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Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Hackney's "Dalston Conversation" - do you want to talk?

Hackney Council has launched a new website on which people who live, work or play in Dalston can express their hopes and fears for our local future. You can read Hackney's publicity about the Dalston Conversation website here and why they say they have created it.

Last year Hackney resolved to dispose of these town centre sites, in and around Ashwin Street, to a developer to "maximise" the financial return to the Council . They call the sites the "Cultural Quarter". All are owned by Hackney, many are of heritage value, and all are presently occupied for affordable cultural and social uses. Could Hackney change its plans and instead work with the community to set up a Development Trust, to improve and expand these uses, without selling them off?  What do you think? You can comment on the Dalston Conversation map

How does the conversation work?
On the Dalston Conversation home page you'll see "View map and comment". A click on that takes you to the local map. There's lots of speech bubbles on the map and you can click on them to see what others have said - and then you can click on Agree and Share those comments. At the top right corner of the map, in the menu bar, you will see "+Have your say". Click on that and you can then stick a virtual pin in the place you want to talk about and type in your comment. Other people can then agree with and share your comment. Hackney may well place greater weight in future on people's shared concerns and on those comments which most people agree with.




This photo is of the Halloween event at the Eastern Curve Garden last year ( Don't miss it this year! Ed.). The Garden has been under constant threat of being turned into a hard-surfaced shopping circuit linking Dalston Square to Kingsland Shopping Centre. Do you think the Dalston Area Action Plan for the Garden should be changed to protect and expand the Curve Garden? You can comment on the Dalston Conversation web page

Is it a conversation with Hackney? 
Not exactly - the map isn't interactive in the sense that you can have a 2-way conversation with people who have commented or with Hackney. But Hackney says there is more development coming, it's listening to the community, and that "your views will help us decide what our priorities should be" and "we want to make sure that our strategy to secure responsible regeneration has your priorities at its heart. Next year, we’ll set out a clear delivery plan based on your feedback." Hackney will also announce face-to-face events throughout autumn so, if you want to know about those, send an email to 


The Dalston Conversation is not just about the "Cultural Quarter". Hackney want to know your views about the pressure for development of future Crossrail2 stations and the Kingsland Shopping Centre. Could Hackney help develop a neighbourhood plan that protects new homes for local people and not just absent investors and buy-to-let landlords - perhaps something like Cornwall's St Ives Council which requires a proportion of owners to actually live in new developments.

Why do Hackney say they're now listening?
When Hackney announced its plan last year, to dispose of it "Dalston Cultural Quarter" sites to a developer it caused a widespread and hostile reaction locally, particularly about the Curve Garden . We wrote about it here and here . The community's reaction caused Hackney to re-think its plans which is why it has now launched this new consultation called the Dalston Conversation.



Some people say gentrification and Hackney's licensing policies are killing Dalston's nigh time culture and economy. What do you think? Could more be done to ensure that there's something for everyone in Dalston? You could make a comment on the Dalston Conversation map.

Can you be bothered?
You may think, from past experience, that your views will make no difference. Whats changed? The local public's reaction and views expressed last year did cause Hackney to at least re-consider its approach. It's interesting and sometimes surprising to see what other people have to say on the Dalston Conversation website.  Whatever your concerns  - for Ridley Road market, the Curve Garden, historic buildings, affordable homes and work spaces, playgrounds, culture and nightlife, local crime, air pollution - it only takes a couple of minutes to agree with a comment, and to make your own comments. ( Why not give it a try - what's there to lose? Ed



This quote is from the Aarhus Convention, to which the UK is a signatory. It requires early public consultation on environmental issues - like housing, green spaces, heritage buildings and air pollution - "when all options are open and effective public participation can take place" . Hackney says that that is what the Dalston Conversation is offering - but only time will tell.

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