Thursday, 6 August 2015

Allpress Coffee Roastery in Dalston Lane - an exemplar of regeneration

After months hiding behind builders hoardings J S Gould's light industrial building, set in the Dalston Lane (West) Conservation Area, has now been revealed. Not as yet another block of private flats but as an exemplar of regeneration. Carefully designed, refurbished and fitted out, the former joinery workshops have been reinvented as the Allpress Espresso Coffee Roastery and Café

"We fell in love with this 1930s building and its history as a joinery where things were made by hand." said the new owner Tony Papas. "The building has great bones and it’s been exciting to bring back the utility of the original design again."

Imported green coffee beans are stored in elegant silos before roasting

The beans are air-roasted in computer controlled conditions.

And everything is powered from solar voltaic panels mounted on the original saw tooth roof

Roasted beans packed and ready for wholesale distribution

The roasting operations are fully visible from within the building which also has coffee blending and training areas, and large spaces for events and exhibitions.

And then there's the coffee bar and open plan kitchen/restaurant (Tony is a total foodie, so expect something very tasty. Ed.) 

"We have a unique use, we are bringing back the building to its original purpose and we have the opportunity for people to come and experience our working process and enjoy the end result. Freshly roasted coffee!"  Tony Papas

Monday, 3 August 2015

BBC Gardeners' Question Time at Dalston's Eastern Curve Garden

Last Monday BBC Gardeners' Question Time came to Dalston and recorded  its weekly show at the Eastern Curve Garden including answering questions from a live local audience. 

Eric Robson, Bob Flowerdew and James Wong with OPEN members Marie Murray and Brian Cumming who manage the Eastern Curve Garden

 The show will be broadcast  at 3pm on Friday 7th August, and repeated at 2pm on Sunday 9th, on Radio 4 FM. If you miss that you can always hear a replay on the BBC website

The BBCs request to broadcast from the Garden came after a recent visit, during the Chelsea Flower Show Fringe event, which the Garden has participated in for the last four years.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, shares a joke with Marie Murray on a recent visit.

 The BBC panel showed their wide ranging expertise by answering questions relating to gardening on balconies and fire escapes, the best plants for reducing city air pollution, music as an aid to gardening, the best herbs to top the Curve Garden's yummy pizzas, eradicating mildew ( Beware dry roots - Ed.) and the opportunities for snail farming.

The Eastern Curve Garden is Dalston's only community managed green space. It's a meeting place for people and plants where you can enjoy a huge range of activities for all ages whether you love plants and gardening, music, arts, crafts or just a relaxing with friends and family. What's more its got some of the tastiest food and drinks to rival any of the hippest cafes locally.

(Fancy making a sustainable, locally sourced, organic wood fired snail pizza.....anyone? Ed.)

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Time is running out to save Hackney's Grade II Listed Haggerston Baths for public benefit

Hackney has invited developers and others to lodge, by 19th June, "expressions of interest" in its Grade II listed Haggerston Baths. Included is the former 100' by 30' public swimming pool which controversially closed 15 years ago. Hackney's agents BNP Parisbas has described the offer of a 250 year lease as an "outstanding opportunity" in an increasingly desirable location.

The south facade of Haggerston Baths, with seperate entrances for men and women, in Whiston Road

The Wren Revival style building was designed by Alfred Cross and built for Shoreditch Borough Council in 1904 at a cost of £60,000.

Alfred Cross' original 1904 plans for Haggerston's Public Baths 

Internal modernisations were carried out in 1960 and it was Grade II Listed by English Heritage in 1988.

The western facade, in Swimmers Lane, with  its iconic chimney 

The Haggerston Baths were planned at a time of cholera and smallpox outbreaks locally when three families would share one house and "scarcely one" house had its own bath, It was hoped at the time that promoting cleanliness would also "raise the moral tone" of the working classes. The building had 1st and 2nd Class Slipper Baths, as well as a public laundry ,where the local residents could wash their clothes as well as themselves.

Opening day in 1904.The amphitheatre style raked seating was more recently removed.  

The pool hall, with its magnificent roof, was built both for swimming and as a public hall. Boxing matches, dances and other events were held there.

Internally, there are three original 28' Lancashire boilers in the basement but, following the 1960s modernisations, only the 2nd Class Women's slipper baths now remain ( Bring your own soap -Ed.).

The Save Haggerston Pool Campaign reported that as recently as May 2014 Hackney's Mayor Pipe stated "The problem with Haggerston Pool is not that it is about to be put up for sale, which it is not, rather that any owner is faced with finding in excess of £25million to invest in refurbishment, redevelopment of the west wing, and restoration of the pool and hall". Following the recent advertisement the Mayor stated "unfortunately, with ever- shrinking resources, we simply cannot prioritise this project. We will only consider working with an appropriate partner, such as someone who is prepared to use the building for the benefit of the community or to revitalise the local area".

Sadly. since the building was closed 15 years ago, it has suffered ongoing damage and vandalism. The Victorian Society has expressed concern that, unless investment is urgently made, the building could be lost for public use if not entirely. 

The Pool Hall as it appears today

The Save Haggerston Pool Campaign have called for a public meeting, to discuss the bids which Hackney have received and to consider whether adequate community benefit would be achieved by the redevelopment proposals.

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 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. You may find it 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  Pentecostal 'Shiloh Church' in Ashwin Street was originally built in 1871 as 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 consideration of 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 had been suggested and has not been ruled out. 

The overbearing Hackney/TfL "Western Curve" partnership scheme with Taylor Wimpey, and the Kingsland 15-storey tower, now under construction 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 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


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?