Thursday, 16 April 2015

Why is Hackney still not protecting Dalston Junction's heritage buildings at risk?

Good and bad news this week. Hackney Council have finally recognised the heritage value of buildings in the Kingsland High Street area and its side streets. It is proposing a new Dalston Conservation Area extending from Tottenham Road up to Somerford Grove/Princess May school further north (see map here).

Hackney also propose extending the Albion Square Conservation Area to include No.1 Albion Drive and Queensbridge Infants School

But why has Hackney chosen to ignore the equally worthy, and much loved, heritage buildings on the east side of Dalston Junction which will have no conservation area protection at all and so remain at risk?


Included in the new Conservation Area: Nos. 37- 49 Kingsland High Street (including the Kingsland pub) "The detailing and variety of elevational treatment of this terrace make it one of the most interesting architecturally in the new conservation area" Dr Robey

The heritage assessment, undertaken by the erudite Dr Ann Robey, recognises the wonderfully diverse range of periods, styles, detailing and occupancy of the Kingsland area buildings. Protection by Conservation Area status is long overdue and is to be welcomed. You can see and comment on the proposals here and email your views to consultation@hackney.gov.uk with ‘Dalston’ in the subject line.

But when you make your views known to Hackney bear in mind that many of Dalston's much loved heritage buildings have been left out of  the proposals. See more below. Make sure you tell Hackney if you want the omitted buildings to have conservation area protection too.


Excluded from Conservation Area protection:  the classic and well preserved 1865  Railway Tavern on the corner of Ashwin Street. Hackney purchased it quite recently "as a natural progession of the Dalston Square development" ( That sounds ominous! Ed)

Readers will recall that in December 2012 we published "Leaked report calls for Dalston's environemntal protection". The leaked report, commissioned by the GLA's Design for London, made a strong recommendation, which Hackney considered in 2013 but has not implemented. It was that the Dalston Lane (West) Conservation Area be extended to afford protection to the equally worthy surviving heritage buildings east of Dalston Junction.


Excluded from Conservation Area protection: Reeves Colourworks and Printhouse in Ashwin Street - presently home to Bootstrap Company, Cafe Oto, Arcola Theatre and numerous independent businesses. 

Owners can, without planning permission, demolish any non-residential buildings unless they are listed or in a Conservation Area. It may be unthinkable that Hackney would want to see these buildings demolished, but Dalston is under considerable re-development pressure and Hackney has yet to explain why they haven't been given conservation area protection. Is there another plan for them?


Excluded from Conservation Area protection: the iconic Dalston Peace Mural is painted on the end wall of 15 Dalston Lane at the entrance to the Eastern Curve Garden. The GLA's 2012 heritage report recommended that the mural and the Garden both be included in an extended Dalston Lane (West) Conservation Area.  The Garden is planned as a "shopping circuit" if the Kingsland Shopping Centre is re-developed.



Excluded from Conservation Area protection: the well used 1871  Pentecostal 'Shiloh Church' in Ashwin Street was originally a Baptists' Chapel

Conservation Area status means that any development locally must be shown to "preserve and enhance" the area of character. This gives the Planning Authority greater control over inappropriate development and alterations which adversely affect notable  buildings and their settings.  Conservation Area protection requires considering the value of  local heritage for future generations. (Dalston's experience hitherto suggests that this requirement is more often observed by its breach  Ed.) 


Excluded from Conservation Area protection: 14-16 Ashwin Street - home to V22 Gallery and artists' studios. Hackney demolished the remaining houses in the terrace without planning permission. The possibility of demolishing and redeveloping all of Ashwin Street has been suggested and not ruled out. 

The overbearing Hackney/TfL "Western Curve" partnership scheme with Taylor Wimpey, and the Kingsland 15-storey tower, will cause severe loss of sunlight, and damage to the settings, of several local heritage buildings like Reeves Colourworks, Grade II listed Shanghai and the fine Nat West bank building at 74/76 Kingsland high Street. If the new Dalston Conservation Area had been approved before planning permission was granted, the damage might have been prevented.( The new Dalston Conservation Area  has been delayed since 2012, during which time those schemes were granted permission. Ed.)  


Excluded from Conservation Area protection: 1902 Springfield House in Tyssen Street, off Dalston Lane. There is a major development site, planned as a high-rise block of flats, on the adjoining Thames House site which could damage the setting and sunlight to this heritage building. Conservation Area status could help protect it. 


Excluded from Conservation Area protection: 16-22 Dalston Lane ( corner with Beechwood Road)  were earmarked for demolition in an early draft of Dalston Area Action Plan. If the current demolition of Daston Lane Terrace continues these would be the last surviving pairs of  Dalston Lane's original 1807 Georgian houses. They deserve protection  

Email your views about the new Dalston Conservation Area to Hackney at consultation@hackney.gov.uk with ‘Dalston’ in the subject line. Make sure you tell Hackney if you want the omitted buildings to have conservation area protection.So much of Dalston Junction's heritage and character is being replaced by bland corporatism  in the name of "regeneration".



Thursday, 5 March 2015

Happy birthday OPEN Dalston! Ten years campaigning for a sustainable community.

OPEN is a community action membership company founded in Dalston in 2005 and run by volunteers. This OPEN Dalston blog is a chronicle of events in Dalston since 2004. There have been more than 300 posts, more than 500 comments and more than 375,000 pageviews.
OPEN groups have also formed and campaigned in ShoreditchStratford, Aldgate and Wapping


OPEN Dalston's core values include the belief that Dalston should have something for everybody and that promoting local diversity - social, economic, architectural, cultural and bio-diversity - is essential to sustain our vibrant residential and business community.
This belief has led us to resist the imposition of top-down monolithic solutions and remote decision making, and to campaign to preserve local character and identity, for affordable housing and independent businesses, and for changes to planned new developments which could better meet environmental and human needs.
Here are some of the campaigns we have been involved with over the last 10 years.

2005 - the attack on Dalston's architectural heritage

The first OPEN Dalston blog post set out our aims and objectives based on our understanding at that time. Of immediate concern was the Hackney Council's planned demolition, without planning permission, of the 1886 Circus buildings (Dalston Theatre/ Four Acres Club) and locally listed Georgian houses in the town centre.
We believed that by saving and reusing at least some of these heritage buildings the area could offer something unique and different for those who came to Dalston to live, shop and do business (and party! Ed.).
The authorities neglect of the historic environment and local economy was also typified in Dalston Lane where, since 1984, Council shops had been run down, boarded up and eventually in 2002 sold at auction to an off-shore company, over the heads of the remaining shopkeepers, with disastrous consequences.


2006 - tower blocks to overwhelm the area


As the authorities destructive plans for redevelopment emerged a  major objection to the GLA/Transport for London's plan for Dalston was the total failure to provide any affordable housing in the TfL development above the station. Their policies at the time were to aim for 50% affordable housing.
They planned to build towerblocks which would overwhelm the area and create a windswept, hard surfaced, shaded public space and without adequate provision for children living in the new flats.
The masterplan for the scheme had been agreed before public consultation had even started. The authorities claimed that a 30%  reduction in the density of the original Dalston Square designs was an adequate response to community objections.


2007 - demolishing Dalston town centre



Hackney Council claimed that, due to its own neglect, the 1886 Dalston Theatre and locally listed 1807 Georgian houses were too derelict to restore and be part of the new scheme. It first attempted to demolish the buildings without public consultation and planning permission, which OPEN's Court injunction prevented.
Despite overwhelming community opposition, it refused to consider the alternative scheme proposed by Bootstrap Company and supported by OPEN Dalston, for affordable housing and open green space. Demolition was approved using the Planning Committee Chair's casting vote
After four Court actions OPEN eventually had to give up the fight and the historic buildings were demolished.
Hackney then moved on to demolish its derelict houses in Ashwin Street, once again without adequate surveys and planning permission, as a "natural progression of the Dalston Square development". Its plans for the vacant site remain unclear.


2008 - Ridley Road market traders fighting for their futures


2008 was the first year of the credit crash when the banks, major housebuilders and high street businesses faced potential ruin.
Barratt had already started building Dalston Square when its shares crashed by 90%. It survived by marketing and selling flats off-plan to Far East investors in China and south-east Asia. Dalston's redevelopment became a template for London's future development.
Ridley Road Market Traders were struggling in difficult times and OPEN supported them in their resistance to Council prosecutions for trivial offences, cancellation of their street trading licences, evictions from storage facilities and the refusal to restore electricity supplies for winter stall lighting. Eventually the government had to step in and stop the madness.
The Council finally began consultation and, in agreement with the market traders and local people's views, refurbished rather than redeveloped Ridley Road market. An essential community resource for affordable food and other goods was saved.
OPEN also petitioned the Council to support the local shops of Dalston Lane and Broadway Market, which the Council had sold off to off-shore companies, and which were under severe pressure from developers. Many traders faced rocketing rents and eviction for redevelopment and several lost their livelihoods.
2009 - consultation and the Dalston Area Action Plan

I

In 2009 OPEN launched a major consultation with local people, to seek their views on the Council's Dalston Area Action Plan (DAAP) proposals which, we were told, would inform the way Dalston would be developed in the future. Hundreds took part in our consultation project and the views of local people have continued to inform our campaigns ever since.
In 2009 we also saw the opening up of the disused Eastern Curve railway line, a post-industrial wilderness, for the Dalston Mill event This in turn lead on to the creation of the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden in 2010 with which OPEN Dalston members have been closely involved from the start.
Sadly the 'linear park' which we had campaigned for in the DAAP was redesignated, after public consultation had closed,  as a 'shopping circuit' for future redevelopment with the Kingsland Shopping Centre. We made representations, at the Planning Inspector's Inquiry, against the loss of bio-diversity which redesignating the Eastern Curve Garden would entail..


2010 - Dalston's £63m Olympic bus stop


2010  revealed the true cost to the public purse of The Slab - a monolithic concrete raft built above Dalston Junction station to provide a turnaround for TfL's buses. OPEN had campaigned at length against the scheme. To subsidise The Slab, Hackney had given up its neighbouring Dalston Theatre heritage site for a peppercorn, and granted planning permission for its replacement by towers of private flats which became Dalston Square. Just one bus route, the 488 would use The Slab and not the 60 buses an hour which we were told it had been designed for.
Despite being told by UKGov Minister that The Slab was "essential transport infrastructure for the 2012 Olympics", no use was made of it during the 2012 Olympics at all. The Slab has so far proved to be a monument to a scandalous waste of local and national taxpayers money - Dalston's "£63m Olympic bus stop". Boris' promised inquiry into the cost was a deluge of drivel.

2011 - arty blocks become brick monoliths


Dalston's 'cool' and 'edgy' reputation, and the East London Line overground extension to Dalston Junction ( The hipsters shuttle! Ed.) was now attracting big money into the area.
OPEN assisted local residents to make objections, to Hackney and the GLA, against a major development planned for 67A-70 Dalston Lane/Martel Place. Residents were outraged by its overbearing scale and the eviction of over 60 artists and two independent businesses from the site. The development is now under construction - although its "Bridget Riley style " colourful cladding has since (reportedly) been downgraded to brick.
Local kids also attended the Town Hall planning meeting and objected to Hackney selling off our adjoining open green space to the developer after promising us a skateboard playground in the DAAP. Kids had to carry on skating on The Slab.  



2012 - dressed in green tower for Kingsland High Street


The tsunami of redevelopment applications in Dalston continued. Next up was the "Dressed in Green" 19-storey tower planned for the Peacocks site next to Kingsland station. OPEN members organised a major petition and a local business made us a campaign video. Following our representations the Planning Committee unanimously threw out the scheme.
But developers don't give up. Following a 'pre-application' meeting, between the developer and the Planning Committee, at which the public were not allowed to speak, permission was later granted for a new 15-storey design for 98 flats of which only 15 will be for "affordable" sale ( with access though the "poor door") and none for "affordable" rent. The  penthouse flats will have a price tag of well over £1million.


2013 - Dalston's gentrification and the new bland


With the gentrification of Dalston came the new "could be anywhere" style. Hackney Planner's advised  architects to "design it bland" for the Hackney/Transport for London's partnership scheme with Taylor Wimpey proposed for the "Western Curve" sites  - on Kingsland High Street above the refurbished railway tunnels north of Dalston Junction. Those sites are now under construction behind the High Street hoardings.
Following OPEN's objections, the initial overscale designs were withdrawn, and some design changes made, but even those will still privatise public land, create a private gated community and reduce sunlight to local listed buildings and public space.Many of the new flats will be below British Standards for natural light and only 9 of 106 flats will be for "affordable" rent.
Such is the power of developers to bamboozle Council officers and Hackney's inability, in fear of developers' appeals, to uphold  its local DAAP and its core planning policies.


2014 - phoney Georgian replicas for Dalston Lane



There had been decades of Hackney standing idly by watching the decay of Dalston Lane's Georgian terraces, and family businesses being driven out. Despite being the "champions of our heritage" Hackney eventually did a development deal with Murphy for a profit-led scheme to demolish our 17 Georgian houses in Dalston Lane and build 44 flats, all for private sale, in "heritage likeness". Only community outcry stopped the unlawful demolitions in January 2014 but then, despite community objections,  in March Hackney approved  total demolition using its Planning Committee Chair's casting vote, 
OPEN raised funds locally and challenged the decision in the courts, whilst the Spitalfields Trust sought to meet and persuade Hackney that a scheme for restoration and affordable housing was feasible. Hackney refused to consider alternatives. The year closed sadly with bulldozers moving onto the site.


2015  - what the future holds


Hackney Council have finally recognised the heritage value of the Kingsland High Street area.  It is proposing a new Dalston Conservation Area. The local buildings have a wonderfully diverse range of periods, styles, detailing and occupancy for which protection is long overdue.
But what has been missed out are the buildings in what Hackney calls Dalston's "cultural quarter" - Reeves Printhouse, the Railway Tavern, the Shiloh Church and 10-16 Ashwin Street. They are all equally worthy and much loved locally. So why is Hackney not conferring conservation area protection on them as well? Is there another plan?
The planned implementation of Crossrail 2 ( the Chelsea to Hackney tube) also threatens demolition and redevelopment of many more character buildings in Dalston, unless the authorities can be persuaded of other viable alternative schemes which would preserve our local identity.
In 2015 Hackney Council will continue to hope for and encourage the redevelopment of Kingsland Shopping Centre. Towers of 500 new  flats are proposed to create Dalston Square Mark 2. This will risk the loss of the Eastern Curve Garden, our only public green space, for re-development as a shopping circuit. What will the public benefit be to compensate for the widespread loss of sunlight and bio-diversity? Will there be adequate affordable rented housing and the promised children's play areas? 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Mayor Pipe! When will you apologise for the destruction of Dalston's Georgian houses?

An open letter to Hackney's Mayor Jules Pipe

Dear Mayor Pipe,

Do you remember I wrote to you last September, on behalf of OPEN members, about our Georgian houses of Dalston Terrace? I offered to arrange a meeting between you and the Spitalfields Trust, who wanted to restore them and provide some affordable housing. Months earlier I'd written to your officers, but they refused to discuss the Trust's proposal. You didn't reply to my letter either.


Did you know that, since I wrote to you, Number 66 Dalston Lane (c 1807), our old Sound and Music shop, has been demolished? You are reported as describing it recently, whilst driving past, as " the eyesore". It is gone now, which you may be pleased to hear.


"Dalston Lane. We're going to miss you.You're still strong, solid and beautiful.We will keep fighting for you and your old firends around here. People of Dalston"

We held a wake beside the ruins and local people are still leaving touching tributes at Dalston Terrace, in front of the remaining  houses which have been condemned and are the next to go.

 
"RIP Dalston terrace. 1807-2015. Money and ignorance win"

As you know the story of Dalston Terrace is a long one  - over 200 years in fact. But let me remind you just of what we can both recall.

You will remember Hackney Council inherited Dalston Terrace in 1984, free of charge, when Margaret Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council. It was a thriving terrace then, with seventeen independent family businesses. But in the following years the Council refused to grant its tenants new leases, empty houses were boarded up, many were squatted, roofs fell in and millions were lost in rents. We were shamed by the years of neglect and dereliction on Dalston Lane.


2002 was the year when you became Council Leader. At the time Hackney was £70million in debt, from its grand follies, like The Ocean on Mare Street. To balance the books, it flooded the market with its 'surplus' properties including Dalston Lane and Broadway Market. It was a fire sale of the family silver. You will also remember the report of independent auditors that £millions were lost to Hackney taxpayers by undervaluing private sales.


When Dalston Terrace was put up for sale there were, by then, only five surviving businesses left. As you know, your standing orders required the Council to offer first refusal to your tenants. But your tenants' offers, and their dreams, were ignored. The houses were sold as one lot, at auction, to an offshore company. Fires and evictions followed.


2005 was the year when you became our elected Mayor, with overarching executive powers and responsibilities. It was the year when you authorised the demolition of the 1886 Dalston Circus and locally listed Georgian houses as part of the Dalston Square development.

But we took heart when the Dalston Lane Conservation Area was declared. Your Council said it was the “champion of our heritage” and would protect and enhance these “remarkable survivors of Georgian architecture”.  The following year, after the arson attack when JON’S Scooters burnt down, you may remember that OPEN members made a deputation to your Cabinet. A resolution expressing urgency was passed.



But nothing was done to shore up the burnt and vadalised structures or to protect the remaining houses. Later, to our dismay, your Council just demolished JON'S Scooters, and Pizzey's Flowers, and let the rest continue to decay. The Georgian Group has called it a “policy of studied neglect”.


We, that is OPEN members, worked hard to gain recognition in the Council's recent planning policies for restoration of the surviving characterful houses of Dalston. We hoped that these rare fragments of our Georgian heritage might be saved so that future generations could take pride in our heritage and where we are from.



But when the Council eventually bought the houses back from the off shore company, for double what it had sold them for at the auction, it didn't seek offers for their restoration. Instead a profit led scheme was designed, loading the ancient structures with 44 new flats, all for private sale. I was told that you personally approved of the plan.


 The Council considered their destruction to be inevitable and authorised its development partner, Murphy, to demolish them all. Without planning permission. Did your Council think it was above the law?


Now, after thirty years of deliberate neglect, after families and businesses have been driven out of the area and Hackney taxpayers have lost £millions, the final destruction of 200 years of our local history is under way.

Your Cabinet colleague, Councillor Nicholson, has called it a “genuine conservation led scheme”, although nothing will be conserved. It is claimed that the planned “heritage likeness” phoney replicas are so costly that there can be no affordable flats for local people either.


If the demolition programme carries on to Phase 2 there will be nothing left for our grandchildren, except our memories and photographs of how Dalston used to be, and for us to tell them how our elected leaders stood idly by and watched their heritage being neglected and destroyed in the name of regeneration and necessity.


I am writing to you again now, on behalf of OPEN members, to ask whether you will be issuing an apology for the years of dereliction and for the loss of the houses of Dalston Terrace which have already been demolished.


And also to ask you whether you will agree, even now, to meet Spitalfields Trust to consider whether the remaining houses of Dalston Terrace could still be be saved.

I do hope that this time you will consider our request and reply to this letter.

Yours sincerely

Bill Parry-Davies
Secretary.
Organisation for Promotion of Environmental Needs Ltd. (OPEN)

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Dalston Lane "heritage likeness" scheme nominated asTesco World Heritage Site


Photo @TodCollider 

Dalston's community held a well attended wake on Saturday at the demolished ruins of No.66 Dalston Lane.

Photo @TimePlaceE8

A moving tribute has been left at the site of the houses which are facing demolition in Phase 2 of the Hackney/Murphy scheme.


Photo @TodCollider 

There is a pictorial history planted on the north side of Dalston Lane, opposite the ruins of No 66

Photo @TimePlaceE8

A Save Dalston Lane banner, designed by Tod Hanson, has been left on the site of the remaining six houses which, unless Hackney and Murphy have a change of heart, are to be demolished in Phase 2 of the Hackney/Murphy scheme, probably in 6-9 months time.


Photos @TodCollider
Meanwhile the bricks from the demolished houses are being cleaned, stacked and wrapped...


...and taken off site in their hundreds. These are the same bricks which, Murphy's architect and engineer advised the Council, were at the "end of their life" and so the houses had to be demolished and a new "heritage likenesss" scheme built with new bricks.

Photos @TodCollider 
Meanwhile the Hackney/Murphy "heritage likeness" scheme, which is to replace the Georgian houses on Dalston Lane, has been suggested for "Tesco World Heritage site" status. ( Err...I don't think Tesco would be interested in this site until all the 1807 houses are demolished and the 'open plan' shops have been created. Ed.)