Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Finding a voice on the future of Dalston...

Peter Snell, one of the key supporters of Dalston People's Festival in July reports on some of the great activity that took place. And also some of the key campaigning issues to take forward. 

Our Dalston Futures Campaign will be addressing many of these issues - we will keep you posted. 

Finding a voice on the future of Dalston...

Sunday 14th July; 2.30 pm till 5.00 pm, The Arcola Theatre, Ashwin Street (part of Arcola’s Green Sunday)

Cllr Vincent Stops, LBH Planning Chair explained recent planning decisions on major developments in Dalston and the modifications achieved through the application process despite the limits within which the Council operates.  Ray Blackburn of Dalston Conservation Area Advisory Committee wanted conservation areas extended to cover the centre of Dalston to better protect the traditional streetscape.  Bill Parry-Davies of Open Dalston used a series of slides to show what had already been lost and what new developments were proposed.  Oliver Schick of Hackney Cyclists explained how the redesign of Dalston Lane to increase bus flow had created a dangerous junction for pedestrians at Queensbridge Road and created conflicts with pedestrians near Dalston Junction station.  He suggested ways in which junctions could be made more permeable to create more direct and safer routes for cyclists. John Thornton of Disability Backup welcomed the formal role they had now been given in the Hackney Planning process and some achievements such as the removal of street clutter such as A boards and tables on public pavements.  He noted that bus access was now far worse than before the changes around Dalston Junction. Russell Miller of Sustainable Hackney warned that current planning policies failed to address the scale of the challenge posed by climate change and the loss of biodiversity.  He characterised new homes with inadequate open space as “prison homes guarded by crippling debt”. 

In a spirited discussion Ursula Huws of the Rio Cross residents complained that current planning and licensing policies seemed to give priority to business need over residents’ concerns. Disability campaigners were concerned that permeability for cyclists made streets less safe for users with disabilities.  Bill Parry-Davies complained Hackney Planners should be less scared of losing planning decision on appeal. Vincent Stops said Hackney’s rate of success at appeals was already in decline as Planning Inspectors ensured decisions better reflected the light touch policies of the current government.  Dave Holland pointed out that popular protest was needed to effect long term change in the Planning Framework within which decisions are made.  Both Oliver and Ray said current management through guidance instead of rules created a presumption in favour of developer’s proposals.  Oliver said this was highly unusual compared with other European countries and inevitably led to poor planning outcomes while encouraging land owners to hold onto land rather than release it for development.

Possible campaign issues
·         Extend conservation area to cover the whole of Dalston Town Centre to provide better protection for traditional streetscape.
·         Redesign Dalston Lane to make it more pedestrian and cycle friendly
·         Improve bus access in Dalston Town Centre
·         Reduce anti-social impact of night time economy on local residents
·         Seek Council leadership of campaign for more effective local Planning powers

Cllr. Stops then left the meeting so it could discuss concerns about the proposals for the Dalston Cross Shopping Centre for which there was a public consultation exhibition at the Kingsland Shopping Centre on the afternoon of Friday 19th July and the mornIng of Saturday 20th July. In discussion the following points were identified as needing clarification;
·         How it could be described as a retail development when the overwhelming use was to create new flats?
·         Why existing green space would be lost to grey paved areas?
·         Why the plans did not properly fit into existing street patterns?
·         What would be done to mitigate the impact on the existing infrastructure such as child play that was already overstretched?
·         How current use of the Eastern Curve garden could be maintained if it was turned into a public thoroughfare?
·         How would the new flats will benefit local residents space when none are at genuinely affordable rents or prices?
·         What could be done to prevent flats being kept empty as investment properties?
·         Why is the bridge over the railway line not on line with St Marks Rise?
·         How can Dalston take more car use from the new parking spaces?
·         Artisans, designers and light industry are being driven out of Dalston by residential conversions so how will the new development create premises they can use?
·         Will the development so change the demography of Dalston that it will kill the market?

Guided walks and discussion; reports
Each walk started from CLR James Library at 6.30pm

Monday 15th, Respecting our heritage.  
Ray Blackburn, Secretary of Dalston Conservation Area Advisory Committee led a walk around Dalston Lane, Kingsland High Street and their back streets and talked about the history and merit of buildings in the area.  He explained the status of existing legal protection for such buildings (listing, conservation area status etc.) and brought to life the issues that have to be considered in preserving our heritage.  He posed the questions;
·         Should we preserve the relics of previous uses such as the old entrance to Dalston Junction station?
·         Is it good enough to preserve the frontages of historic buildings such as those on the south side of Dalston Lane while completely rebuilding the rear?
·         If the missing buildings on Ashwin Street are rebuilt should they be faithful copies of the building demolished?
·         Since former industrial buildings are what most make Dalston distinctive can more be done to protect them (and such use)?
·         More modern buildings (the old Library and Kingsland Estate) are regarded as good buildings of their era.  Should their protection be given equal weight.

Throughout the walk reference was made to the views and recommendations of the Edmund Bird Dalston heritage report produced for Design for London.  The report is available at; http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/11870147/Dalston%20Heritage%20Report%20copy.pdf. Another source of local social conservation history based on Dalston Lane was “The last days of London; a journey through the ruins” by Patrick Wright.  Ray said local conservation area advisory committees wanted to expand their membership and suggested participants looked at the Hackney Society website to find out how to join their local committee.

The walk retired to the Duke of Wellington on Balls Pond Road to consider what had been learnt.  Ray reported that LBH officers had told him they would commission their own heritage report for Dalston in August with a view to reviewing boundaries and strategies in 2014. The Edmund Bird report was highly regarded so it was important the LBH report addressed the issues raised therein.

Any review should address;
·         More effective enforcement of existing standards
·         A more strategic approach to protecting Conservation Areas from development threats.
  Those present;
·      Sought access to the Heritage Report to see if they agreed with its suggestions
·      Questioned the degree to which Conservation Status could defend mixed use
·      Said that the existence of conservation areas, their purpose, their rules and the benefits should be better publicised
·      Suggested there was scope for training apprentices in traditional building techniques
·      Conservation Area Advisory Committees should be given access to pre-application discussions with developers.
·      Consultation for new developments would be assisted by better techniques at demonstrating impact (travelling display ideas from Hackney Wick)
·      Wider engagement important to appreciation of conservation value
·      Dalston’s community, particularly its ethnic diversity, was what made it distinctive and the protection of Ridley Road market (an option in the Edmund Bird report) was essential.
·      Mixed usage was important and the Council should utilise the sites it owned to support daytime economy uses.
·      Developers use what is distinctive about Dalston to attract residents but destroy it with bad developments.
·      Neighbourhood Planning powers had been given a bad name by the conflict generated in Stamford Hill but we needed to understand the value of new localism powers (neighbourhood forums, community asset listing etc.)

Other areas of discussion beyond heritage issues were;
·        The need for better toilets with longer opening hours and effective removal of food packaging waste was needed in Dalston.
·        Islington and Docklands had become stale and lifeless as high rents drove out genuine local business use.
·        Daytime studios and workshops  should build on hidden arts foundation in Dalston which was already being forced out by high costs

Tuesday 16th, Sustainable Dalston.  
The walk started with a visit to the Eastern Curve garden.  Marie Murray explained how they had started to develop the land over the railway cutting as part of the Making Space in Dalston project funded by Design for London and the London Development Agency in 2010. The cutting had originally joined the North London Line to the line into Broadgate until that was closed in the 1950s. It was filled with rubble topped with earth.  LB Hackney owns 30-40% of the land from the Dalston Lane entrance to the wooden pathway that divides it from the rest of the garden.  The space had become a popular retreat for residents in nearby grey developments like Dalston Square and a hub garden to support other community gardens.  In developing the Dalston Area Action Plan residents had overwhelmingly supported the use of the site for a green park but the plan had instead designated it as a corridor to a redeveloped Kingsland Shopping Centre.  The owners of the shopping centre did own the bottom part of the site and had agreed to loan it for the creation of the garden. Because it was not currently used as a corridor it was a safe space for children’s activities and effectively policed.  Arcola, Bootstrap Company, HCD, HCVS, OPEN Dalston and V22 studios had developed a strategic management board to originally develop the site.  MUF architects were responsible for overall design, EXYST for the pavilion design and J&L Gibbons for landscape design. Since Summer 2012 it has been managed by a social enterprise, ‘Grow Cook Eat’ set up by Marie and Brian Cumming, local residents who had been involved in the running of the Garden from the start. Income for the daily opening and management of the Garden is raised by a café, space hire and events. A number of jobs have been created but the gardening is done by volunteers.

The group agreed that the Eastern Curve garden was part of what made Dalston distinctive and the obvious place for the main entrance to the new development was the passageway at the end of Ashwin Street.

Amy Janina Cooper from the Rhodes Estate joined the walk at the Eastern Curve and explained how it had inspired new community gardening initiatives and provided a base from which they could collect compost.  Russell and Marie agreed that ideas of establishing a formal network and advice had been replaced by informal networks as gardeners just wanted to get on with gardening.

Amy walked the group around community gardening initiatives on the Rhodes Estate starting at a green corridor initiated as part of a Groundwork Transform Project pathway from Forest Road to Gillett Square. Some residents had initially claimed the initiative might attract Anti Social Behaviour and knives had been found concealed in bushes but the opposition had been based more on an expectation of traditional maintenance with mown grass.  Bird boxes at the entrance to the route were being moved following complaints from the owner of the house to which they were fixed that he had not agreed their installation. 

Despite early setbacks local engagement has grown and the residents had now notified the Council of areas they did not want sprayed with herbicides and were waiting for the Council to respond.  Parts of the Hackney Homes had been very helpful. While scaffolding was erected for maintenance work they had installed rain water runoff to water buts in each of the 4 community gardens. Amy led the visit to various community garden initiatives and explained how they had increased neighbour engagement particularly from children.  She explained how the Tenants & Residents Association was seeking to develop the community hall to increase its value to the community and that this might open out opportunities for the wider community to make more use of the Multi Use Games Area. 

Russell Miller contrasted the amount of green space on the Rhodes Estate with the grey expanses of Dalston Square and current planning applications and offered advice on developing flower meadows.  Peter Snell noted the inadequacy of home insulation works completed on the Estate (further detail on the Sustainable Hackney website) and his ongoing attempts to sort this out. 

Oliver then led the walk to Queensbridge Road and back along Dalston Lane explaining some key outstanding transport issues in the area:
·         Hackney was the first local authority n the country where more residents (15.4%) cycle to work than drive (12.8%), yet it was required to manage its streets to assist commuters from elsewhere to drive through.
·         There were cycle permeability problems on the Rhodes Estate, as some gates were too wide (designed to keep motorcycle traffic out) and some dropped kerbs were missing.
·         Queensbridge Road was a problematic street and needed a street-long review to improve cycling conditions along it. Central hatching and pedestrian islands encouraged drivers to speed and marginalised pedestrian use.
·         The redesign of the junction of Dalston Lane, Queensbridge Road, and Graham Road to increase bus flow had not gone far enough. While it was better than what had been there previously, it still left the junction as a disjointed space geared too much towards motor traffic throughput. 
·         Motor traffic capacity had been speeded up at the Queensbridge Road junction by banning the right turn from Dalston Lane into Queensbridge Road. The ‘official’ route for making this turn was now along  Laurel Street next to the Rhodes Estate. Fortunately, this had not developed into a significant rat-running problem.
·         Hackney was thinking about removing the bus pre-signal facility before the Queensbridge junction, as it was under-used; eastbound traffic queues there were not as long as westbound queues.
·         Pedestrian islands at the junction still featured raised kerbs to force pedestrians to walk in a dog-leg that was intended to discourage running. The guard railing that generally used to accompany such indirect arrangements had no longer been installed following a change of policy, but the dog-leg was still there.
·         He explained that the preferential layout for the junction was to remove the slip roads to reduce motor traffic capacity and to create a single, unified junction without requiring people on foot to cross in three stages.
·         The widening of the traffic lane to allow cars to overtake parked buses on the eastbound carriageway had made the westbound carriageway so narrow that it caused cyclists to ride on the southern footway outside the library. This had been a change required by TfL. The best layout at this point was to revert to the previous arrangement of two wide kerb lanes 4.5m each in width, which were flexible and allowed cyclists to pass vehicles comfortably.

Oliver said that there was some work going on in Dalston Lane and that the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) in Hackney had brought these concerns to the attention of officers and Councillors. He was keen to work with Rhodes Estate residents to look at permeability on the estate to increase route choice in the area.

Oliver is currently writing a guide to sustainable urban design and the walk ended in Dalston Square where he explained key background and concepts as follows:

·         Dalston was one of many town centres in London which had until now been subject to a presumption by TfL in favour of increasing motor traffic capacity there. This had caused poor layouts such as the present one in Dalston. Oliver had been a member of the Mayor of London’s Roads Task Force on behalf of LCC until they had withdrawn because they couldn’t support the emerging recommendations in full.  It now appears to have set in place a framework by means of which prominent town centres such as Dalston could be developed with a greater emphasis on ‘place’ over through motor traffic, so it might be possible to achieve the required changes to street design locally. The Roads Task Force sought to maintain overall motor traffic capacity on London’s streets through building new roads elsewhere.  It contemplated a possible Paris style ‘périphérique’ ring road,  possibly in tunnels to counteract and motor traffic capacity reductions in areas like Dalston or Elephant & Castle.
·         He criticised aspects of the Dalston Square development, in particular the layout and orientation of the square. He explained that the housing was “enabling development”, built to finance other projects, which often caused proper planning controls to be ignored or reduced. Dalston Square was such a development; a grey paved wind tunnel, whose trees were dying and where all the building surfaces were opaque including the windows, causing an unwelcoming atmosphere. It was not a pleasant or attractive space and misconceived in most of its aspects.
·         The inexorable rise in London’s population could only be served by aligning population density with density of activity. This in turn required the creation, and in many cases the re-creation, of a hierarchy of dispersed urban centres so goods, services, employment, and education  were available to everyone with a reduced need to travel.

Possible Campaign issues
·         Keep the Eastern Curve garden as a safe defensible space and do not allow it to become a through route to the proposed Kingsland development.
·         Redirect planning and regeneration strategies to align population with employment and entertainment activity to minimise the need to travel


Wednesday 17th, The Cultural Quarter & Evening Economy
Feimatta Conteh (Arcola) noted that the site of Dalston Square had once housed the Dalston Theatre of Varieties which subsequently housed the Four Aces and the Labyrinth Clubs. The Arcola Theatre had indicated it would have been interested in developing the derelict theatre if it had not been demolished to make way for the new development.  The large residential development was already leading to complaints about noise from nearby cultural sites like the Arcola tent.  Ashwin Street also included arts studios, and Cafe Otto as well as the Arcola Theatres.  The Council’s Regeneration Department had supported the designation of the site for cultural use in the Dalston Area Action.  Arcola had found that the Council’s Property Management Department had been slow and uncooperative with supporting that goal when they had moved in. 

The Arcola Theatre had been started in 2,000 by Mehmet Ergen who is still involved in its management. It now comprised;
·         A 200 seat theatre for major shows.
·         An 80 seat studio theatre for more experimental work

It runs a fringe Grimeborn opera festival every summer and a creative learning programme comprising 2 youth groups, an academy for older youth, and a 60+ acting group.

Policy points noted were;
·         That sun surveys on new buildings should also consider the shading impact on adjacent buildings to ensure they accurately reflected overall impact on an area.
·         That independence of cultural organisations was an essential defence against homogenisation.

Dan Beaumont, (Dalston Superstore), took us to meet the owners of three diverse local bars before ending in the basement of his new venture, Voodoo Ray to discuss the work of Dalston Pub Watch and the Evening Economy Forum. The details of the Clubs visited, and their owners, were as follows:-

Alibi  (Mark Schaffer)
Was set up as a collective with Real Gold who provided the youth face of the Club which had a top end suspended dance floor, free entry, a no guest list policy and viewed all who used it as celebrities.  Staff were expected to generate use and received a cut of profits.  The owner had moved on to establish Macbeth in Hoxton, Birthdays on Stoke Newington Road and the White Rabbit restaurant on Bradbury Street.  A former musician he was drawn to new interests and said he was keen to build institutions rather than earn lots of money.

Planning issues; yellow line needed across entrance to Gillett Square from Bradbury Street as it is always blocked by parked cars.

Visions (Eddie Augustine)
The owner, had arrived from the West Indies in 1965 and developed the Twylight Sound System from work DJing in youth clubs around Ealing but eventually worked all around the country.  He regularly visited Dalston which hosted 30 odd clubs (Dougies, Le Prison, Pier 1, the All Nations etc,) and where black businesses could establish themselves in a way not possible in Ealing.  On the back of this he developed a Visions film business and in time developed a wedding video specialism.  Visions was purchased and equipped with multiple video displays showing the entire wedding preparations and service as the reception dinner was served.  His traditional business had declined over the last 8 years as his mainly Afro-Carribean clientele had been forced out of the area by high housing costs. He had been forced to remodel the venue as a Club to stay afloat.  Eddie had been required to move to a “primary trading area” when he established the Club but now it seemed OK for residents to move in and demand businesses like his be closed down.

Possible campaign issues;
·         Reduce pressures forcing black and minority ethnic communities out of Dalston.
·         Be fair to established businesses and don’t allow newly arrived residents to close them down.

Ruby’s Bar (Tom Gibson)
The owner had established an up market cocktail bar from a building previously used as a Chinese takeaway but that had been a restaurant back in 1885 at the front of premises owned by his parents family business “Castle Gibson ”. They had been in the furniture business until moving into the provision of studio space to film units in the warehouses once used to store furniture. The walk visited the studios at the back of Ruby’s bar which attracted 20 – 150 users a day for filming and made extensive use of local restaurants and other services.  The spaces were also used for pop up meals and similar uses which required temporary licenses.  An independent fire adjudicator did an annual inspection to ensure they met fire safety standards.

Voodoo Ray (Dan Beaumont)
Dan Beaumont explained how he had started Dalston Superstore with 2 partners as a queer friendly bar and felt humbled to build upon the great traditions of venues like the Four Aces and Labyrinth. He would not claim credit for being the first of the new wave of bars but they had arrived just as Dalston was being recognised as a unique venue and attracting media attention.  Voodoo Ray was his latest venue and was similar to Dalston Superstore acting as a cafe all week with a basement music venue open Thursday, Friday & Saturday evenings. An architect designed retro interior had been nominated for awards.  He believed Voodoo Ray pizzas matched any in London and they were based on extensive field research in New York.

Dalston Pubwatch & Evening Economy Forum
Dan talked about this network of which he has been a key figure for some years. Key achievements were;
·         Establishment of additional street scene  enforcement through voluntary contributions of between £50 and £200 per month from 15 bars
·         Additional street scene wardens who issue fixed penalty tickets for antisocial behaviour, urination
·         “You drink here, people live here” awareness  campaign
·         Good neighbour agreement about to be ratified by Council through which bar owners made a number of commitments which included managing the pavement outside their venues.
·         Provision of free/ reduced price basement space to arts and community groups when they were not open.
·         The Parliamentary All Party Special Interest Beer Group had “specially commended” Dalston Pub Watch as one of the best three in the country in 2013.

Key concerns were;
·         Street drinking rather than Club use was the real issue. How could key stress points such as John Campbell Road outside the Rio Cinema be better managed?  The drinkers were a younger transient crowd compared with those in Gillett Square.
·         Need to keep pavement clear. Revellers blocked pavements without intent and needed to be reminded to keep them clear.
·         Time Out/ Evening Standard publicity as a trendy youth venue undermined interest in attracting a wider range of age groups.
·         Need for new image; e.g. the best pizzas/ cocktail venues/ coffee suppliers/ record shops in London.
·         Poor engagement of a cross section of local stakeholders; what do we want and how do we get it/ protect it?
·         Council proposals to introduce a Special Policy Area could further restrict the issue of new licenses although may have little effect as Police are already objecting to all applications on the basis of cumulative impact. The danger of this approach was that it put a monetary value on existing licenses and created an incentive for small local bar owners to sell out to corporate interests.

Dan was disappointed that the Council’s scrutiny committee enquiry into the evening economy had failed to come up with a proper plan to better manage licensed premises through;
·         Diversifying the offer to attract a wider age group and families.
·         Developing a policy for the proper management of departures from Clubs and Bars
·         Better management of pavements
·         Staggering closing hours; 3.00 am is currently a time for mass exits.

Thursday 18th, Building a shared future.  
Sara Turnbull (Bootstrap) walked the group down Ashwin Street to the Printhouse and summarised the history of Bootstrap as follows:-
·         Sara had been the Bootstrap Chief Executive for one year.
·         It dated from 1977 and had a 99 year lease on the Print House signed in the early 1990s. 
·         Sara was working to standardise leases towards a common level of rent and clamp down on non payment.
·         The building was occupied by a variety of support groups, creatives, freelancers and design houses listed on website.
·         Renting half a desk and networking was a popular use.
·         It was now generating a surplus which was going to community projects.
·         The first project was Hackney Pirates – a targeted literacy and numeracy project based in a model pirate ship which had secured long term support and taken up a 5 year lease in the former Centerprise building  where a high end sportswear shop would be set up on the ground floor and staffed with local unemployed youth with disabilities.
·         Its latest project was Bootstrap Campus which assisted 18-25 year olds to learn to love work.
·         An active programme of work placements had found jobs for 2 out of 3 placements placed centrally and 9 business tenants had also taken placements.
·         Complaints of noise nuisance from the roof garden had been addressed by employing an “acoustician” so that sound levels were now automatically managed at a level which did not cause nuisance to neighbours. 
·         Cafe Oto had been given a long 25 year lease in return for significant investment to set up the cafe
·          Shared desk space was let on a 2 week licensed basis.
·         Most tenancies contracted out of the Landlord & Tenants Act.
·         Total use; 450 tenants, 223 tenancies, and 170 organisations .
·         Rent levels around £22-£24 psf
·         In choosing new tenants they were assessed on the basis of social impact and management contribution criteria
·         Abbott Street premises.  Bootstrap had the top two stories of Colourworks on a 20 year lease (covered by Act) and a short lease (also covered by the Act) with the private owner of Fitzroy House (already letting ground 2 floors but just extended to top two floors) along with the bunker, the space above and the car par to the rear (Hackney Council owned).
·         Bootstrap welcomed the redevelopment proposals for the Kingsland Shopping Centre and were keen to develop affordable retail along Abbott Street
·         They were keen to follow the Coin Street development model where residents focussed on what they wanted rather than what they opposed and worked with local cafes and bars.

Sara felt that there were two main threats to community business survival;
·         Reliance on grants
·         Inability to manage premises

Sub-market long leasing a public asset to a community organisation in return for specified outcomes was a more robust means of developing community capability than giving out grants.  Locality was using Bristol City Council as a best practise example of such an approach and Sara was involved with a local network supported by Locality looking at the scope to apply such ideas in Hackney.

Dominic Ellison (Hackney Cooperative Developments)  then led the group to the Hackney Co-operative Development meeting room in Gillett Square and made the following points;
·         The preferred pronunciation was with a hard “G”.
·         The HCD portfolio was valued at £6.5m six years ago with most based around the square but some properties in Haggerston and on Kingsland Road
·          Most were on 99 year leases with peppercorn rents agreed in 1982/3 for properties owned by Council and regarded as too dangerous to squat following bomb damage in the war.
·         Roots in Co-operative Housing movement helping residents into co-operative enterprise were still an important motive.
·         Refurbishment of the north side of Bradbury Street fully funded through mortgage finance.
·         Culture House was a derelict factory purchased from previous owner and co-funded with European and mortgage finance.
·         Continued place making role with occupancy by art therapy and circle design projects.
·         Ken Livingston adopted Gillett Square as part of his 100 squares project.
·         Various outreach projects are supported for Square users suffering from mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, often provided in partnership with other third sector agencies as part of wider ongoing financial investment into Gillett Square. HCD do not support zero tolerance strategies in isolation if they just displace problems and do not address causes.
·          HCD generally offer 6 month licences for start-ups and pro-actively seek out and provide business development support to new co-operatives.
·         HCD also support staff seeking to take over businesses when original owners retire or want to move on.
·         Initially established as Company limited by guarantee but now structured as a Community Interest Company
·         Entire 15 member board is Hackney based many of whom have previously received support from HCD with 2 places kept for staff.

In discussion Sara and Dominic felt;
·         Hackney Business Venture was the prime vehicle for giving business support in Hackney and did have a very wide outreach (diversity etc) but did not give the level of detailed support provided to tenants by HCD/ Bootstrap.
·         Andrew Sissons (LBH Head of Regeneration Delivery) was often perceived as too business friendly but was successful in getting deals, for example around local employment (90% on fashion hub development).
·         Both HCD and Bootstrap would have been interested in the Stamford Works site but its market price had been too high to be economic for their users.

Dominic then took the group down to Gillett Square and explained which was which of the various buildings.  He said HCD’s preferred layout of the Square was to make the north side entirely retail/ commercial to avoid conflict with residential use.

Saturday 20th July, 10.00 am till midday, Developing a sustainable local economy; Presentation & discussion, Duke of Wellington, Balls Pond Road (back room)

Cllr. Guy Nicholson, LBH, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, explained that;
·        The Council was dealing with levels of change unmatched anywhere else in the UK and was seeking to ensure that such change was inclusive rather than exclusive and was affordable and accessible for the existing community.
·        Shoreditch had become a transformed and dynamic area
·        In the Heart of Hackney the fashion hub attempted to bridge the gap between £1m houses one side of the railway tracks and a deprived and young community looking for employment on the other.
·        “Ways Into Work” used a mixture of public, institutional and private funding to secure work for local residents in new jobs around Aquascutum (24 jobs), construction in Shoreditch, and Tech City in the Olympic Park.
·        The Council was opposed to gated communities that displaced social housing to lower value parts of Hackney but these made the most money for developers.  They worked against sustainable communities by undermining social cohesion.
·         Locally Labour recognised the need for more balanced and diverse communities and had developed policies to support these goals but its powers had been limited by the current government.
·        Nationally Labour did recognise the need for more local control for example over the proliferation of betting and payday loan shops.
·        Shoreditch was home to one of the UK’s largest media companies which actively sought local sttisaff and employed over 200 people living in Hackney.
·        Mother London, the UK’s largest independent advertising agency was based in Shoreditch and have been big investors in apprenticeships  along with many other Shoreditch firms working with the Community College as the Council actively promoted collaboration to support local unemployed into jobs.  
·        The government changed policy to remove public funding from affordable housing and define 80% market rents as affordable had come at the worst possible time for ensuring local benefit from the building boom in Dalston. It was Council policy to encourage developers to offer affordable rents at 60% market values in order to maintain real diversity of tenure. The building boom was happening at the same time as government had removed capital support for infrastructure to support such developments in areas of transport, healthcare and education provision.
·        Twin challenges from national government;
o       Reduced public controls over development
o       One third reduction in public operational budgets + sharply reduced capital funding
·        Hackney was still building partnerships around i-city which it hoped would generate 4,000 local jobs and hoped a new government in 2015 might generate more scope for capital investment and more powers over high street development. 

In discussion participants said;
·         The Labour Party should have a clear public position in favour of retaining mixed neighbourhoods and had shown a lack of ambition in mobilising local opposition.
·         Transition Towns offered a model for supporting carbon reduction targets , developing crowd funding for new projects, supporting new entrepreneurs and increasing community resilience in dealing with recent shocks.
·         Popular protests had forced developers of the Wilmer Place Sainsburys to engage more with the community. The Council should be more open about what it really wanted to support an evolving narrative between residents and developers.
·         During consultation for the Dalston Area Action Plan, local residents had demanded a community engagement forum to address development issues.  The Council had seemed to agree it but it had never happened.
·         Current development proposals would permanently change parts of Hackney which would stop being a Labour Borough.  Should Labour not do more to prevent such changes, in particular by helping local children find housing locally?

In response Guy made the following points;
·         After a long period of focussing on Hackney Council management issues residents might support the Mayor in taking more of a campaign role to deliver Labour objectives.
·         Developers could not be forced to participate in pre-application discussions and some did not co-operate so community and political pressure for such dialogue was essential.
·         The Dalston Area Action plan did still provide some support to the Council in preventing applications being approved on appeal.
·         Section 106 procedures would be replaced over next 18 months with the Community Infrastructure Levy and residents should participate n the current consultation to determine how such funding should be used.
·         The key Regeneration concern for the Kingsland Shopping Centre redevelopment was that it made a positive economic contribution to the Borough.  The current proposals demonstrate a “highly commercialised approach to maximising development value and it shows”.
·         Entrepreneurial networks tend to be clustered locally.  Incubator space in Shoreditch was commercially led but in Dalston was primarily in social ownership.  There were currently 7/8,000 jobs in Dalston and if Ashwin Street was handed to Bootstrap they could let it out in a week.
·         Concerns about lack of affordable housing provision were primarily the responsibility of his colleague Karen Alcock who was planning to hold a community housing conference.

Andrew Sissons, Hackney Council Head of Regeneration Delivery - then took over from Guy (who had to leave) and focussed on issues specific to Dalston.  He said that;
·        Increased amounts of online shopping did create a danger that too much retail space was being created locally.
·        Major destination retailers had plans for how many stores they needed to cover London working down from a presence at four “Westfields”  while taking account of existing local provision. In a time of recession their main interest in Hackney was in bespoke niche possibilities such as Shoreditch. 
·        New Dalston entrepreneurs were attracted to food and service provision.
·        The current Kingsland Centre shops were viable and affordable but there was also scope to capture some of the middle class “retail bleed” of spending – primarily to the Angel and Westfield-Stratford.
·        Although “regeneration” had no planning function it had mobilised the local business community to get an exemption from government proposals to prevent Councils stopping commercial property being converted to residential use.  100 Councils had applied for such exception but only 17 had been granted.  Hackney had succeeded after mobilising 400 letters from business and over  2,000 signatures on the petition. 
·        Business mutual support networks were particularly strong in Shoreditch covering fashion, technology, PR and media with similar design based networks developing around Hackney Road/ London Fields.  There was scope for further development of such networks in Dalston which at the moment is under developed.
·        Hackney had supported various business support initiatives such as the London Fields Design Festival, Hackney House, Digital Shoreditch , Shoreditch Design Week and London Fashion Week.  
·        Immediate concerns about the Kingsland Centre development were that;
o       It focussed on maximising residential provision on a town centre site for which the Council sought maximum appropriate commercial provision.
o       Adequate consideration should be given to address proven demand for commercial space.
o       It needed to avoid a “landlocked” shopping centre which did not feed demand for adjacent provision, particularly Ridley Road market.
·        Redeveloped Council owned Dalston Lane terraces would offer outlets to local small and medium sized businesses especially with the current demand for small retail spaces for food and artisan production. 
·         Keeping Marks &  Spencers, Primark and Boots was essential to maintaining footfall in the Narrow Way.
·        Since Hackney was home to many ethnic minority entrepreneurs regeneration should support them in moving up the value chain.  The Hackney Shop in the Hackney Fashion Hub  was an example of what could be done.  Businesses in studios on Ridley Road and Shacklewell Lane could benefit from similar support.
·        The Council planned to use the development of Birkbeck Mews to counter the loss of light industrial workspace and it could provide 20-30,000 square foot of employment space.
·        Hackney was supporting the University of London project to repatriate manufacturing jobs from overseas.
·        A particular focus of the Regeneration Team was in maximising local employment in new developments across the Borough with 40 local jobs created in the Ace Hotel, 25 at the Aquascutum Shop, 15 so far with BT sports on the Olympic park and many jobs in the food and restaurant industry. A recent study by Nesta concluded that Hackney Regeneration had helped to generate some 270 restaurant jobs for local people in the last year.  


1 comment:

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