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Who’s buying Barratt flats at Dalston Junction

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Barratt development Dalston Sq Lon E8 2012 © ∂å

ONE OF the most-opposed developments in Dalston, the Barratt Homes project at the junction, is still being criticised as a collection of undistinguished buildings aimed at if not occupied by the affluent rather than helping to meet Hackney housing needs. Barratt Homes, however, says that its figures show the scheme, which it named Dalston Square, to be a success.

The controversy arose several years ago when local people made clear their wish to retain a decaying Victorian theatre that was on the site. The land’s location on useful bus routes to the City and West End meant that it was near irresistible to developers. The East London Line station Dalston Junction, at the time unbuilt but hugely popular since its opening, was a further lure. Hackney council overruled objectors and the historic building was demolished.

Some of the criticism was strong. Last September, for example, Loving Dalston wrote “Money fever rages as buy-to-let revives and property becomes ever bigger business”. OpenDalston, an organisation “for the promotion of environmental needs”, said: “Welcome to the Big (Business) Society.”

But in a time of recession that is hitting property development more than most sectors, the Dalston Square project is helping to lift Barratt Homes out of its once-crippling debt. Flats in the development have been on sale from £210,000 for a one-bedroom to £470,000 (three-bedroom). What Barratt terms “latest prices” will be announced next month.

It told Loving Dalston that most flats have been sold: in phase 1 all 181 have found buyers, in phase 2 all 138 sold and in phase 3, 121 of the 193 flats have been sold.

Asked about the result of a marketing drive to Far Eastern investors, a Barratt representative said: “A third of sales to buyers from outside the UK would seem fairly successful.”

Foreign investors have not been universally welcomed by locally born residents. One Dalston Square occupant wrote on a blog that “East Asian investors… almost laugh at locals”.

The Barratt representative said: “The vast majority of buyers at Dalston Square came from London and the Southeast.” In phase 1, 30% of buyers came from outside the UK, and in phases 2 and 3, 20% of buyers were non-UK. The foreign buyers came not only from Asia; some came from Turkey and France.

Barratt development Dalston Sq Lon E8 2012 mistakenly describing Dalston Junciton station as underground (not overground) railway

Barratt model described Dalston Junciton as an Underground station

As for sales to buyers, UK-based or otherwise, who reduce their tax liability by using offshore companies to buy property, Barratt said that “very few buyers have purchased through offshore companies — and none in recent phases”.

Of the 440 flats sold so far, 210 have been bought by what the representative described as investors, commenting: “They are providing a much-needed private rental opportunity in the Dalston area.”

The Barratt marketing campaign has occasionally amused local people, who noticed a display in the sales suite referring to Dalston Junction as an Underground station.

A marketing assistant was asked about the name Marley House for one block of the Dalston Square flats. Clearly unaware of the theatre’s 1980s period as a pop-music venue, the Barratt aide replied that Marley House was named after a “jazz singer”. She had no idea of the origins of the names Sledge Tower, Ruffin House and Wonder House. Anyone remember Bob, Percy, Jimmy and Stevie?

Hackney Green Party said: “There seems no end to housing prices in Hackney being driven up, which prices out both people wanting to buy and to rent and does not help to create stable communities.

“We need Hackney council to start using its powers to reuse — either permanently or temporarily — the 3,000 empty homes and to increase its council-housing portfolio.

“So-called affordable homes are not the answer because these are often not at all affordable, and do nothing long-term to increase the supply of social housing. Ultimately, we need action from the government — and real powers for councils to build social housing .”

David Altheer 300712

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.

This site welcomes fair comments, including the critical. Letters may be edited for grammatical, legal or taste reasons, for shortening or for substitution of Wikipedia citations by reliable sources. RSS feed link is at top right. Twitter: @lovingdalston Publicists, amateur and professional, should read http://bit.ly/ZnClKc Also relevant may be the note at the end of http://bit.ly/117GXmi Photographs © David Altheer unless otherwise stated and apart from supplied pictures

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Readers Comments (16)

  1. I should emphasise that this topic is closed, having been so well-aired as to be exhausted. Moaksey’s comment was allowed because it was vetted at the same time as the one before it. It has been left in because it has a different perspective. — Ed.

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  2. moaksey says:

    I am the resident who commented to that blog some time back about being laughed at because I cannot afford to buy — and I stand by that comment more so today than I did back then. I have been a renter in this development for over two years. I’m from London. I’m in my thirties. I am a long way from being able to buy my own place.
    I love Dalston Square. I’ve lived in the area for over eight years and I think the changes to the surrounding area have been positive — and haven’t really over-gentrified the neigbourhood at all.

    Anyhow, having moved into Phase one I found that not only was my landlord from Asia (Singapore) but that most people in the tower also had owners in the region. About a year ago (just before I posted that response), I was encouraged enough to consider enquiring about prices in the new towers. Mortgages were being offered again and off-plan prices in my tower weren’t too bad at the time.

    I went to the sales office to find out that one-bedroom flats were going for £320,000 and more. I was shocked. Tw-bed flats were way out of my price range. Barratt Homes, obviously fuelled by the success of earlier phases, had pushed up prices out of my price range. The attitude in the sales office was one of “Oh, what are you doing here? You’re not an investor. Get out unless you want to pay in cash.”

    I was extremely irritated but continued praying for a house-price crash (which unfortunately looks increasingly unlikely in London). What upsets me most is that nearly all the residents in the new, ugly, nondescript towers are all renters in their early-mid twenties — none of whom can even consider really affording to buy something in what should be an affordable part of town.

    Actually, no, what upset me most was seeing a real-estate TV programme when I was in Singapore last year that featured my home in a piece about property investment in London. It all clicked then.

    Locals who desperately want to buy, but don’t qualify for social housing, shared ownership or have parents to help continue to be screwed. In 20 years we’re going to have a huge problem on our hands… Sure, Germans may all be renters, but they’re not all ripped off by overseas investors who simply want to exploit hard-working local Londoners to make a quick buck.

    Developments like Dalston Square seem to be the way things are going…

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  3. Andrew Boff says:

    Benjamin and Marc, Both Open Dalston and the De Beauvoir Association objected, in addition to a 585-name petition and 33 letters. Three letters were received in support. The application was passed on the casting vote of a councillor who had an interest in the application process.

    The reason for the low numbers of properties for social rent was the so-called need to pay for the slab over the railway lines to accommodate Olympic buses. No Olympic buses use the slab. This cost was £63 million.

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    • Benjamin says:

      Andrew, there are about a quarter of a million people in Hackney, perhaps 12,000 of them in Dalston.

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      • Andrew Boff says:

        I know you are averse to consulting people. Should Hackney council bother with consultations at all once it has decided on the one pure path of the technocratic nonsense that is your housing policy?

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        • Benjamin says:

          Andrew, you say: “I know you are averse to consulting people.” You know nothing of the sort.

          Of course, the council should consult, but it should also bear in mind that it is one of the primary functions of urban planning to address contemporary housing demand, so as to avoid a situation in which housing shortage forces costs ever upwards, threatening brain-drain, social unrest and the environmental worst-case scenario of low-rise urban sprawl on the greenbelt.

          A planning office should be allowed to plan, and not simply acquiesce to a minority of noisy Nimbys who are usually the affluent and already comfortably housed with a vested interest in stunting housing supply.

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          • Andrew Boff says:

            Benjamin, I invited you on many occasions to consult with the residents around the proposed block at London Fields. You declined, preferring to rely on a desktop assessment of their views. As to the remainder of your comments, I rest my case.

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          • Benjamin says:

            Andrew, I am not the council. There is no need for anyone to consult me personally. The London Lane residents who were in opposition to development at that site employed an expensive planning consultant to make their “case” to the council. My only contribution was to write an article pointing out that they were demonstrably and self-evidently contradicting themselves on a number of points.

            Andrew, you haven’t a case to rest.

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          • Andrew Boff says:

            I rest my case.

            A good point at which to end this discussion. — Ed.

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  4. chewbacker says:

    Benjamin, you write: “I’m simply pointing out that no group has any mandate to claim to speak for ‘local people’.”

    I guess it depends on how dogmatic you are going to be about using the term you employ, namely, “’mandate”. London Fields has two park-user groups, both comprised of local people, and both claiming to speak on behalf of local people. Neither group has, to the best of my knowledge, ever claimed to speak on behalf of ALL local people. And neither, to the best of my knowledge, has Open Dalston.

    Of course, you’re welcome to set up your own group.

    I’ve no objection to well-designed high-rise buildings. I think Kinetica is a thing of beauty and I’d welcome more high quality, well-designed structures like it. My objection to the Dalston Junction development is that it’s poorly designed. I’m happy to say that the quality of the build is so inferior they’ll probably be knocking it down in a decade or two!

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    • Benjamin says:

      Chewbacker, your ability to miss the point is also telling. A park-user group has no agenda other than to represent users. Any user can join the group and contribute. OPENDalston has an agenda and its campaign against Dalston Square cannot simply be cited as being synonymous with “local people’s wishes”. That claim is unsubstantiable.

      If I set up a campaign calling for a part of Chewbacker’s anatomy to be chewed off by a pit-bull and I get an unspecified minority of local people to join me in that call, can a journalist then claim that my demand is synonymous with local people’s wishes on the ground that no one set up an opposing group?
      Whether or not you or I like/dislike Dalston Square is not relevant to this point.

      I have cut parts of this comment because it makes criticisms of the group and of me that I believe have been answered. There is no point in repeating points, or in continuing exchanges on one topic ad nauseam. — Ed.

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  5. chewbacker says:

    Whenever Benjamin hears the opinions of local people (that is, local to Dalston, not local to his own neighbourhood) which he does not agree with, why does he dismiss them as parochial?

    And Marc, locals who were in favour of the destruction of our heritage were free to set up their own Dalston-based support group. But they didn’t. Maybe because there were so few (if any) of them. I met only one local person who did.

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    • Benjamin says:

      Chewbacker, your penchant for misquoting is quite revealing. I’m simply pointing out that no group has any mandate to claim to speak for “local people”. This site says it adheres to the NUJ code of journalism yet it keeps repeating claims such as “local people made clear their wish to retain a decaying Victorian theatre” that cannot be substantiated.

      Chewbacker, I could take you a little more seriously if you even attempted to address the fundamental objective of urban planning; where is everyone going to live?

      Chewbacker has given a good part-rebuttal of your latest attack on my OPENDalston reference(s). I shall not add to it because I should not take up too much of the comment section. — Ed.

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  6. marc says:

    Loving Dalston wrote: “The controversy arose several years ago when local people made clear their wish to retain a decaying Victorian theatre that was on the site.”

    No they didn’t. OpenDalston’s views are not those of the “local community”.

    And some members of OpenDalston were spinning the line that the theatre was a Georgian building.

    And how come OpenDalston had nothing to say about the knocking down of an abandoned cinema on Kingland Road which has been replaced by housing?

    Or the Victorian houses which could have been saved when the tunnel was refurbished for the Overground curve?

    “Community”… now there’s a word to be wary of.
    All valid points, Marc, and they can be answered. No other group of people made themselves known to the council on this matter and canvassed as well as OpenDalston did so I think the sentence’s tangential claim is justified, although you are correct to chellenge it. I am not writing a PhD thesis here, so a certain amount of summarising has to be done, balanced of course with the views of those who disagree, such as you. As for the other points, though I am a founder-member of OpenDalston, as I have previously stated, I shall leave it to the OD to answer. — Ed.

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    • Benjamin says:

      “No other group of people made themselves known to the council on this matter and canvassed as well as OpenDalston did so I think the sentence’s tangential claim is justified…”

      The fact that no other group made itself known or canvassed on this matter does not in any way, shape or form equate to that group being representative of “local people”. The vast majority of local people was silent on the matter so, presumably, either didn’t care one way or the other, or trusted Hackney council’s planning professionals to make planning judgments for them as they’re supposed to do. I appreciate that this is not a PhD thesis, but one shouldn’t try to mislead.

      Incidentally, you appear to be misquoting the Dalston Square resident. What s/he actually said was “I live in the development and it’s pretty amazing. The worst thing about it is that most of the residents who live in it can’t afford to buy. It is most certainly aimed at East Asian investors. They almost laugh at locals who walk into the sales office. Phase III is so incredibly overpriced”.

      S/he means the sales staff “almost laugh” at locals. But I doubt sales staff laugh (or even “almost laugh”) at anyone with money to spend.

      I did not try to mislead, nor would I. In the full quotation a pronoun had been given the wrong antecedent, and that created ambiguity. I think. — Ed.

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  7. Benjamin says:

    “The controversy arose several years ago when local people made clear their wish to retain a decaying Victorian theatre that was on the site.”
    I think you mean SOME local people.
    “Some of the criticism was strong. Last September, for example, Loving Dalston wrote ‘Money fever rages as buy-to-let revives and property becomes ever bigger business’. OpenDalston, an organisation “for the promotion of environmental needs”, said: “Welcome to the Big (Business) Society’.”
    So as evidence of strong local opposition, you quote yourself and an anti-development group that you co-founded!
    Other than that, your complaint seems to be that the developer sold the properties on the open market and one unspecified resident has a hunch that “East Asian investors… almost laugh at locals”.
    So, in summary, a development is unpopular with some of the locals, London property prices are high, and in a free-market economy people of any nationality can purchase property.
    There’s not really much here, is there?

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