 new flats will be for private sale without any affordable or social housing at all because, Hackney says, the scheme will run at a loss. In fact the opposite seems to be true. Hackney sold the houses in 2002 for £1.8m and, although it paid £3.75m to buy them back in 2010, in 2013 it sold the development scheme to Murphy for £2.4m. So Hackney has net receipts of £450k and will also receive estimated shop rents of some £50k pa once the development is completed.

Then there is Murphy's windfall saving on VAT if everything is demolished - a VAT exemption applies to new build schemes . (Ahh! So it's a #mimby scheme. Ed.)

Since 2006 Hackney has been committed to a conservation-led  regeneration project, which harnesses the heritage value of the houses. But then, last December, it authorised Murphy to start complete demolition of the 17 houses. It was only when OPEN's solicitor, Bill Parry-Davies, with Lisa Shell and the Hackney Society, challenged the decision that Hackney admitted it was unlawful and that planning permission was first required (Read "Community stops demolitions" here Ed.).

Hackney has refused to review the recent planning permission for demolition and refer the new "demolition and new build" scheme back to the Council which originally had only approved a conservation-led scheme. It is those decisions which OPEN is now seeking to challenge through the Court.

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, necessity and progress

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