English Heritage joins attack on E8 ‘ecotower’

From No 41 to Dalston Kingsland station, London E8, February 2012

ENGLISH HERITAGE has joined in criticism of the 18-floor building announced for Kingsland High Street by a property investment firm.

The quango, which advises the government and other authorities on conservation, told Hackney council that the shops-and-flats skyscraper did not fit with the look and scale of central Dalston.

Rachel Godden, an EH adviser, wrote to the planning department: “We consider that the proposed frontage building does [sic] not adequately respect the historic area’s character, grain and vertical rhythm…”

[Any readers not familiar with Dalston centre should not be misled by the adviser’s writing as if the building exists. It does not; it is no more than the subject of a planning application for the Peacocks clothing-store E8 2JS site next to Dalston Kingsland station.]

Godden said that though the “building replaces [sic] a 1970s-style two-storey building of little significance”, the site had conservation areas to several sides, a nearby Grade II listed building at No 41 (Shanghai restaurant, see picture above, formerly F. Cooke eel and pie shop) and the Kingsland Pub, which would be worth a local listing.

She added: “The roofscape fourth storey of the terrace and the terrace opposite is animated with Dutch gables, pediments, a cupola and decorated cornices.”

The project did not seem to fit with several aspects of Hackney council’s Dalston Area Action Plan, including height.

Godden said: “The bulk and materials of the proposed building will detract from the small scale setting of the [St Mark’s] conservation area.” The building would also have a detrimental effect on Kingsland conservation area.

Offered a chance by Loving Dalston to comment on the ecotower’s appearance, English Heritage said: “Our role is to identify the impact of new development on the historic built environment and advise whether the impact is harmful, neutral or beneficial, not to get drawn on issues of design.”

Towering over Dalston, the Rothas skyscraper
Computer image of the Rothas tower, and top, from No 41 to Dalston Kingsland station

The recommendation that English Heritage has made is unlikely to disturb the council, let alone cause the designer, BFLS, to tear up its plans and start again. Godden meekly advised “a reduction in scale in this frontage building and a change to a more contextual materials palette”.

The site-owner, Rothas Ltd, continues to maintain that it is “committed to starting the scheme in 2012”, even though it is known for property lettings and investment and has never erected a building.

The company’s lobbyist, Four Communications, tried to win public support for the project when Loving Dalston revealed the plans last August. This month the “ecotower”, as its proponents like to call it, and FourCom came in for criticism by OpenDalston, which FourCom described as “completely inaccurate. The Hackney environmental campaign organisation has since removed some details from its report.

David Altheer 160212

* If you want to give the council planning department your views of application 2011/3439, email them to planningconsultation@hackney.gov.uk or post to Hackney planning, 1 Hillman St, London E8 1DY.

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One thought on “English Heritage joins attack on E8 ‘ecotower’

  1. I do wish heritage groups like English Heritage would make some attempt to take responsibility for their opinions; “The bulk and materials of the proposed building will detract from the small scale setting of the [St Mark’s] conservation area”! So in other words, only low-rise brick clad will be acceptable to EH, and low-rise urban sprawl will be the result which the European Environment Agency call “the worst-case scenario”.
    All progress is “out of context”.

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