Sunday 10 December 2017

If you're from Walthamstow then you're in for a BIG shock

On Wednesday 13th December Waltham Forest Council's Planning Committee will be considering the BIGGEST thing ever to happen to Walthamstow - an application to build luxury towers of up to 29 storeys. Local publically owned open and green space is also up for grabs, for an expanded shopping centre,  in this major "regeneration" scheme.

Waltham Forest Council has already entered an agreement with the developers, Capital & Regional (C&R), to transfer about one third of its Town Centre Square to them for private development as part of the "bargain". Mayor Sadiq Khan's Greater London Authority has expressed strong support, in their Stage 1 report, and Council officers are recommending that the application be approved by the Planning Committee.

Phase 1 of the scheme is to be retail led. It will take away 32% of the remaining publicly owned Town Square's open and green space, to build a much larger shopping centre designed to attract big retailers and chainstores. The idea is that if Walthamstow attracts the same brands as everywhere else, then people will shop locally rather than go elsewhere eg to Europe's biggest shopping centre, Westfield, just up the road. (Wishful thinking? Come and look at Dalston Square where shops have been vacant ever since it was built. Ed.).  There'll also be 42 new flats on top of the shops - all for private sale, with only one family size 3-bed flat, and none with affordable rents.

Phase 2 will follow, if C&R can find a development partner, to build four private residential towers of up to 29 storeys, There will be up to 460 new flats in the towers, all for private sale within gated communities, the vast majority of which will not be family size and none for affordable rent.  (The greatest need locally is for affordable rents and family size homes. Ed.).

The view from the top looks rosy. The developers are predicted to earn over £25million profit, TfL will get £1.5million towards a new station entrance, and Waltham Forest Council will reportedly receive £0.5million to maintain the new Town Hall Square, 0.8million for "carbon offsetting", £2.5million annually in extra Council tax and business rates and ( it hopes) £5million in Community Infrastructure Levy. Penthouse flats, which will sell at over £1.5 million each, will be marketed for overseas investors. UK taxpayers will subsidise the 90 odd flats reserved for first time buyers (Households with income less than £75,000pa need not apply Ed.). But what about the view from the bottom - what will the public get back for giving up their open space?

The view from the bottom is bleak - one of potential environmental and social blight. The Council's policy for new development requires provision of  50% affordable housing of which 60% should be at affordable rents - but here only 20% of the flats will be "affordable" all of which will be for sale with none at affordable rents. The remaining public town square, reduced in size by 32% (4,437sq metres) and re-designed, will be cast into transient shadows by the towers. 81 of the existing 135 mature trees will be ripped out. The kids playground will be "regenerated" and moved closer to the bus station. (Thanks guys. Cough...cough...croak. Ed.).

The Design Council, which advises the government on major schemes like this, have said “We do not think it is of exemplary design quality and fundamental issues remain, … We recommend that significant fresh design thinking is undertaken particularly to elevate the public space quality to the highest level, to develop robust justification for quantum of development , and to provide significant extra public benefits for the people of Walthamstow”. In view of the several other local high-rise schemes in the pipeline the Design Council have also called for a Masterplan of the area, but the developers and Council officers have rejected their opinions.

This computer modelled image, created by the developer's consultant Point2Surveyors, shows a birds eye view of the existing low rise shopping centre (in pink) as it presently exists and the town square  flooded in yellow by sunshine.

This 'before and after' consultant's computer model of 21st March ( the spring equinox), when annual average overshadowing is calculated, shows that by 2pm the Town Square, to the east of the new towers, and the buildings beyond it will start to become completely overshadowed (indicated in blue).

This image from the consultant's computer model shows that by 1pm on 21 December ( the winter solstice) when the sun is lowest in the sky, the overshadowing is even worse. The consultant's say this amounts to "a minor adverse effect" of the development and the Council officer's advise that it does not amount to "unacceptable harm". 

The reports also acknowledge that " fast-moving upper level winds impacting the facades [ of the towers] are accelerated and redirected downward. At ground level, the effects are likely to be compounded ….inherent potential for prevailing winds traversing the podium of the existing mall to be drawn into the constricted channel at ground level, and experience a funnelling effect that gives rise to accelerated winds ". In other words the overshadowed canyons between and around the towers will experience a wind tunnel effect. Attempts will be made to mitigate this by planting trees on the concrete podium and building shelters for seating areas. Again, the consultant's say, this amounts to a minor adverse effect" of the development.

As for the kid's playground, the reports acknowledge that "the play space would be located nearer to the air pollution emission sources due to the redesign of the town square" ie much closer towards the bus station. The Council have, as expected, done an Equalities Impact Assessment and found there will be absolutely no detriment to the kids. Despite the car parking on site being increased to 830 spaces, and despite the new traffic scheme meaning vehicles will spend longer in the area, and despite the fact that the Mayor of London's extension of the "ultra-low emission zone" to Walthamstow will not take effect for years, the consultants claim that, with new "Travel Plans" for residents and workers and improved landscaping, the harm and impact on the playground would be "limited and not significant".

Extraordinarily, the Council has commissioned no independent assessment of the developer's Environmental Impact Assessment of these issues. - or at least none has been published to date.

There are powerful commercial interests rooting for this scheme which have spent a fortune on consultants to portray it in the most favourable light and downplay its detriments. The Council has so far received 948 letters of objection along with a petition of 2,015 signatures, opposing the application. Let us hope that the members of the Planning Committee listen to the public and understand their objections.  The scheme could be so much better if, as the Design Council say, there is some "fresh thinking" done. Decisions made in haste are often regretted at leisure.

If you want to attend the Planning Committee meeting, which is to be held in public on Wednesday at 7pm,  the details are here

UPDATE:  13th December was an evening of pure theatre in a packed Walthamstow Assembly Hall. There was passionate engagement and outrage from the audience of local citizens. But only the actors, performing the developers script, knew how the play would end.
The vote went 4 to 1 in favour of the scheme. 
Crime and tragedy in one.

Monday 4 December 2017

crE8 - Dalston design fair at St Barnabas Mission Hall

Dalston makers have got together again, like last year, to mount an arts and crafts fair of their work - just in time for your Christmas shopping! 

It's from 11am til 8pm on Saturday and 11am til 3pm on Sunday 10th December at St Barnabas Mission Hall in Shacklewell Row, Dalston E8 2EA. There will be over 20 makers and artists exhibiting including:

Artist Elsie Pilbeam

Artist Tony Coombes
Designer Max Cairns' laser cuts

Hedy Parry-Davies' collages

Myra Heller's lights

Nicola Hilliard's textiles

And there'll be yummy arty snacks - like Shirley Roach's cakes

And lots more...!

While your in Dalston why not enjoy an early evening visit to the wonderful Festival of Light and a glass of mulled wine at the Eastern Curve Garden (Hot water bottles and blankets provided on site! Ed.)

PS  If, after all that, your still thirsting for aesthetic pleasure why not take a short trip to the frozen north - Praxis N16 artists collective at 3-9 Belfast Road Stoke Newington are having their Winter Open Studios event on Saturday until 9pm

Wednesday 11 October 2017

City of London gets an art attack from its tenants' campaign

Residents of Golden Lane estate have united locals in a campaign against the imposition of The Denizen, a monstrous Taylor Wimpey block which was recently granted planning permission by the City of London and is currently being marketed for off-plan sales to  Hong Kong  investors.

The City and Taylor Wimpey's woes increased this week with a public exhibition of art banners damning the shady deals done between public landowners and developers. Deals like the City's agreement not to stop the development however much sunlight is lost to its tenant's homes. Private commercial relationships between leading City councillors and the developers are highlighted in this Guardian article 

The campaign is reported all over social media - by our sister organisation OPEN GoldenLane, as well as CrowdJustice,  twitter,   ReclaimEC1  and Artists Against Overdevelopment ,as well as in The Art Newspaper. Writers of documentary fiction, the "Curse of the Denizen" have also been inspired by the campaign

The Denizen will replace the heritage modernist building, Bernard Morgan House, which was publicly owned and used for affordable accommodation, until the City sold it to Taylor Wimpey. The new development will loom over, and block sunlight from, local homes, the community school, the public park and the church

The Denizen will also damage the picturesque setting and feel of the 20th Century listed buildings and open spaces which make up the modernist post-war Golden Lane Estate, in Cripplegate, neighbouring the Barbican.

To add insult to injury the City planners not only agreed that there will be no affordable housing in the new development but that Taylor Wimpey will pay less than half the expected £10million Section 106 contribution towards the cost of providing "affordable" homes elsewhere..

Despite overwhelming community objections to the planning application, and solicitors letters on behalf of OPEN Golden Lane, the City has refused to agree to nulllify the planning permission. The local community have raised a financial war chest of donations, but more is urgently needed. You can read more about that here Please help these plucky residents in whatever way you can. 

You can read more about the City art attack in this link Spectres of Modernism

Friday 21 April 2017

Eastern Curve Garden new big bad neighbour - tell Hackney what you think before its too late.

Darkness will descend across Dalston's Eastern Curve Garden if Hackney grants planning permission for a 9 storey re-development of the neigbouring Thames House site, behind Dalston Lane's Premier Inn, at 4 Hartwell Street.

The two nine storey blocks will extend like a cliff along the Curve Garden's southern boundary and are predicted to obstruct most of its existing morning and afternoon sunlight. The designs have been under discussion for several years and Hackney's planners are now likely to recommend approval of the planning application. Although the Garden's sunny aspect will be permanently damaged, the developer will argue that, because 78% of the Garden will still receive at least 2 hours daily sunlight on average over the year, the Building Research Establishment (BRE) minimum sunlight guideline for open space is met.

Click this link to watch the video showing the overshadowing effect on the Garden before and after the development (shown as yellow) is built. It has been made by local architects based on the developer's own site modelling 

The development will exceed the Dalston Area Action Plan's maximum height and the blocks are stacked up so tightly into the site that, in the low rise block with family homes, 48% of the bedrooms and 25% of the living rooms fail to meet the BRE minimum guidelines for natural light. This indicates overdevelopment of the site. No sunlight report has been produced on the open spaces on the site itself which are also likely to be overshadowed, cold and damp.

In other respects Hackney have insisted that the development should meet policy requirements - for example the site is within the local employment priority area and 4,209sqm (51%) will be for office space (Although only 10% of it will be "affordable". Ed.) and, of the 39 new flats, 8 flats will be for "affordable" sale  and 12 for "affordable" rent ( But probably not affordable to local residents on average incomes. Ed.). The architects have also sought to respond to the extended conservation area by using decorative features like green glazed and stock brick cladding and decorative metal panels (But will those designs actually appear on the finished buildings? Ed.).

The  Garden is presently designated as a temporary amenity with future use of its land for a pedestrian "shopping circuit" along the Eastern Curve linking Dalston Lane with a planned redevelopment of Kingsland Shopping Centre.

This illustration shows how, by comprehensive planning with adjoining landowners, pedestrian movement within the area could be improved without the need to use the Garden land as a thoroughfare. 

The Thames House development, as presently designed, will add to the overshadowed gloom of the Eastern Curve where most of its extent has already been blighted by the cliff effect of the towers of Kinetica, Point One Apartments and Martel Place through which sunlight rarely penetrates.( The Eastern Curve is Hackney's planned new "green lung"  - mushroom farms anyone? Ed.)

The developer has acknowledged that in earlier consultation events, whilst welcoming the affordable housing, the key public concerns were the negative impact on the Eastern Curve Garden, the height and density of the scheme and the poor natural light to many flats. These concerns have not been mitigated by any significant changes to the design of the Thames House development

You can read OPEN's objections to the Thames House scheme here. You can make your views known to Hackney here. (Numbers count so even a short objection can make a difference. Ed.). You can see the planning application documents here. The public consultation officially closes on 26th April, so don't delay, although the planners must report all public comments received to Hackney's planning committee prior to it making a decision.

Tuesday 11 April 2017

Well done Dalston! Council rattled over Eastern Curve Garden plans

In the wake of hundreds of community objections, Hackney Council has announced that it has "clarified" its proposals for development of the Dalston Cultural Quarter. Hackney has also advised that the public consultation period has been extended from 17th until 30th April and that there will be a further public consultation before any developers' brief for its four Dalston sites is finalised. So well done Dalston for speaking up! (And thanks Hackney for listening! Ed).

Karina Townsend's short film "Fanfare for the Curved Garden" featuring last Sunday's performance with Jaime Lucy's "Rucksack Cinema" projections and Andy Diagram's trumpet soundscapes. Dalston's Cultural Quarter keeps regenerating itself! 

The first of Hackney's corrections relates to the Eastern Curve Garden. The Council had refused to consult locals about the future of the Garden, although it is included in development Site 3. It had stated "The Garden isn't included in the consultation". But now Hackney has shown the Garden on its consultation map and it states on line "the Council is open to exploring the potential to retain a community garden". This means that the Council will now actually consider the flood of representations that are being made urging Hackney to keep the Garden. So, if you haven't yet told Hackney what you think, do so before 30 April.

The second major correction relates to its misleading description of the heritage value of 10-16 Ashwin Street. It had previously stated "The frontage of Nos 10-16 Ashwin Street is of historical value whilst the blocks to the rear are of LOWER historical value". This gave the impression that demolition of the rear would not be significant. Hackney has now acknowledged that this contradicted the independent heritage advice it had received. It has now stated on line "the front and rear of No. 10 - 16 Ashwin Street is of HIGH historical value".

These developments don't necessarily mean that our Garden and heritage buildings will be saved. (But it's a good start! Ed.). It is still very important that people continue to make their views known. You can read OPEN Dalston's analysis and responses to Hackney's Cultural Quarter plans hereWe hope that these will help inform your views and responses to the Council. The public consultation now closes on 30th April.  You can tell the Council your views here   

Thursday 6 April 2017

Eastern Curve Garden's big bad neighbour is moving in. Overdevelopment blights Dalston's public space

When Hackney decided upon its blueprint for future development in Dalston (the "Dalston Area Action Plan") little consideration was given to the environmental impact on public space which building various 10 to 20 storey towers around the area could have. This, we were told, would be carefully scrutinised when the planning applications were decided.

Instead the issues were glossed over with the Council's vacuous marketing speak

But when the planning applications came to be made, and people objected to the canyon effects, the loss of sunlight and increased wind speeds, the developers complained that the Dalston Area Action plan "entitled" them to build and the planners, fearing appeals, granted them permission.

Hackney's own consultants warned of the environmental impacts when Dalston Square was planned but Hackney granted its "development partner", the GLA, permission despite public objections that it could resemble a sunless windswept canyon. Overall planned affordable housing was 12% ( the target was 50%) and  Hackney gave away its land for £millions undervalue to secure the deal

The TfL/Taylor Wimpey development on the east side of the Kingsland High Street, where once there were two storey buildings, now has 6 storeys. There are now afternoon and evening sunlight losses to Ashwin Street for much of the year, with the lower storeys of Reeves Artists' Colour Works reduced to below the standard for natural light. Sadly the view from the High Street of it, and of Shiloh Church, have also been obscured. Only 8% of the flats are for social rent and all available green space is enclosed within a gated community.

The development on the west, Boleyn Road, side exceeds the Area Action Plan policy on height and has blocked sunlight to the Grade II and locally listed High Street terrace so it, and even some of the new flats, are reduced to below minimum standards for natural light.

The 57East tower, which is now being marketed for overseas investors, will act like a lighthouse in reverse, stealing sunlight from public space and local homes, as well a generating unpleasant and sometimes hazardous wind speeds. What does it give back to Dalston - only 15% "affordable starter homes" and no lifts for the station.

Not even the needs of local children, for sunlight and quality outdoor space, were given adequate consideration when a block of private flats planned to overshadow Colvestone Nursery school playground was given planning permission. This was eventually overturned by the Planning Court despite Hackney's protestations.

Then there is the much trumpeted proposed new "public realm" - the planned Eastern Curve pedestrian route/shopping circuit. Here the Kinetica Tower, Point One Apartments and Martell Place towers have already created a continuous north facing cliff lining most of the route and daylight rarely penetrates onto it. ( This is Hackney's planned new "green lung"  - mushroom farms anyone? Ed.)

OPEN raised objections to the environmental blight which these overdeveloped schemes were predicted to cause. And now there is another scheme which will cast the remainder of the Eastern Curve further into almost permanent shade, including the part occupied by its neighbour, the Eastern Curve Garden.

As if the eastern Curve Garden's troubles weren't already enough, this 10 storey Thames House scheme, on Dalston Lane north side, will rise like a cliff right along the Garden's eastern and southern  boundary. It has been designed with little regard to the scale, use and needs of that public open space, whether used either as a Garden or as part of the proposed Eastern Curve pedestrian route. The developer will claim permission should be granted because its calculations show the Garden will still exceed the minimum sunlight guideline, which is a yearly average of 2 hours direct sunlight over 50% of its area. Even some of the new flats will be below standards for natural light.

We will shortly publish more information about the Thames House development and how, as part of the public consultation, you can tell Hackney what you think.

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Hackney Mayor fails to deny Eastern Curve Garden will be redeveloped

In response to Hackney's public consultation on its Principles for Development of the Dalston Cultural Quarter we sent our representations to the Council this week and let people know on twitter @OPENDalston. You can read what we said to Hackney here
There has been huge public concern about the Council's plans because development site 3 includes the Council owned part of the hugely popular Eastern Curve Garden . Some fine heritage buildings and affordable workspaces for local community and creative enterprises are also to be part of the Dalston Cultural Quarter deal.

We next had a tweet from Hackney's newly elected executive Mayor Philip Glanville. This is what he said.

It was great that Hackney Mayor wanted us to "be clear" about the Council's intentions. But how clear was he? He said the Council wasn't consulting the public about developing the Garden. And that Hackney didn't intend to develop the part of the Garden owned by Kingsland Shopping Centre.
But what about the entrance and 25% of the Garden's land which is owned by the Council? Hackney's Garden land is included in development Site 3 and its' stated intention is to dispose of all four sites to a single "development partner"  to "maximise capital value and rental income for the Council " (see paragraph 7 of its' Cabinet Report)

The Mayor didn't deny that the part of the Garden owned by Hackney would be included in the development deal, just that it wouldn't be a "traditional disposal" and that, anyway, it was "a long way off".
But if the Council hasn't ruled out development of its Garden land why has it been included as part of development site 3 for a 'non-traditional disposal' at all?


Ah - so even if the Garden land is to be part of a  'non-traditional disposal' to a developer we should not assume it will all be completely developed over.  But if Hackney's part of the Garden could be developed on, why are Council officers refusing to consult the public about its future?

So Hackney is consulting on ensuring the "best of Dalston is preserved" - namely heritage, community organisations, culture and workspace. But what about the only, and much loved, local public green space? The Eastern Curve Garden is, notably, not on the Mayor's list and, as the Mayor said from the start, the Council is not consulting the public on the development of the Garden. 

Is that clear now? The Council owned part of the Eastern Curve Garden is included in development Site 3. In due course it will be part of a 'non-traditional' disposal to a single "development partner". The Council is not consulting the public about the Garden's future, because is not part of "the best of Dalston" to be "preserved". And we must not assume that it will be developed over entirely - some of it might be left undeveloped ( Enough for a public thoroughfare perhaps? Ed.)  

What is clear is that the Mayor has failed to deny that the Garden could be developed as part of the Council's Cultural Quarter plans.

Hackney's vision for the future of the Garden - enshrined in the 2013 Dalston Area Action Plan - a public thoroughfare along the Eastern Curve linking Dalston Lane with a redeveloped Kingsland Shopping Centre 

You can read OPEN Dalston's analysis and responses to Hackney's Cultural Quarter plans hereWe hope that these will help inform your views and responses to the Council.You can meet and discuss the plans with Council officers between 6:00pm - 7:45pm at  Hackney Town Hall (Room 32) E8 1EA on 10th April. You can also tell the Council your views here. The public consultation closes on 17th April


Dalston's "Cultural Quarter" - tell Hackney your views

Why is Hackney misleading the public about Eastern Curve Garden?

Hackney's monstrous plan to "regenerate" Dalston's Eastern Curve Garden