Thames House, 4 Hartwell Street, E8 3DU planning application 2017/0320 – OPEN Dalston’s objections

We welcome the proposal to develop this underused site and the proposal that 11 of the 36 new flats are described as for “social rent” and 7 for shared ownership and that 10% of the 3,968.3m2 B1 employment space will be affordable. We request disclosure of the estimated rents which are proposed for those new homes and workspaces and reserve our position as to whether they can properly be described as affordable to local people with average household incomes

We have strong objections to the overshadowing consequences of the development’s design which severely impact on the Eastern Curve public realm, which includes the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden adjoining the length of the development’s northern boundary, and on the affordable homes and open spaces within the development site.

The applicant for planning permission has acknowledged, in its report by Cratus of earlier public consultation events, that 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 development. This indicates that, contrary to policy, consultation did not take place during the formative stage of the design when the public’s views could have been properly considered.

We consider that the height of the development exceeds the Dalston Area Action Plan policy for the site. Whilst the northwest Block A is described as 8 storeys, it also comprises an extended height ground floor and a tall parapet above the 8th storey. Block B is described as 7 storeys but elevation drawings show it to be taller than Block A due to its floor to ceiling heights - if fact the parapet to Block B exceeds 29metres in height and is equivalent to a nine and a half storey building of conventional construction. In addition the adjoining Eastern Curve public realm is below the development’s ground level.

The blocks’ are placed, in plan form, right along the line of the Eastern Curve’s southern boundary and with no attempt to emulate the historic curve of the former railway, to allow pedestrian movement within that boundarys or to set back the upper storeys except for the 8th floor.

The effect of these features is to create an overbearing cliff like structure dominating overlooking and overshadowing the Eastern Curve public realm and its public garden which form part of the character of the Dalston Lane (West) Conservation Area. The effect of the development’s design is directly contrary to the DAAP objectives to “strengthen local character and identity by enhancing the existing qualities that the local community cherish”, “ To revive the public realm” and for the Eastern Curve public realm “ not to become a canyon overly-dominated by tall buildings” .

The proposed development designs are also directly contrary to Policy DTC 11 which provides: PUBLIC REALM QUALITY 1) All new development will be required to make a positive contribution to the quality of the public realm. c) Respect public open spaces and streets by ensuring that building forms are appropriately scaled to their context and do not provide excessive overshadowing;

The public garden presently provides a quiet intimate and restorative natural and social environment, in contrast with the harsh bustling and polluted town centre beyond its entrance. The garden is extremely popular and cherished and , for many people, it has a beneficial therapeutic effect and assists their sense of well-being. The development, by its overbearing intrusive and canyon effect, will seriously damage these unique qualities of the public garden.

 A further concern is that due to the north/south alignment of the blocks they will be impacted by prevailing south westerly winds causing downward deflection and acceleration and resulting in adverse conditions at ground level particularly in the Eastern Curve public realm and Garden. This concern needs expert analysis, of which none has been disclosed by the planning applicant.

These impacts all indicate that the scheme is poorly designed and amounts to overdevelopment.

This video shows the overshadowing effect on the Garden before and after which the development (shown as yellow) is built. It has been produced by local architects based on the developer's own site modelling. Link:

The Building Research Establishment's (BRE) daylight and sunlight report indicates that the new low rise flats in the east Block C, which mainly comprise the new family homes, will fall short of the standard for internal natural light. 75% of kitchens, 45% of the bedrooms and 31% of the living rooms fail to meet BRE minimum guidelines for natural light within dwellings and 55% of living rooms fail to meet BRE minimum guidelines for summer sunlight and 75% for winter sunlight . In addition the development will compromise the natural light to windows of Springfield House.

These impacts all indicate that the scheme is poorly designed and amounts to overdevelopment.

The proposal includes some open space within the new Thames House site itself but no information has been provided regarding the extent of direct sunlight received by those spaces. Our concern is that the north/south alignment of the blocks, and the positioning of Mews Street and Tyssen Square directly north of the six-storey Premier Inn, will severely limit their receipt of adequate direct sunlight. Furthermore the proposed Garden Square is sited closest to the entrance of the Eastern Curve public realm and is likely to share its deficiency in direct sunlight. The applicant should be requested to provide calculations and illustrations of the sunlight to the site’s open spaces as designed.

The developer seeks to justify the poor quality of natural light within the new dwellings on account of its eastern neighbour, Springfield House, being a “bad neighbour” because it is constructed right along its site boundary such that “in order to allow fair use of the Thames House site, a larger than normal loss of light may be considered reasonable”. However the Thames House development commits the same offence, of being a “bad neighbour”, by proposing buildings are in their effect of 8 and 10 storeys, right along on its northern boundary, and thereby obstructing an unfair amount of direct sunlight to the Eastern Curve public realm, and beyond to the buildings and vacant site on Ashwin street east, and which compromises their natural light and the possibility of satisfactory use and future development there.

The applicant’s BRE daylight and sunlight report has calculated that 79.7% of the land occupied by the Eastern Curve Garden would receive at least 2 hours of direct sunlight on the spring equinox of 21 March and thereby meets the minimum 50% BRE Guide for open space. In winter, with the longer shadows cast by the development, most of the Garden will be overshadowed for most of the day.

The BRE Guide advises that assessment of adverse impact should take into account the open space’s requirement for sunlight eg impact otherwise regarded as “minor adverse” may be considered “major adverse” due to the sensitivity of its users eg a childrens’ playground. The BRE Guide stresses that it is “purely advisory and the numerical target values within it may be varied to meet the needs of the development and its location” and, at paragraph 1.6, that “In special circumstances the developer or planning authority may wish to use different target values… where natural light is of special importance”.

We consider that special circumstances do apply to the Eastern Curve public realm, and that more generous target values should be applied. According to national criteria, Dalston is recognised as an area severely deficient in public open green space; it, is an area containing one of the highest population densities and has one of the highest levels of overcrowding and child poverty nationally and some 75% of families live in flats without access to private green space. In these circumstances access to public green space is of special importance to the local community, and particularly to its children, such that any development adjoining the Eastern Curve public realm should therefore be designed to minimise the loss of direct sunlight.

The applicant’s BRE report indicates that an area comprising the southern entrance to the Eastern Curve public realm already receives less than 2 hours direct sunlight on 21 March. The BRE Guide states (3.3.11) that “If an existing garden or outdoor space is already heavily obstructed then any further loss of sunlight should be kept to a minimum” however the proposed development, due to the design failings described above, does not attempt to, or actually, keep such loss of sunlight to the minimum. The applicant should be asked to consider how variations in its design can keep such obstruction to a minimum.

The BRE Guide also indicates (paragraph 3.3.11) that “In this poorly lit sunlit case if as a result of new development the area which can receive two hours of sunlight on 21 March is reduced to less than 0.8 times its former size, this further loss of sunlight is significant. The garden or amenity area will tend to look more heavily overshadowed”. The planning applicant should be required to calculate the amount of, and provide justifications for the, loss of direct sunlight to the Eastern Curve public realm.

Contrary to the BRE’s own Guide (paragraph 3.3.13), the planning applicant has made no disclosure of its use of the prediction tools recommended for public open spaces, for example sunpath indicators or the BRE sunlight availability protractor. The planning applicant should be asked to produce these illustrations to enable a fair assessment to be made of the actual direct sunlight which would be received throughout the year.

The Eastern Curve is presently in shadow for almost its entire length throughout most of the day The Thames House development, as presently designed, will add to the overshadowed gloom of the Eastern Curve as a whole where most of its length has already been blighted by the curtain effect of the towers of Kinetica, Point One Apartments and Martel Place through which sunlight rarely penetrates. The planning applicant has not calculated the effect of the Thames House scheme in relation to the Eastern Curve proposed public realm as a whole, but only to the Eastern Curve Garden area, and the applicant should be asked to produce such calculations and justify the cumulative overshadowing impact of the development.

This illustration shows how, by comprehensive planning, pedestrian movement within the area could be improved without the need to use the Garden land as a thoroughfare. We also consider that there has been a failure to consider the design of Thames House development in the wider context of the need for enhanced pedestrian movement (permeability) through the town centre and in the context of the potential preservation of the Eastern Curve Garden as an enclosed public green space being under active consideration by the Council landowner. We consider that the planning authority should discuss the possibilities of pedestrian movement through the applicant’s site in the same way that it has considered pedestrian movement across the land of the adjoining owner, Kingsland Shopping Centre, to the north, with a view to seeking a mutually agreed solution to the public’s needs.

We consider that the planning authority should not approve this application until the further evidence we request has been produced and it is satisfied that all necessary design amendments have been made to minimize loss of sunlight to the adjoining public realm, to maximize natural light to the new flats and open spaces on the site itself and to facilitate better pedestrian movement through the town centre.

5 March 2018

OPEN Dalston is an association of people who live or work in Dalston. OPEN is an acronym for Organisation for Promotion of Environmental Needs Limited. OPEN's objects are to promote excellence in the quality of the built environment, in the provision of transportation and amenities, and to ensure that changes to these have proper regard to the needs of residents and businesses and the maintenance of a sustainable residential and business community.

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