* UPDATE: Hackney council planning committee gave the investor planning permission early this year 2014. – Ed.
WILL THE 18-floor skyscraper planned for the Peacocks clothing-store site in the High Street next to Dalston Kingsland station ever be built?
Six months since Loving Dalston broke the story and revealed that site-owner Rothas Ltd was paying a public-relations firm to garner public support for the scheme, the company behind Rothas shows no sign of moving beyond property lettings and investment.
Rothas admitted to this website last August that it had not erected a building since it was created as a subsidiary of Structadene, a property company formed in Hackney in 1965. Loving Dalston was, however, assured that “should we succeed in securing planning, we are committed to starting the scheme in 2012”.
The planning application has been made, but Structadene chief executive David Pearl shows no public enthusiasm for laying a brick, reviving the suspicion that Rothas wants only to increase the value of the site by getting planning permission for a building of shops and 130 flats, then selling the site.
The economic downturn also lessens the chances of the building’s rising up within the next ten years: banks would be reluctant to lend the necessary £30 million-plus.
On top of that, Pearl has never looked like a developer. He left school at 15 and before he turned 20 had set up a property and lettings agency which within a few years was buying property: not to build on but to let. He continued in this over the next decade. His offices were in Clarence Road, Clapton E8 3AZ.
Despite the street’s popularity with last summer’s looters, Pearl is positive about the area. In an article for Property Week, he commented on Hackney’s being one of the worst-affected areas in London. The media had focused on Clarence Road, where he was based for more than 30 years.
“We were letting three flats on ‘Murder Mile’, just around the corner,” he said, “and people still turned up for viewings the day after the riots.”
Structadene and its subsidiaries, its website states, concentrate on refining a UK-wide property portfolio that has a focus on central London.
The site says: “Acquisitions can range from small residential properties to large blocks of property in the West End of London.” The company has been selling part of its portfolio, which before the present economic downturn was estimated to be worth £1 billion.
Pearl is popular in the world of big business for an absence of pomposity. He has appeared in The Sunday Times Rich List yet is known for his informality. He has won admiration, for example, for his habit of cycling to work, storing the mountain bike in the reception area of Structadene’s offices.
The Dalston project’s publicist, Four Communications, on the other hand has found itself under fire on several fronts, including its employment of Hackney councillors Alan Laing, of Hackney Central ward, as an associate director, and Karen Alcock (Clissold) as a part-timer. On its website FourCom boasts about its on-staff politicians, saying of the last local government elections: “And it wasn’t a bad day for Four Communications consultants who stood for election.”
The lobbyist told Loving Dalston: “Four is signed up to the APPC (Association of Professional Political Consultants) code, which requires us to ensure that no councillor works for Four in the borough they are elected in. We comply with this.”
Just over a week ago Hackney environmental campaigner OpenDalston picked up on the Kingsland-building story, making criticisms of the planning application for the E8 2JS site, which is sometimes termed the “ecotower”.
FourCom issued a rebuttal. It told Loving Dalston: “The article recently published on Open Dalston’s website regarding the development at 51-57 Kingsland High Street is completely inaccurate.
“We have requested that Open Dalston remove the article immediately and have offered them a further opportunity of a meeting to discuss the proposals.”
Loving Dalston pressed FourCom to clarify its allegation, but it declined, saying that the statement was “the only comment the client wishes to make”.
David Altheer 050212
* If you want to give the council planning department your views of application 2011/3439, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or send them by post to Hackney planning, 1 Hillman Street, London E8 1DY.