Wednesday, 16 April 2014

OPEN has issued Court proceedings for judicial review of Dalston demolitions

OPEN has issued a claim in the Planning Court to challenge Hackney's decisions to allow demolition of its 200 year old Georgian houses in Dalston Terrace. Hackney granted Murphy Homes Limited, its' "development partner", planning permission to demolish everything on 5th March. OPEN has warned  both Hackney and Murphy that, unless they undertake not to demolish the houses until the Court action is resolved, a Court injunction will be sought to stop them.


OPEN has been advised by specialist planning Counsel that it has an arguable claim. Thanks to everyone who has donated so generously to pay for expenses to date - you have given us inspiration and hope!! OPEN urgently needs more donations to boost its fighting fund. Another £5,000 is needed to get to the next stage. Please give whatever you can afford to help defeat municipal vandalism and save some of Dalston's surviving fragments of Georgian heritage.



                               (c) Mooneyphoto
Shopkeepers have been trading in Dalston Lane's traditional shops for over 100 years but Hackney's designs involve demolishing the ground floor walls to create "open plan" shops. Such structural intervention is very high risk. 

Hackney failed to properly consider the options available when Murphy claimed that implementing the  Hackney-designed scheme would cause the buildings to collapse. Instead, it granted permission for demolition and new build "in heritage likeness" ( Read  "One man. Two Votes" here Ed). Hackney now claims that in a "genuine" conservation led scheme nothing needs to be conserved.  (Hmm...Is that like a picnic without any sandwiches? Ed.)

Hackney inherited the houses from the GLC when it was abolished in 1984. During Hackney's ownership 11 of the houses became vacant, they were not repaired or re-let and 4 roofs fell in. Hackney sold them to an off-shore company in 2002.

Local architect and OPEN member, Lisa Shell, commissioned the internationally known conservation engineers, Morton Partnership, who advised that by using specialist techniques nearly all the buildings could still be saved. Hackney's own appointed independent engineers, Alan Baxter LLP, advised that the "open plan" designs probably made demolition inevitable, but Hackney failed to ask them what design changes were needed to save the houses . Hackney simply dismissed these respected engineers opinions and supressed their reports. ( Read "Was there a cover up" here Ed.).

Hackney eventually bought the houses back in 2010, but by then four had been destroyed by fires and Hackney demolished them using its Conservation Area powers to make them "wind and watertight". Hackney says demolishing the remainder and building a "heritage likeness " scheme will "enhance the Conservation Area".

All of the 44 new flats will be for private sale without any affordable or social housing at all because, Hackney says, the scheme will run at a loss. In fact the opposite seems to be true. Hackney sold the houses in 2002 for £1.8m and, although it paid £3.75 to buy them back in 2010, in 2013 it sold the development scheme to Murphy for £2.4m. So Hackney has net receipts of £450k and will also receive estimated shop rents of some £50k pa once the development is completed. Then there is Murphy's windfall saving on VAT if everything is demolished - a VAT exemption applies to new build schemes . (Ahh! So it's a #mimby scheme. Ed.)


Since 2006 Hackney has been committed to a conservation-led  regeneration project, which harnesses the heritage value of the houses. But then, last December, it authorised Murphy to start complete demolition of the 17 houses. It was only when OPEN's solicitor, Bill Parry-Davies, with Lisa Shell and the Hackney Society, challenged the decision that Hackney admitted it was unlawful and that planning permission was first required (Read "Community stops demolitions" here Ed.).

Hackney has refused to review the recent planning permission for demolition and refer the new "demolition and new build" scheme back to the Council which originally had only approved a conservation-led scheme. It is those decisions which OPEN is now seeking to challenge through the Court.




The Vandals: an eastern Germanic tribe which earned notoriety by sacking Rome in the 5th century, but which was later defeated by the Goths.
Vandalism: the gratuitous anti-social destruction of the environment and artistic creations.
Municipal vandalism: the destruction of our cultural heritage by corporate ignorance, deliberate neglect, greed and vanity, all in the name of regeneration, necessity and progress
.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Hackney has refused to reconsider demolition of its Georgian houses in Dalston Terrace

Hackney has refused to review its decision to allow demolition of all its Georgian houses in Dalston Terrace. Hackney was forced to suspend unlawful demolitions last January and OPEN is again now seeking specialist legal advice about this latest development. Hackney has commented to OPEN's solicitor that demolition will not start before 15 April.

                                      (c) Hackney Archives photo

Early 20th century photo of Dalston Terrace. Seventeen are owned by Hackney but, after a troubled recent history, these fragile survivors of our local heritage are now in a very dilapidated condition

On 5th March the Chair of Hackney's Planning Committee, in the face of a divided Committee, used his casting vote to grant permission for total demolition of the 200 year old houses ( Read "One man, two votes" here. Ed.) . Hackney has refused OPEN's formal request to review that decision, and to refer the scheme back to its Cabinet. In  2011 the Cabinet, with Dalston's Ward Councillor Sophie Linden in the Chair, had authorised Council officers to procure a "conservation led " scheme. In 2012 the Cabinet had also recommended that the Full Council adopt the Dalston Area Action Plan which prescribes a conservation led scheme for Dalston Terrace.


 
Hackney has had a conservation policy for the houses since 2007 - although you wouldn't think so watching this video. Hackney now argues that, although everything will be demolished, it will still be a 'conservation led' scheme although nothing will be preserved ( Not even Hackney's reputation claiming to be "champions of the historic environment" Ed.) 

Hackney had advertised the development opportunity, in the European OJEU journal, as "restoration of buildings of townscape merit  designated in the Dalston (West) Conservation Area". It later awarded the contract to Murphy, for £2,380,000. The tender competition weighting was Price 55/ Quality 45.(Does that mean Price trumped Quality? Ed.).  Murphy's engineers and architects, who appear to have no conservation accreditation, now consider that the buildings are beyond redemption and must all be demolished - although Muphy had entered the contract in June 2013 knowing full well of the problems with Hackney's designs..

                                       (c) Mooneyphoto

Hackney's designs require the ground floor interiors of the 1807 houses to be ripped out to create "open plan" shops - which independant engineers Alan Baxter Associates have advised would cause the buildings to collapse. Hackney thinks there's no place in Dalston  Terrace for traditional shops, like in Broadway Market and  Covent Garden, although it was recently advised that creating a "village feel" would be the most viable option for the houses. Shopkeepers have been trading in Dalston Terrace, without 'open plan', for more than 100 years.

When selecting Murphy as its development partner, Hackney's requirements included ".....a proven track record in projects involving the regeneration of Georgian/Victorain buildings"....."demonstrate previous experience of the restoration of period shopfronts and rebuilding/partial rebuilding of late Georgian and Victorian properties".  Murphy's moto is "Breathing life into infrastructure projects" -but sadly not, it would seem, breathing life into Georgian houses.

                                (c) Mike Wells
Murphy's have expertise in pipework and undertook excavations on the London 2012 Olympic site to bury cables from electricity pylons.  Here is one of their trucks  transporting spoil from the former West Ham landfill on the 2012 Olympic site (Shouldn't the spoil be covered? Ed.) The site was discovered to be severely contaminated with radioactive and other toxic waste.  
NUKEM's Radiation and Contamination Report, dated 11.3.08, records a survey of Murphy's Yard "to find contaminated area of soil levelled by Murphy's last week to extend yard" on London's 2012 Olympic site. The survey identified radioactive material emitting gamma radiation of up to 6,000 counts per second - 20 times the level deemed safe to leave on site. It is not known if Murphy and their workforce were aware of these hazards.

                                (c) Mooneyphoto

Murphy began demolition of the backs of Dalston Terrace's Georgian houses in January 2014, with Hackney's authority, but without first satisfying planning conditions and without planning permission. They withdrew after community complaints. ( Read "Was there a cover up" Ed.)

Hackney has refused to reconsider its decisions to permit total demolition and so, it now seems, only a Court Order could stop the demolitions. OPEN has launched an appeal for contributions to its fighting fund. £000's have already been donated, but £0000s are urgently needed if municipal vandalism is to be defeated.

Please urgently make bank transfers to:
OPEN Dalston

Barclays Bank
Sort code: 20-46-57
Account 33274659


Donations of £250 or greater will be refunded in the case of an excess of funds; but it is the many donations of £10 that will make all the difference.




The Vandals: an eastern Germanic tribe which earned notoriety by sacking Rome in the 5th century, but which was later defeated by the Goths.
Vandalism: the gratuitous anti-social destruction of the environment and artistic creations.
Municipal vandalism: the destruction of our cultural heritage by corporate ignorance, deliberate neglect, greed and vanity, all in the name of regeneration and progress
.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Iain Sinclair's "America Ground " and the film "The UK Gold"

If you missed the OPEN film and poetry event at CafĂ© Oto last December, with Iain Sinclair and William Taylor, you can catch up now. Obtain a copy here of the film "The UK Gold" which exposes the City of London Corporation's demonic complicity in corporate exploitation worldwide by the use of tax avoidance and tax havens. It features William Taylor who this week won election to the City as Labour's first sucessful candidate.


 'Best Documentary' at London's 2013 East End film festival.  Mark Donne's  film "The UK Gold"  You can order your copy here.  "A shining piece of film-making on the darkness at the heart of the City....this is a film no-one should avoid" Daily Mirror.

At the OPEN event we also heard Iain Sinclair read from his latest work "American Smoke" and describe the beat poets he met on his wanderings. Iain also performed, in collaboration with Bill Parry-Davies on tenor saxophone, an extract from the book, "America Ground", which tells of an historic declaration of independence for occupied land in Hastings. You can hear that, and more of Iain and Bill's collaborations, here , including  Mike Well's short film "Gold Dust" about the reckless exhumation of radioactive waste on London's 2012 Olympic Park

Friday, 14 March 2014

OPEN's legal demand that Hackney cease demolition of Dalston Terrace

OPEN's solicitors have today written to Hackney Council requiring its undertaking that it will stop all demolition of Dalston Terrace until its Cabinet, and its Planning Committee, have reviewed their decisions. The Council's development partner , Murphy Homes Ltd., has also been informed of the letter.

                                                  (c) Mooneyphoto

Dalston Terrace houses , with Barratt's towers of Dalston Square beyond 

Since 2005 Hackney's policies have been to preserve and enhance the Dalston Lane (West) Conservation Area, of which the Georgian houses in Dalston Terrace comprise more than half the total number of buildings.

Hackney launched a conservation-led regeneration project in 2006. It's Cabinet later authorised its officers to recruit a design team to obtain planning permission, and to procure a development partner, for a conservation led refurbishment scheme.  But on March 5th its Planning Committee, by its Chair's second vote, agreed to permit complete demolition of all the buildings.


This video shows Hackney's neglect and indifference to these houses which it claims are now beyond repair. Will Hackney now stop the planned commercially-led, demolition and new build, scheme? The Georgian Group stated that it "is saddened that your Council is contemplating rewarding itself...for the deliberate neglect  of this group of heritage assets".

No longer conservation led , the new scheme will finally destroy all of the surviving 13 Georgian houses of Dalston Terrace, and damage the Conservation Area. It is contrary to all public policy derived from public consulation. Neither will there be any affordable housing. (Where is the public benefit? Ed.)

OPEN has launched an appeal for contributions to its fighting fund. £000's have already been donated, but £0000s are urgently needed if municipal vandalism is to be defeated.

Please make bank transfers to:
OPEN Dalston

Barclays Bank
Sort code: 20-46-57
Account 33274659


Donations of £250 or greater will be refunded in the case of an excess of funds; but it is the many donations of £10 that will make all the difference.


 
The Vandals: an eastern Germanic tribe which earned notoriety by sacking Rome in the 5th century, but which was later defeated by the Goths.
Vandalism: the gratuitous anti-social destruction of the environment and artistic creations.
Municipal vandalism: the destruction of our cultural heritage by corporate ignorance, deliberate neglect, greed and vanity, all in the name of regeneration and progress
.

Fighting fund appeal in the battle for Dalston Lane!

Since 2005 Hackney has clearly committed to the conservation of Dalston Terrace with detailed policy and guidance to ensure the protection of the buildings and preservation the conservation area. But they have now granted planning permission for the demolition of the surviving historic buildings at 48-76 Dalston Lane.
 
Hackney have ignored their own policies in the interest of a smooth ride with their developer partner, Murphy, who are set up on site and will commence the destruction any day: demolition is not just cheaper, easier and quicker but falls within the skill set of a firm whose motto is "breathing life into infrastructure” but sadly not, it appears, Georgian buildings.
 

Hackney said its' own neglect of the houses meant that their condition now makes them beyond repair. But it chose to ignore the advice of its own , and an independent, expert conservation engineer.

OPEN members were powerful in their objections to the planning application but even 785 objections were not enough to swing the 4:4 vote towards refusal. OPEN is urgently obtaining specialist advice on the prospects of a successful legal challenge and need to move fast to optimise the chances. But the legal costs will need to be met: this is an appeal to OPEN supporters for donations to the fighting fund.

Please make bank transfers to:
OPEN Dalston
Barclays Bank
Sort code: 20-46-57
Account 33274659


Donations of £250 or greater will be refunded in the case of an excess of funds; but it is the many donations of £10 that will make all the difference.

Please contribute to the battle for Dalston Lane!

Friday, 7 March 2014

One man, two votes! Georgian houses of Dalston Terrace to be demolished.

The Chair of Hackney's Planning Committee, Councillor Vincent Stops, used his casting vote on a tie break to approve demolition of the surviving 13 Georgian houses in Dalston Terrace last Wednesday 5th March. It was democracy inaction, and resonant with deja vu.


The Council's officers reported that there had been 785 written objections to the planning application, by  Hackney's development partner Murphy, to demolish the 200 year old houses. You can read OPEN's objections here.  Hundreds of local people, including Dalston architect Lisa Shell, objected as well as three local Conservation Area Committees, The Hackney Society, the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust,  the East London Preservation Society, the Heritage of London Trust, SAVE Britains Heritage, the Victorian Society, the Georgian Group and The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings(SPAB) . All urged restraint and that Hackney consider the issues further. But, with Hackney and Murphy's haste to proceed, there was to be no stay of execution.


This video shows the appalling neglect and vandalism of the houses by the owners and, despite its promises to us, Hackney's neglect and indifference to their fate and its community's views

The Council officers report to its Planning Committee was telling. Hackney pleaded it own negligence, in failing to maintain and protect the houses which had  "been in an unheated and damp condition for years", to explain why they are now incapable of repair and redemption. Hackney had in effect, despite the lofty public pronouncements of its politicians, and numerous officers' reports over many years, just stood by and watched the houses decay. It had even, at public expense, demolished three of the houses itself and dressed others in funereal black paint, whilst they were in private ownership, .


In responding to each planning objection, Hackney's officers sided with the developer, Muphy's, opinion about the irredeemable condition of the structures, even against the advice of Hackney's own appointed independent expert, Alan Baxter LLP.


Despite Hackney's public commitment to a conservation-led scheme, in which the design is subservient to the buildings heritage, it is clear that the plans are commercially led, a demolition and new-build scheme, in "heritage likeness". Little value has been put on the heritage, cultural and economic value of restoration.


Murphy are to lease the new ground floor shops back to Hackney, which has specified 'open plan'  shops " designed to appeal to  range of potential occupiers". (Who are they? Ed.)   The degree of structural intervention to create such "open plan" shops, Alan Baxter LLP advised, would cause the buildings to collapse. In Hackney's eyes traditional shops - like those of  Broadway Market, Columbia Road and Covent Garden - have no place in Dalston Lane. No options appraisal appears to have been carried out - an oversight with grave consequences.


The ground floor interior of one of the 1807 houses that Murphy would rip out under the 'conservation led" scheme.

Even if we were to keep the traditional shops, Hackney responded, "the same conclusions would hold true"  because, Murphy's engineers say, the poor quality of Georgian construction and inferior bricks are inherently weak.


But Hackney's own expert, Alan Baxter LLP had  advised that "With regards to the brickwork strength argument, this is flawed. It is not appropriate to judge buildings of this age and type as if they are modern construction" . This view was supported by the forensic analysis of a SPAB Fellow, and the internationally recognised Morton Partnership whose opinion was that "some buildings...still have a very good potential to be retained in their entirety and brought back into use with sympathetic restoration and repair". The officers denigrated their views - "The position of the Ed Morton and Alan Baxter reports with regard to brickwork durability is not accepted."


Murphy are know for "breathing life into infrastructure projects" but, sadly, not Georgian buildings.

When Murphy's structural engineer was asked whether he personally, or any member of his firm, had any conservation accreditation at all to support their judgment, he was unable to reply affirmatively and the Committee Chair stepped in to forbid further discussion of the issue. We are also  not aware that Murphy's architects had any such accreditation either. And so the houses must come down and be rebuilt with new bricks and modern construction techniques to create a replica "heritage likeness" scheme.


Although officers reported that the demolition and new build scheme will have "some construction cost savings", any affordable housing nevertheless remains "unviable" because, they advised, the developer must (as in all these schemes) first recover a 20% profit. Despite Committee members questioning, the officers failed to report and advise them that, if everything is demolished, the new build scheme could potentially attract a developer's windfall of 20% VAT exemption. The Council's manager had told OPEN members personally that he "argued strongly against any affordable housing to ensure the development would be of the highest quality."  Early written reports appear to show that they had ruled out any affordable housing even before any viability test had been undertaken.


"Dalston Lane - Summer Day No1" by legendary Dalston painter Leon Kossoff, who features in Emma-Louise Williams' film "Under the Cranes" and on BBC by Iain Sinclair who referenced Hackney Council's vandalism   

At the conclusion of the debate the Committee Chair plus 3 members voted in favour of demolition, and 4 members voted against it. The Committee Chair then used his casting vote in favour. Motion carried for demolition. Job done.


 
The Vandals: an eastern Germanic tribe which earned notoriety by sacking Rome in the 5th century, but which was later defeated by the Goths.
Vandalism: the gratuitous anti-social destruction of the environment and artistic creations.
Municipal vandalism: the destruction of our cultural heritage by corporate ignorance, deliberate neglect, greed and vanity, all in the name of regeneration and progress
.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Dalston's Georgian houses hold their breath.

Tonight, Hackney's Planning Committee will consider and decide, in public, an application by the Council's development partner, Murphy, to demolish the thirteen surviving 200 year old Georgian houses in Dalston Terrace. You can attend the meeting tonight at 6:30pm in the Hackney Town Hall.

We have several objectors registered to speak. You can read our written objections here.


The house were built between 1807 and 1830, and had shops fronts built over their front gardens in about 1890

Murphy, which entered a development agreement with Hackney on 27th June 2013, will tell the Committee that implementing the approved "conservation led " scheme will cause the buildings to collapse, and so they should all now be demolished. Murphy's structural engineers had previously advised that the scheme was possible, when the Committee granted planning permission in August 2012, but had changed their opinion by the time of the development agreement with Hackney on 27 June 2013.


This video shows the appalling neglect and vandalism of the houses by the owners and, despite its promises to us, Hackney's neglect and indifference to their fate and its community's views

Last December Hackney authorised Murphy to commence demolition without planning permission. When we challanged Hackney, Councillor Nicholson admitted that the demolitions were unlawful and they were ceased. Muphy's current planning application is to resume the demolitions.

It has now been revealed that, when the demolitions commenced, Hackney was already in possession of a report by independent expert engineers, Alan Baxter LLP, advising that the main 200 year old houses could be saved if the extent of structural alterations proposed for the houses were reduced - namely, without creating the proposed "open plan" shops

The ground floor interior of one of the 1807 houses that Murphy would rip out under the 'conservation led" scheme.

Since Murphy's application for wholesale demolition, local architect, Lisa Shell, has commissioned a further investigation by the Morton Partnership, an internationally recognised firm of conservation engineers. They advise that, with the use of specialist techniques, not only could the "conservation led" scheme be implemented as designed but also that all, but one, of the thirteen surviving Georgian houses could still be saved.


Hackney's funereal dressing of black paint over the graffiti on the Georgian brickwork and renders. A reminder of the charred remains of the nine buildings burnt down in Dalston over recent years and all on "development opportunity" sites.

The application to demolish the houses has attracted controversy, and a huge number of objections from local residents as well as from The Hackney Society, three local Conservation Area Committees, The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the Georgian Group, SAVE Britains Heritage, The Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust, the Heritage of London Trust, the East London Preservation Society and others. We are extremely grateful to them all for their interest and concern.


The Georgian houses of Dalston terrace have had a troubled history. Due to the indifference and neglect by the owner, Hackney Council, only two of originally sixteen businesses remain in occupation and Hackney already demolished three of the houses in 2007 when it declared a "conservation led development scheme". OPEN has always campaigned to save the houses which represent the some of the last surviving fragments of Dalston's historic development and character.

You are entitled to attend the Council meeting tonight to witness democracy inaction.
 
 
The Vandals: an eastern Germanic tribe which earned notoriety by sacking Rome in the 5th century, but which was later defeated by the Goths.
Vandalism: the gratuitous anti-social destruction of the environment and artistic creations.
Municipal vandalism: the destruction of our cultural heritage by corporate ignorance, deliberate neglect, greed and vanity, all in the name of regeneration and progress
.