Monday 30 August 2021

Hackney Council is consulting on redeveloping Dalston. Have your say.

Hackney Council is now consulting on its proposed Dalston Plan for encouraging development of 600 new homes and 14,000sqm of shops offices and workspaces across 10 local sites. This on the basis that " vital to ensure the future success of the area". You can read the full plan here, a summary here and how to make your views known here. The public consultation closes on 1st October 2021

The Council's map of Dalston's development "opportunity" sites

The consultation is not asking the public whether, but how the sites should be re-developed. The Dalston Plan gushes with aspirational ideas of how careful redevelopment could protect the areas character and diversity and provide community benefit for locals. In the past similar aspirations have been routinely overlooked -  major developments have produced an absence of socially rented accommodation, a paucity of new public amenities for children and green space, the loss of affordable workspaces and cultural landmarks,  overshadowing of open spaces and homes and a rash of chain stores. Will the policies in this new Dalston Plan safeguard better outcomes? Are the policies worded strongly enough? Here are some clues.

Ridley Road market
Ridley Road street market and shops are the economic and cultural heart of Dalston. They attract about 70% of Dalston's shoppers to the area, provide local employment and, for many, are a vital source of affordable goods, fresh produce and of social and cultural interaction. 

"Save Ridley road"campaigners - one of a series of portraits by Dalston photographer Tamara Stoll

Whilst promising to "protect" the market and improve pedestrian circulation, Hackney has designated all of the privately owned buildings on the north side of Ridley Road market as opportunity sites for "infill" redevelopment - developing existing  buildings by up to 5 storeys, extending ground floors out to the pavement line and a new block of 27 flats at the eastern junction with St Marks Rise (That site had been identified as a potential public open space in the previous 2013 Plan. Ed.)

Ridley Road illustrating the proposed block of 27 flats on the corner of St Mark's Rise. 

Such development will be hugely disruptive for the market's shopkeepers and stallholders, reduce space for stalls and circulation for shoppers and sterilise its character.  In addition the Council proposes to  further restrict vehicles using Ridley Road, to plant street trees there and to green over a useful means of access for traders deliveries in Colvestone Crescent ( to create a so called "21st Century Street".  It's already gated 24/7 & the Kingsland Road entrance has also been closed to traders by the security bollards. Ed.) Many stallholders are dependent on using their vans since the Birkbeck Road food cold store was demolished many years ago and never replaced. 

Watch the short film "Ridely Road 2020 - a market under threat" It highlights some of the problems which redevelopment of the market street gives rise to.

Hackney also promises a crackdown on alleged crime and ante-social behaviour in the market. (This was the reason Hackney gave for originally supporting eviction of all the traders from the Shopping Village in 2018 Ed.). 

Birkbeck Mews

The Council owned Birkbeck Road scheme

Also affecting Ridley Road market, the Council propose redevelopment of its own site in Birkbeck Mews for up to 5 storeys to include reprovision of 1,000sqm of existing Ridely Road market traders storage, waste processing and public toilets plus a Market's Office, commercial uses and 11 new flats. (Will those flats be for social rent, or be sold to fund the scheme? How will those essential market amenities, and market access for traders along Birkbeck Mews, be provided during the re-development? Ed)

Kingsland Shopping Centre Site
For years Hackney have been awaiting a comprehensive housing led re-development of this major site to help meet its targets for new housing set by the GLA. The Dalston Plan, at page 120, identifies the site as appropriate for "taller buildings" with capacity for between 314 & 484 flats and up to 10,500m2 of commercial space and 670m2 community/amenity space plus some green open space and "yards".  Total redevelopment  including the Shopping Mall is presently constrained by Sainsbury's long lease and the Kingsland High Street entrance being "safeguarded" for possible development of Crossrail II. ( Presently in the long grass again, and Crossrail I being way over budget and incomplete. Ed.) 

This is Hackney's illustration of the Kingsland Shopping Centre site's total redevelopment potential. Notice how, along its south east boundary, the Eastern Curve public pathway would become a canyon between the existing and the proposed new tall buildings

Following a number of discussions with Hackney, TfL and the GLA, Criterion Capital, which owns the whole site, has published its outline plans to redevelop the Matalan building and car park. The Dalston Plan identifies the northern part of the site, alongside the overground railway line, as more sensitive to tall buildings, due to the possibility of overshadowing Ridely Road market.  

This Criterion sketch of a northern 12 storey residential block by the railway suggests blocks elsewhere will be taller.

Criterion emphasise that a new open space with some green surfaces, called Martel Place, will be provided but this, it acknowledges, will be overshadowed by the existing Kinetica Tower. Other open spaces may also be overshadowed by the tall buildings which loom over from the south side of the site.   (And where is the public playground for older kids we were promised in the 2013 Plan? Ed.)

The designs presented by Criterion last July appear to set the new blocks further back from the eastern curve which may mitigate the overshadowing of the new open spaces and residential blocks planned. 

This Criterion sketch  illustrates the possible footprints of four new blocks with retail commercial and open spaces at ground floor,  26 small "makers" workspaces on the 1st floor and residential floors above them. 

The Dalston Plan refers to building up to 2,000 new homes locally over the next 15 years. It recognises that there is a severe shortage of socially rented and family size accommodation and that most locals have been priced out. It proposes that 50% of new homes should be "genuinely affordable" of which 70% will be for social rent (These policies for "affordable" homes were routinely ignored in previous schemes. See here here and here Ed.).

 Criterion's development is the biggest locally since Dalston Square and has previously referred to all new flats being for rent (ie a "Build to Rent" scheme). Its recent presentation states "While housing numbers and tenures are not yet finalised, social housing will be included in the scheme. Exact numbers will depend on viability, and we are open to Hackney Council purchasing these units." 

Eastern Curve Garden
After a 10 year community campaign the Council has finally abandoned its long held vision of turning the Garden into a hard surfaced public thoroughfare lined with shops (Hurrah! Well done Dalston campaigners!! 😊💕Ed). The Dalston Plan says it will be "protected" as a public "enclosed green space" and it is now recognised as a "key element when producing plans for development adjacent to it, ensuring it retains sufficient privacy and sunlight".

The northern part of the Garden is on Criterion's land but its proposals for redevelopment of the Kingsland Shopping centre do not impinge on the Garden - indeed it claims to emulate it by providing complimentary new green spaces 

The Dalston Plan also refers to the Thames House development, lining the Garden's southern boundary, as "existing building stock" whereas the approved development of up to 9 storeys has never commenced and the planning permission granted on 6 June 2018 is believed to have expired.

The proposed 2-9 storeyThames House development would have robbed the Garden of much of its sunlight  & privacy 

 What "sufficient privacy and sunlight" means for the Garden will be back in contention again when a new scheme for the Thames House site  is proposed. 

 Dalston Kingsland station 

The Dalston Plan illustrates potential major development of Kingsland Station to improve accessibility ( The long awaited lifts? Ed) with a Slab over the railway cutting to support more retail and 3 to 5 storeys of up to 49 flats. ( How will the Slab be paid for? By the lack of "genuinely affordable" housing, no doubt. Ed

Other opportunity development sites
This post highlights only 5 of the 10 potential redevelopment sites identified by Hackney. Others include : 
130 Kingsland High Street (Argos in Sandringham Rd - 3 to 5 storeys of retail plus up to 17 flats);
Stamford Works ( Gillette Square -  a mix of commercial cultural and community uses); 
36-42 Kingsland High Street (McDonalds - 3-5 storeys of retail plus up to 23 flats); 
Ashwin Street ( sites on its east and west side - 3 to 5 storeys for commercial and up to 17 flats) and
Former CLR James Library (ground floor community uses plus up to 17 flats). 
Bear in mind that although up to 5 storeys is deemed generally acceptable in Dalston, the exception being the  Kingsland Shopping Centre,  previous developments have often exceeded the guideline heights.

Traffic, cycling and walking
The Dalston Plan recognises that Kingsland High Street and Dalston Lane are heavily congested ( More so, despite the pandemic, since implementing the Low Traffic Neighbourhood local road closures. Ed).  It proposes new and improved pedestrian crossings, cycle infrastructure ( along Sandringham Rd and linking up with cycle Super Highway1 at Boleyn Rd) and that the Shopping Centre redevelopment could provide more accessible pleasant east/west routes for walkers and cyclists. ( I hope that will not be space "shared" with cyclists which is hazardous for children, elderly and disabled pedestrians. Ed.)

A further reference is made in the Dalston Plan to ensuring that new developments cater for "flexibility of (commercial) uses" to ensure "vibrancy and vitality in Dalston High Street" ( Oops...I've never heard of Dalston High Street! Ed)  

Can you influence Dalston's future development?

Do you think the Council's draft Dalston Plan guidelines amount to "regeneration"? Is the redevelopment described "vital to ensure the future success of the area"? Or will it cleanse Dalston of its character, vibrancy, diversity and sustainability? The Save Ridely Road and Morning Lane People's Space campaigners have described the plans as "gentrification in action"You can read the full plan here, a summary here and how to make your views known here. The public consultation closes on 1st October 2021  

Monday 9 August 2021

Dalston's Colvestone Primary School nursery's playground declared an Asset of Community Value

Colvestone Primary School nursery's playground has been designated as an Asset of Community Value by Hackney Council. The decision last Friday 6 August follows a nomination by a group of local residents, the Friends of Ridley Road, last June. 

The Council's formal decision recognises that the uses made of the land, as an outdoor playground and learning space, benefit the social well being or social interests of the local community, such that the land is an asset of community value.

This is the nursery's walled playground, and the development site next door to the south ( left of picture)  

There has been a long-running battle by the local community to protect the toddler's playground for public benefit. It kicked off in 2015 when a planning application was granted to build a three-storey block of flats on an adjoining site, which had been sold off by the Council many years earlier.  The development would have extended across the playground's southern boundary, blighting the children's outlook and much of their direct sunlight.

That application was overturned on a judicial review, brought by local resident Judith Watt,  when the High Court found that the Planning Committee had been misled by the developer's report on the extent of overshadowing which the development would cause. 

Now there is a new planning application, also for a three storey development, which has been made to the Council by the site's new owners Nice Properties and Management Ltd. It is expected to be determined shortly. Numerous objections have been lodged by members of the local community. You can read about the history and objections here. 

The new development plans include a featureless wall of about 9.5metres backing onto the playground and blocking out the sunshine, views & sky  

Designating land as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) can help protect it from being blighted by inappropriate development. Bill Parry-Davies, who made the application on behalf of Friends of Ridley Road said "Social well being and community interest are increasingly overlooked when decisions affecting valuable development land are made.  But with decisions affecting an ACV, any loss or damage to the community  asset requires separate and proper consideration  -  examples could include refusing a planning application if the harm to the asset outweighed the other planning policies which a development would comply with or whether the community uses were protected in a decision to sell educational land for private development, as Hackney has done in the past."  ( Although the school and the playground are both owned by the Council, the playground is held separately from the school, Ed.)
Locals are urged to make, and update, objections to the development application You can now also identify and object to any damage you consider would be done to the community's social interests and well being if the development were to be given permission.

You can search for and find  the planning application documents on the Council's web site  under reference  2020/3496. You can also comment on the application by email to putting 2020/3496 in the subject line.

Colvestone School's playground is the second site on Ridely Road to be declared an asset of community value. The Ridley Road Shopping Village nomination by #SaveRidleyRoad was accepted by the Council in December 2019  The applications reflect increasing community concerns that the area is being targeted for developments which harm the community's interests and social well being.