Monday 21 November 2016

Artists' Open Studios Safari in Dalston. It's this weekend coming - 26 and 27th November !!

This weekend, 26 and 27th November, Dalston (and Hackney) artists designers and makers throw open their studio doors and allow the public inside to view, to chat and to buy at studio prices.

The Chocolate Factory at Farleigh Place, Farleigh Road N16,7SX  - 28 artists studios producing fine art, ceramics, textiles, jewellery and a lot more

Designed in Dalston exhibition at 1 Cecilia Road E8 2EP at the junction with Dalston Lane  - six creators displaying works of art, ceramics, lighting and every day items

London Fields Ceramics - 12 ceramicists in 4 studios in the Broadway Market/London Fileds area

De Beauvoir Association Christmas Fair, on Saturday only 11-5pm, at St Peter's Crypt, Northchurch Terrace N1 . At this annual community fair  you'll find  ‘made in De Beauvoir’ items including eats, Christmas cards, housewares, pet treats, garden must-haves, children’s toys and games,

A little further afield, three stops on the 30 bus from Dalston Lane to Hackney's Narroway, you'll reach Clarence Mews.

Cressida Bell 24-26 Clarence Mews E5 8HL ( textiles and design)

Hackney Makers Weekend, ( fashion, furniture and more) who are also exhibiting in Clarence Mews

All along the Arts and Crafts Safari you'll also find lots of  independent businesses, Ridley Road market, pubs and coffee shops to distract you and take a load off , including the revered Eastern Curve Garden  where there'll be a Giant Vegetable Lanterns workshop to prepare for their Festival of Light

Studios are a walk from Dalston Junction, Dalston Kingsland, Hackney Downs and London Fields stations and buses numbered 30, 38, 55, 56, 149, 242

Sunday 6 November 2016

Last goodbyes to Dalston Lane's Georgian terraces

Last week Murphy's workmen were erecting a hoarding around what is left of Hackney Council's sixteen Georgian houses on Dalston Lane. They are being prepared for demolition. 

On 5th March 2014 the Chair of Hackney's Planning Committee, in the face of a divided Committee, used his casting vote to grant permission for the total demolition of the 200 year old houses ( Read "One man, two votes" here. Ed.)

Despite Hackney claiming that is was pursuing a "genuine" conservation led scheme, nothing will be conserved. The front facades of the houses will be rebuilt, skin-deep, in "heritage likenesswith bricks from off-site,

This slideshow tells the disgraceful story of neglect and vandalism of the terrrace which lead to their ultimate destruction  

OPEN brought Court proceedings for judicial review of the plannning permission but, "not without sympathy" for objectors, the Judge felt unable to intervene

Phase I demolitions being completed, including the old Sound and Music shop at 66 Dalston Lane

You can read our open letter asking for an apology from Hackney's Mayor here  He didn't acknowledge or reply to the letter.  ( Former Hackney Mayor Jules Pipe is now the London Mayor's planning czar. Ed.)

You may have seen our local community holding a wake beside the ruins of the condemned houses. Local people left touching tributes to the memories they embodied 

Hackney's primary aim was to maximise the price it could get for the terrace from a private developer. This was sought by first trying to demolish them without planning permission (unsuccessfully) and then by disregarding its own engineering consultant's opinion, disregarding its conservation and affordable housing policies and disregarding its community's views. The outcome, behind the phoney fronts, will be 44 new flats for private sale with no affordable housing for local people at all.

The Vandals: an eastern Germanic tribe which earned notoriety by sacking Rome in the 5th century, but which was later defeated by the Byzantines.
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, best value, necessity and progress

Sunday 30 October 2016

Dalston's architectural legacy of Edwin Horne(1843-1915)

Your chance to tell Hackney what you think, about its proposed Dalston Lane (West) Conservation area extension, is to end on Monday 31 October. You can read what we have said to the Council here. You can make your comments to the Council online here.

We have discovered that Dalston has a special architectural legacy from the great Victorian architect Edwin Henry Horne who was employed to design the Reeves Artist's Colour Works factory (1868) where Arcola Theatre is based, V22's artists studios at the 10-14 Ashwin Street (1870), 5-9 Dalston Lane (1867) and probably the Railway Tavern (1868) at 11 Dalston Lane.  Edwin Horne later went on to design stations for the North London Railway in 1870 ( of which Camden Road is Grade II listed by Heritage England) and to design Grade II Listed St John's of Ealing in 1876.

We have also pointed out the Council's serious omission of failing to show the Eastern Curve Garden on the new Conservation Area Map as an area of "Important trees and green space" - despite it being the largest, most popular and most important green space in Dalston Town Centre. Do the Council still plan to concrete it over as part of a shopping circuit?

If you missed the Eastern Curve Garden's magnificent and magical show of over 500 carved pumpkin lanterns don't worry! You can still pop in and see the display, for this week only, after dusk 

Sunday 9 October 2016

If you love Dalston's character then now's your chance to say so

If you love Dalston's architectural and historic character you have until 31 October to make you views known. Hackney Council's is consulting on long awaited plans to extend the Dalston Lane (West) Conservation Area [DL(W)CA]. Extending the conservation area will give the Council planners wider control to ensure that changes to the local environment preserve and enhance the area's character  - for example changes affecting its buildings (by demolition or alteration), its public and private open spaces, its gardens and trees (which are affected by overshadowing), its road layouts and surfaces (which also affect air quality) and other important features in our environment.

This map shows Hackney's existing DL(W)CA outlined in blue and the proposed extension of it outlined in red. The extension includes many of the historic buildings and streets to the north and west. It highlights in red and yellow the buildings which are already 'listed' and, in pink, the buildings which it considers are of 'townscape merit' importance. It highlights in green 'important trees and green spaces'. 

Do you think anything has been missed out? Your views will count. You can make your comments using Hackney's consultation leaflet here or by making comments online hereWe hope you'll tell the Council if you support its proposals - but don't forget to also tell them about anything else which you think deserves protection and should be included. 

The Eastern Curve Garden  is not shown as an "important green space" on the Council's DL(W) CA map although the appraisal describes it as an "ever-changing community space, where plants, trees and grass contribute to a diverse ecology". Although the Garden's land, and the Peace Mural, will be within the extended DL(W)CA, the use of the Garden's land itself is presently planned by Hackney for re-development as a "shopping circuit" . 

The former CLR James library dates from 1957-9 and was designed by architects Burley and Moore. It is described as a "redevelopment site" ie one for demolition and redevelopment, and is one of the Dalston "Cultural Quarter" sites which Hackney plans to sell

Four locally listed Georgian properties, at Nos. 16-18 and 20-22 Dalston Lane, have survived re-development to date. They will be within the extended DL(W)CA  but are also part of the Dalston "Cultural Quarter" sites which Hackney plans to sell

For a fascinating account of  Dalston's historical development, and why certain buildings, places and views are considered of conservation value, you can read Hackney's appraisal of the proposed conservation area extension here researched and written by an independent heritage consultant, the erudite Dr Ann Robey. 

The last surviving Georgian houses of the Dalston Lane terrace, which the original DL(W)CA conservation area was designed to protect, are no longer shown as buildings of townscape merit on the Council's new DL(W)CA map. Hackney has already given permission to demolish everything and just rebuild  skin-deep facades in "heritage likeness" -  they describe it as a "genuine conservation led regeneration" ( Genuine? Ed.)

OPEN Dalston members have campaigned long and hard to preserve local character and identity. So much has already been lost to redevelopment.

Conservation Area status has not always prevented neglect and development vandalism but finally, it seems, the Council is recognising Dalston's unique value by extending the Dalston Lane (West) Conservation Area.  (Better late than never! Ed.)

Sunday 2 October 2016

Dalston's Bridget Riley op-art building unveiled (NOT)

OPEN Dalston readers will remember the outcry back in 2013 when Hackney gave planning permission for huge blocks containing 120 flats on the corner of Dalston Lane and Martell Place. Now the wraps are coming off as the new development nears completion. 

The community's objections in 2013 weren't just that only 15 of the 120 flats would be for affordable rent ( a derisory 12% when the target at the time was 50%), or that existing affordable workspace for 60 artists and two businesses would be lost, or that Hackney was selling  the developer our neighbouring green space which had been earmarked for a playground.

Without any local safe playground, Dalston's older kids are forced to play on the street and skateboard on the station's underused bus turnaround

There were 136 letters from objectors, who included our local Councillors, and a petition. Local residents, with their kids, attended the Planning Committee to object in person. All objectors agreed that that the blocks of 5-10 storeys amounted to overdevelopment of a site which had been designated for 4-6 storeys in the Dalston Area Action Plan. What had been described as a "corner site" was now claimed to be a "landmark site"
"It would form an inpenetrable cliff along the Eastern Curve" our Dalston Conservation Advisory Committee said "Its' sheer size will have an adverse impact on the neighbouring Conservation Areas."

The new blocks under construction. Although the ground floors are of conventional concrete construction, all the upper floors structures are made entirely from cross-laminated timber

At the meeting Planning Committee members' concerns about the overall size of the scheme were allayed when samples of the proposed facade cladding - multicoloured glass reinforced concrete panels - were passed around. The design and effect of the ornamental panels, the Committee were advised, would make the blocks appear smaller rather than overscale and monolithic. This advice was reinforced with a picture of  the artist Bridget Riley and of her brilliant op-art images. Planning permission was granted  

 "Ornament (pattern) becomes a pervasive surface condition, the variation of which here, are based on an intensity of pixellization" - Waugh Thistleton, Architects

But now the are wraps coming off  we can see that the new blocks aren't  faced with multicoloured glass panels at all.

The new blocks are faced with brick. And the blocks look huge, looming over Dalston Lane and the neighbouring Conservation Area 

Cross-laminated timber ( multiple layers of wood bonded with plastic resin) has been used to construct the blocks. It is said to be far more sustainable than building in concrete, which produces 1 tonne of CO2 for every 1 tonne of concrete. Plus the units are factory manufactured and delivered, like flat-pack IKEA boxes, for quick assembly on site. But these contruction savings don't seem to have made affordable rental flats more viable, with only 15 planned out of 120 flats (12%). Nor can cross-laminated timber, unlike solid timber, be recycled. This has led to some controversial exchanges with the Chair of Hackney's Planning Committee, Vincent Stops.

(Note: The original planning permission required Hackney to seek the views of the Hackney Design Review Panel regarding final external finishes, but this was not done when Hackney agreed to substitute brick finishes on the basis that “Drawing upon a warehouse and factory building typology…the brick is in keeping with the character of adjacent conservation areas” Ed.)

Thursday 15 September 2016

Passing Clouds and the battle against the bland

The iconic Dalston live music club - Passing Clouds - is calling on all lovers of live music and cultural diversity to join its protest this Saturday 17th September against the closure of countless London's music clubs in recent years and its own recent eviction.

"It is vital that developers and planners recognise that it is venues like these that contribute so much to make areas desirable. " Meg Hillier MP, Hackney South

Campaigners will assemble in Hoxton Square at 4pm and process to Passing Clouds for a presentation at 6pm to Landhold Developments ( who have evicted the club from their premises). At 6:30pm campaigners will meet in Gillett Square for an event featuring musicians (including Dele Sosimi and Winton Reedy), representatives of closed or threatened venues including the 12 Bar, the Silver Bullett, Shapes, the Passage, the Spitz and Fabric and speeches from representatives including the Mayor of London's office and the Music Venue Trust. The event will undoubtedly feature Passing Clouds legendary friendliness, flamboyance and fun 

"Passing Clouds is a marker of place. The locality needs it. The city at large needs the noise it makes and the life it contains." Iain Sinclair

OPEN members will recall the earlier battles, to save the iconic Four Aces Club and Labrynth music venues which now lie beneath the privatised towers of Dalston Square. We also remember that Passing Clouds graciously hosted OPEN's fund raising event to fight the demolition of our Georgian houses in Dalston Lane.

Michael Rosen performing with the Dulce Tones at our Passing Clouds OPEN fundraiser 

Sadly Passing Clouds itself is now another casualty of the relentless rise in land values and predatory capital . This leads to the eviction of cultural enterprises for more profitable redevelopment. We are fighting a battle for local character and for diversity against the homogenisation  of our cultural landscape. It is a battle against the bland.

Campaigners are seeking to raise awareness of planning authorities powers under the Community Asset Register and the Article 4 Planning Directions to protect cultural industries and the other local assets which sustain our local economy and contribute vibrancy to our community.  All power to them.

Monday 12 September 2016

Dalston resident wins Court battle to save the sunshine for nursery school kids

After lengthy and hotly contested court proceedings, a local resident has won her battle to save the sunlight for future generations of school children. A senior judge of the Planning Court has revoked Hackney's grant of planning permission for a three storey block of private flats which was to overshadow a nursery school's outdoor space.

Kids and parents of Clovestone school celebrate the Court victory which has saved their sunshine

The block of flats was to be built right across the southern boundary of the nursery's playground/outdoor classroom at the Grade II Listed Colvestone Primary School off Dalston's Ridley Road.

An artists impression showing the scale of the development which has now been defeated

Before making their planning application the developer/architects' firm, Chan and Eayrs, had personally surveyed the site. They had even counted the bricks to establish the height of the walls which surround  the Nursery school's outside space. But their sunlight expert modelled the outside space as if it were virtually in full sun, with only fence posts and not the high brick walls which enclose and already partially shade the space. The expert then calculated and advised the Council that the area would still remain "well lit" after the planned development. 

The Nursery Head Teacher had written twice to Hackney's planning officer to object to the modelling error. Others, including the school's Head Teacher, went to the Committee meeting last September 2015 and objected in person. An adjournment to obtain an independent sunlight report, to correct the error, was refused. The Committee members voted for and against granting the planning permission in equal numbers but, on the recommendation of Hackney's case officer, permission was given by the use of the Committee Chairman's casting vote.

Chair of Hackney's Planning Committee, Councillor Vincent Stops, in happier times

The developer/artchitect Zoe Chan, pictured below with her partner Merlin Eayrs, attended the Committee meeting, with their sunlight expert, and heard the community's objections but neither said anything about the error in their report. Ms Chan was later named as an 'interested party' in the judicial review Court proceedings, but took no part in them.

After the decision to grant planning permission, local resident Judith Watt paid for an independent sunlight opinion. It advised, contrary to the developer's opinion, of a potential "increase of two to three times the existing levels of overshadowing". An application was immediately made to the High Court for a judicial review of Hackney's planning permission. Judith also wrote to Hackney's Mayor, who said he shared her concern about the effect of the development but that he was powerless to intervene in planning decisions. ( True. Planners and Committee members must act independently from political influence. Ed.) Judith's judical review application was initially rejected by the Court but she appealed successfully and battled on. And now she was getting the benefit of a second independent expert's advice and reports, which were paid for by the Council's own Hackney Learning Trust.( So public money was used both to fight the case as well as to defend it. Thanks Hackney! Ed). 

Eventually in April, six months after the Court case started, the developer's expert acknowledged his error -  the surrounding brick walls had been omitted from his calculations. The loss of sunlight, he now calculated, would be more than double what the Committee had been told.

But, despite this set back, Hackney not only continued to defend its Planning Committee's decision but it produced further evidence from the same developer's expert who had mislead the Committee originally. Hackney argued that the original error would have made no difference because more than 50% of the outdoor area would still have a yearly average of at least two hours direct sunshine a day and this exceeded the British Research Establishment (BRE) minimum guideline for playgrounds. The fact that most of the sunshine would be during the summer holidays, and that in winter the area would become totally overshadowed, was not considered relevant. As for any adverse impact on the health, education and well being of the children, Hackney said that the Court had no power to interfer with the planning permission because the Committee members were well aware of the consequences from what the Head Teacher had told them before the decision was made.

The Judge, His Honour Mr Justice Gilbart, revoked Hackney's planning permission. He found that the effect on the children from the loss of sunlight was an issue of critical importance. The error in the developers' advice to the Committee had, he said, created a "misleading picture" which had resulted in "unfairness".
 It was also argued, for Judith, that the BRE guideline was not a formula to be applied mechanically in every case, regardless of the actual context and effects of the loss of sunlight. The Judge found that, even though the accepted guideline on minimum sunlight for playgrounds would be exceeded, the Committee could still have refused permission.

Steely and determined, Judith Watt arrives at Court 2 of the Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand. She's a woman with a passion for social and environmental justice and her win is on behalf of future generations of Dalston's children.

Judith expressed delight at the Court's decision saying "Only one in ten of applications for judicial review are successful so we've beaten the odds. It has been a long slog to get to this point but worth it to protect the children’s right to sunshine."

Judith's solicitor, Bill Parry-Davies, who acted under a "no win no fee" agreement, commented "It has set a useful precedent for challenging decisions where later evidence shows that a planning authority had been misled, innocently or otherwise, by a developer . The judgment also reflects the importance of carefully considering and safeguarding the benefit of sunlight in the context of each individual case and treating guildelines as just that and not as fixed rules. Sunlight is so important, paticularly for the health and well being of children - indeed, it's essential to life itself" 

The case has been reported here in the Hackney Citizen

Although the planning permission has been revoked, Dalston residents should watch out because there is likely to be a new application to develop the site in due course. Let's hope that it will be more respectful of local needs.

Back stories:

Dalston resident wins right to fight for children's sunlight
Luxury flats will make Colvestone School Nursery resemble a prison
Independent report reveal loss of sunlight to Colvestone School Nursery
Hackney Plannning Committee deicison blights Dalston Nursery Schoool