Linking Dalston's Green Spaces

The Dalston development context

view of Dalston Town Centre

Hackney is the third most densely populated borough in London and Dalston is one of its most populated wards. Density is triple that of the London average and Dalston’s population has increased by over 40% since 2001.

Dalston is also a major intersection of two strategic roads and railway lines – a transport hub with increasing traffic and pedestrian congestion.

75% of Hackney’s population live in flats and are generally without access to private green space. Overcrowding locally is four times the national average. For families it is particularly acute and is increasing due to a shortage of 3-bedroom and larger properties. Over 30% of the public and private housing stock in Hackney remains below ‘Decent Homes’ standard.

For these reasons the quality of the exterior environment and public realm is of particular importance to local residents.

Dalston is severely deficient in green space. Only the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden provides managed public green space presently, but its very future is uncertain.

Public bodies, namely TfL and Hackney Council, own major development sites in Dalston but their combined planning, for improvement of the town centre’s public realm, as part of the Dalston Area Action Plan (DAAP), has missed opportunities.

The welcome reinstatement of the East London Line has boosted Dalston’s connectivity and its attractiveness as a destination and residential location. It has also involved the demolition of over 20 of Dalston town centre’s buildings, including heritage and locally listed buildings. The public investment in TfL’s Bus Transport Interchange has not delivered the Olympic legacy promised. Dalston is now facing a tsunami of large scale redevelopment proposals. A Design for London report advises that Dalston’s “intrinsic character, local distinctiveness and unique identity is at risk."

The clearance of TfL’s Western Curve now provides the opportunity to redevelop in a way that is respectful of Dalston’s character, heritage and identity and which achieves improved public realm, increased pedestrian permeability and provides small managed public green spaces to create a new green route through the town centre.

Creating new green spaces and pathways, managed by social enterprises, provides opportunities for employment, community cohesion and passive supervision of the public realm. Proximity to green space increases land values and that added value should be used to benefit the public by funding the improvements to the public realm.

Redevelopment of the Western Curve has the potential to realise a sustainable Olympic legacy which meets Dalston’s needs.

The Sites for Development










The Western Curve

In repairing the Dalston townscape, following the completion of the London Overground, there is a golden opportunity for the railway/TfL to contribute to Dalston’s renaissance by liberating the vestigial roof spaces above the railway.

Greening above and around the rail route joins up the spaces which the railway had previously divided.

Our inspiration comes from the critically-acclaimed Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, one of the most successful collaborations between the LDA, Hackney Council and the local Dalston community.

Other inspirations are far and wide but include the New York HighLine: a derelict railway running through neglected inner city areas that has transformed the local neighbourhood and massively boosted land values.

Although it is on a different scale again, the network of pedestrian routes that link up the small pockets of green space within the Square Mile are an inspiration.

Greening the Overground, by liberating the roof spaces above the railway, may also present opportunities for recycling waste heat energy for the benefit of urban horticulture and food growing  and for communities living above the railway e.g. Rambuteau Station on the Paris Metro. Successful use of these  innovative bio-technologies in Dalston could create an exemplar model of benefit to many other sites along the Overground’s orbital route.

Rooftop Greenhouse

A rooftop greenhouse can grow crops and it can also act as a solar energy capture device contributing heat to the building below. The thermal mass of the building acts as a storage buffer, which in turn, keeps the greenhouse warm at night. Heat is the single largest cost of a UK greenhouse operator and without access to ‘free’ or low cost heat, growers increasingly lack commercial viability as energy costs rise.

We have built an experimental greenhouse on the roof of our premises to test the concept. In its first year of trials it has reduced our heating bill by 80% and has eliminated the need for heating in spring, summer and autumn, both to the greenhouse and the building below. It also provides a near constant supply of fresh vegetables. Rain water collected from the roof irrigates crops that are grown hydroponically.

Greenhouses enable high rates of production, typically 10 or more times that of open field cultivation. Increased production equates to increased food security, additional employment and reduced imports. Energy saving and reduced CO2 emissions go hand in hand, and the concept has the potential to achieve all of these objectives in a profitable way for the building owner and the UK in general.

George Loddiges (1786–1846) built the largest hothouse in the world in Hackney to display the best collection of palms and orchids in Europe.

OPEN Dalston's Evidence Bbase

1. Dalston is one of the most densely populated wards in one of the most densely populated boroughs in London

Hackney’s population exceeds 246,300 people and has a relatively youthful profile. It is the third most dense of all the London boroughs. Hackney has 129 people per hectare whereas the London average is 52 people per hectare.

Dalston’s population of 12,764 people has grown by 42% since 2001 – the highest rate amongst Hackney’s wards. It is now the fourth densest ward in Hackney with 159 people per hectare
(three times the London average).

2. Dalston is one of the most deprived wards in one of the most deprived boroughs in the UK

Hackney is the most deprived borough in London & the second most deprived borough nationally (2008 DCLG figs.). Dalston is the fourth most deprived of Hackney’s 19 Wards.

50% of Hackney’s population live in socially rented accommodation.

3. Many in Dalston live in very unsatisfactory housing conditions without access to private open or green space.

Overcrowding has been markedly increasing in Hackney and which, at 10% of households, is four times the national average with a shortage of social rented family homes ( 3+ bedrooms) being particularly acute.

Overcrowding particularly affects Hackney’s children. Hackney has double the level of national child poverty and has the third highest level of child poverty nationally.

32% of Council, and 31% of private sector, homes remain below the Decent Homes standard.

57% of Hackney’s population are ‘transient’ (in occupation for less than 2 years, mainly in the private sector)

76% of Hackney’s population live in flats, compared to 45% in London, and generally without direct access to private open or green space.

4. Hackney, and particularly Dalston, have already contributed significantly to meeting London’s need for housing growth

Hackney’s housing provision has been increasing at over 1,000 homes pa (principally in the private rented sector). Hackney has and continues to meet GLA housing growth targets, although not for affordable housing.

Dalston’s population has grown by 42% since 2001 – the highest rate in Hackney – and this is largely due to the increase in new dwellings.

Dalston has already contributed significantly to recent housing provision, notably with some 600 homes being created in Dalston Square’s 10-18 storey towers and 41 flats in the 14 storey Kinetica tower in Tyssen Street.

5. Public authorities are the owners of several opportunity sites in Dalston town centre

TfL owns The Slab development site above Dalston Junction station (Dalston Square, now leased to Barratt Homes) and the Dalston Western Curve of which two High Street frontage sites comprising 0.4 hectares are proposed for development in 2013 (Boleyn Road and Ashwin Street). TfL owns adjoining smaller sites for which no development is presently proposed.

Hackney Council owns sites at 1-10 Ashwin Street and 15 Dalston Lane including the Peace Mural and the southern part of the Eastern Curve.

Despite these land holdings it does not appear that the public authorities have taken the opportunity to develop a comprehensive public realm and bio-diversity strategy. Development has proceeded on a site by site basis.

6. Dalston is facing a tsunami of forthcoming major residential schemes in 2013

A 19 storey tower at Dalston Kingsland station, a 9 storey tower at Thames House (Eastern Curve), and 5-10 storey blocks at 67A-71 Dalston Lane are being proposed.

Towers of up to 15 storeys above a redeveloped Kingsland Shopping Centre are being discussed.
Key areas of Dalston’s public realm are potentially to lose all direct sunlight under DAAP proposals. A sunlighting report commissioned for LB Hackney by Matrix reveals that if the developments identified in the DAAP proceed (Thames House, Peacocks and Kingsland Shopping Centre) the entrance and western end of Ridley Road market (extending east to Colvestone Crescent) and almost the entire Eastern Curve Garden, will be cast permanently into shade.

TfL’s proposed development of the Western Curve will be an almost exclusively (90%) a private gated community providing no public open or green space. The development of public railway land (Western Curve) by a public body (TfL) with subsidy of £1.36million from a public body (LB Hackney) presently proposes to entirely enclose for private amenity all open and green space within TfL’s site from which the public will be excluded.

7. Dalston has a wealth of historic assets but these are under threat by potential over development

A recent heritage report commissioned by Design for London has found that the “intrinsic character, local distinctiveness and unique identity of Dalston... is at risk of being damaged or lost”. The report comments that Dalston’s historic town centre environment has “wholly inadequate heritage protection at present”. The report recommends the extension of the Dalston Lane (West) Conservation Area, the designation of a new Dalston Kingsland Conservation Area and the national or local listing of nine buildings in the area.

TfL have been advised by it’s independent consultants that it’s development plans for the Western Curve would leave listed buildings adjacent to both sites (i.e. Reeves Printhouse and Cooke’s Eels and Pie shop ‘Shanghai Restaurant’) below the level of natural light specified in British Research Establishment guidelines.

8. Dalston is severely deficient in public green space

The National Playing Fields Association (NPFA) standard relates playing space provision to population and recommends that there should be a minimum of 6 acres (2.43 hectares) of outdoor playing/recreational space per 1000 people.

Overall within Hackney there is 2.30ha of open space and 1.49ha of public park provision per 1,000 population, but there is wide local variation. Most Hackney wards fall below the Hackney average of 1.49ha of park/green areas per 1,000 population.

Dalston has some open space in Dalston Square and Gillett Square which are hard-landscaped. Natural planting and children’s play provision are minimal.

The two Wards that fall farthest short of green space are Dalston and Hackney Central.

Most of Dalston (60.05%) is deficient in pedestrian access to a public park.

The Atkin’s report demonstrates that the Dalston Ward has by far the greatest total area of public park deficiency in terms of access, with over 60ha of the ward outside of the 400m catchment area to public parks.

Areas which have high population and housing densities and high levels of deprivation are identified as the areas of greatest public open and green space need.

Open and green space is considered a valuable amenity because of its opportunities to provide environmental, recreational, educational, heritage, cultural, visual, human physical and mental health benefits and a sense of well being.

“Proposals for new housing development should be accompanied by proposals to improve open space provision” Hackney Open Space and Sports Assessment: Volume 1 ATKINS report (2004)

The covering of the East London Line extension cuttings in Dalston has resulted in a break in the wildlife corridor between green spaces which the cuttings previously provided. Wildlife corridors are vital arteries for maintaining connectivity between isolated green areas and this should inform all development along railway lines.

Natural Greenspace Provision by Ward

Hackney Wards with greatest deficit below the 1ha per 1,000 population target in 2016 include Dalston.

Estimated Allotment Needs Arising from Households Lying outside of Allotment Catchments
Dalston 10 plots (75% households outside catchment areas).

Hackney Open Space and Sports Assessment: Volume 1 ATKINS report (2004)

9 The recent provision of Dalston’s only public green space, at the Eastern Curve Garden, is identified by Hackney Council (LBH) as a temporary use and for future development as a shopping circuit

Since July 2010 the site has been managed as a temporary community garden with facilities for holding local events. It is an essential resource for Dalston’s community and its children.

The Garden has increased footfall in the Town Centre considerably and contributed to Dalston’s reputation as a destination. This has a beneficial impact on existing local businesses. Approximately 50,000 people visited in the year ending October 2011 and this increased by between 50-100% in the year ending October 2012.

The Garden is the only public open green space in Dalston Town Centre. Its exemplary design as part of the ‘Making Space in Dalston’ project resulted in its selection as the Winner of the President’s Award in the 2011 Landscape Institute Awards which commented that “The eco-garden with new barn to host community events… has provided a much-needed green oasis.” On 2012 the Garden took part in the Chelsea Fringe Festival and was visited by HRH Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall who commended it.

OPEN Dalston’s comments on TfL’s “Western Curve” planning application

Heritage buildings at 33-49 Kingsland High Street











Gated Community

The Western Curve sites are railway land owned by TfL, a public body. The proposed scheme is subsidised by a substantial financial contribution by Hackney, the local authority. The development proposal makes no provision for public open or green spaces on the sites nor provides for any public access into or through the sites. The developments occupy the entire sites and creates a private enclave of almost exclusively unaffordable homes for sale where all green and amenity space is enclosed within the developmen from which the public is excluded. The design effectively creates a barrier between the development and the rest of Dalston. It is a gated comunity rather than an accessible mixed-tenure, diverse, sustainable community.

Public realm

We consider that the proposals fail to adequately respond to paragraph 3.64 the LPA’s Planning and Design guidance “to link the site into existing local routes; reduce pedestrian congestion and to improve overall permeability and the pedestrian environment in Dalston town centre”.

The design of the development misses the opportunity of setting the development further back  at the Abbott Street junction which would both enhance pedestrian entry to Ashwin Street and assist alignment of the pedestrian way across Kingsland High Street between Abbott Street and Boleyn Road.

The 6-storey height of the continuous terrace along the southern site obscures light to Ashwin Street which is detrimental to the sun lighting of its ‘pavement cafĂ©’ and pedestrianised use.

We consider that the proposals fail to adequately respond to the LPA’s Planning and Design guidance that “new and improved areas of green open space and/or public realm will be encouraged subject to appropriate design” and, at paragraph 3.64 for “public spaces, small and large,… should be designed to integrate with the existing fabric of the street and area… and new green public open space and or public realm on the southern site.”

The proposal is to remove some street trees from Ashwin Street (to facilitate HGV turnaround there) and to plant one tulip tree and four small trees on Ashwin Street west pavement and to plant five small trees on Boleyn Road east pavement and plant a mature plane tree and provide planting pots on Boleyn Road west.

We consider that the applicant’s description of such planting as creating a “green way” is derisory. The provision is wholly inadequate given the extent of the applicant’s public land available to create ‘pocket parks’ on each of the northern and southern to enhance the public realm and to create ‘stepping stones’ of green oasis along the route.

For these reasons the application in its present form should be refused.

Housing Provision

Of a total of 108 flats only 10 (9.25%) are for affordable social rent and 5 (4.6%) are intermediate.

Of a total of 108 flats only 23 (21%) are 3 bed family homes.

Having regard to local needs we consider that the provision of affordable and family housing is totally inadequate and contrary to the LPA’s Planning and Design Guidance for the Western Curve (50% affordable of which 70% RSL and 30% Intermediate) and the LPA’s and GLA’s overarching policy targets for affordable housing.

For these reasons the application in its present form should be refused.

Building heights

The northern site development rises to 8-storeys. The height is overscale to the streetscape such that it dominates the surrounding buildings of 3-4 storeys, adversely affects the setting of heritage buildings at 33-49 Kingsland High Street and (the applicant’s sunlight report reveals) reduces the natural sunlight to them to below British Research Establishment standards. This is indicative of overdevelopment.

The Dalston Area Action Plan, approved by a Planning Inspector, identifies that 4-6 storeys would be an appropriate height for developments on this site. The Applicant fails to justify any development exceeding 4 storeys.

The southern site development proposes a continuous terrace of 6-storeys. The height is overscale to the streetscape such that it dominates surrounding buildings, adversely affects the setting of heritage buildings in Ashwin Street, namley Reeves & Sons (The Printhouse) and Shiloh Pentecostal Church and (the applicant’s sunlight report reveals) reduces the natural sunlight to Reeves & Sons to below British Research Establishment standards. This is indicative of overdevelopment.

The Applicant fails to justify a development exceeding 4-storeys. The continuous roofscape is contrary to paragraph 3.51 LPA’s Planning and Design Guidance for the Western Curve which seeks variable building heights.

We consider that the buildings affected by the development comprise buildings of local and national heritage and are representative of Dalston’s character, identity and cultural history. We consider that we are temporary custodians of the buildings such that their settings and amenity should be safeguarded for future generations.

The proposed development fails to give due consideration to its impact on the town centre and surrounding listed buildings contrary to paragraphs 3.48 LPA’s Planning and Design Guidance for the Western Curve and contrary to the LPA & GLA policies and the National Plannning Policy Framework.

For these reasons the application in its present form should be refused.

Reeves & Sons Artists’ Colour Works, Ashwin Street

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