Long-term profits in sight at Dalston

130 Kingsland E8 2NS: 2011/3132

BIG-SCHEME property investors are finding Dalston ever more attractive. As the protest grows against the skyscraper at the Peacocks high-street site, another project designed to loom over Dalston is announced. Shops, offices and flats would be  built on the Tesco site opposite the Evin eaterie.

Though six floors – 12 fewer than planned at Peacocks – the planned building would overshadow surrounding properties because the street slopes noticeably at that point.

The company that made planning application 2011/3132 is Crystal Property, of Chelsea. The architect is Brophy Riaz and Partners, of  Birmingham. In accordance with the trend to pander to fashionable concepts of “sustainability” and ecology, a “roof-level garden” has been included in the plans.

Crystal Property’s planning consultant, Eric Walton, told Loving Dalston: “The application is absolutely in line with the Dalston Area Action Plan.”  (This is the council’s outline strategy for what can be built in certain areas — for example, houses here, light industrial there. In effect at present is the 2009 plan as the latest one awaits formal adoption.)

“This scheme is located less than 100 metres from the ‘eco tower’ at the old Peacocks store and is very modest in comparison. It is an outline application, with all matters reserved, so the final design may well be completely different and is open to discussion.”

Walton said the site had had broad consent for a six-floor building for 20 years. Tesco’s lease on the site did not expire until 2016, at which stage the owner would seek a developer with the expertise and access to finance to put up the building.

Already, however, a protest movement has sprung up. Duncan Gibson, a chartered town planning consultant hired by worried residents, said: “This important and prominent site deserves much better than the ill-judged and unsympathetic scheme  submitted.” He said  the building would be seven storeys high when viewed from Sandringham Road.

He added: “The design of the building is plain and brutal. This big slab of built form will harm the visual amenities of the area. It will look like the building has been dropped on to the site without any regard for what surrounds it.”

The site and, top, architect's drawings showing front and side views of the proposed building

The predominant character of the High Street was of well-proportioned and handsome Victorian terraces with attractive detailing and consistent height and width. The Tesco-site proposal was out of keeping. It would harm the setting of the listed art deco Rio Cinema.

“The bulk and mass of the building,” said Gibson,  “is such that it will cause considerable overshadowing of properties in Alvington Crescent.”

* A protest petition has been organised. Click on this link To give the council planning department your views of application 2011/3132, email them to planningconsultation@hackney.gov.uk or post them to Hackney planning, 1 Hillman Street, London E8 1DY. 

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30 thoughts on “Long-term profits in sight at Dalston

  1. We should do our utmost to prevent the building of “modern” designs that add nothing to the environment, look sad, dated and insiginificant ten years later and often succumb to the steel ball before their time.

    If a design does not have the potential to become a future “classic”, it is surely better to remain sypmathetic with the local architecture and yes, possibly use slate and yellow stocks as someone suggests. Evidence of this way of thinking is very apparent and successful in East Berlin, where new-build includes “classic” design and iconic contemporary ideas. The argument that “new homes” are exempt from this thinking largely underpinned the high-rise boom in the 1970s and we are still demolishing the consequent disasters.

    There seems to be a feeling in councils that development and profit are the priority, regardless of retaining the character of an area. The real skill is in achieving and maintaining a mix that is balanced and socially relevant.

    Market forces will not preserve the spirit of Dalston. Angel and Upper Street lost the artists, musicians, writers, students, established families, independent shops and creative buzz that gave it the “coolness” that the developers exploited. It now has none of that. As at West Hampstead, Highate, Hampstead and Chelsea, the market killed the community.

    The question is, if the council doesn’t work really hard to understand and protect what makes Dalston wonderful, and that includes its buildings, who will?

  2. Dalston needs to keep the momentum of development it has proudly achieved over the last few years. The quality of life of present residents will be improved as the appearance improves and further small and large businesses continue to invest in the area.

    I don’t understand why some people want to see Dalston return to dirty streets, derelict buildings and homeless/drug addicts/drunks intimidating visitors and residents through the day and night. It’s important to understand that the area has a long journey ahead to establish itself as safe and vibrant.

    The majority of people in London associate Dalston and Hackney as poor and dangerous and it would be nice if they could visit the area to see the range of restaurants, nightlife and modern buildings such as Dalston Square.

    Without public backing for new ideas and investments, Dalston could return to the mess it has been in for decades and the poor residents will suffer because they won’t be able to pack up and leave.

    I think that a new building that is a bit out of place is an incredibly small risk. We should embrace and enhance the proposals that investors bring as they are key to transforming the area into another exciting and safe place in London.

    1. Investors and businesses want only one thing: money. Residents care about the environment they live in.

      Having fun in the playground? While you pose around, thinking how cool Dalston is now that commercial interests have a free-for-all, smell the toxic kebab smoke swirling about beneath the lamposts in the night air; fill your lungs; embrace the hoards of drunks staggering around making noise and urinating in the public realm in the early hours on your long journey; make a splash.

      In the day, try to avoid commercial clutter strewn on the pavements on your way to Dalston Square: there, take a look at how much shadow the flats above the slab casts over the library, the cafe and the public space in the early spring sunshine and consider whether all that risk was worth taking.

      Then shove your key where the sun doesn’t shine.

  3. What a great scheme; pity those poor minions who will walk in the shade of this world-class building while I lord it over them from my glass-and-steel counting house, ha ha ha ha haaa. [Ah, a little sardonic humour, something that has been sorely missing from this site lately. – Ed.]

  4. Iggy – London is overcrowded. As for “shabby in no time”, have you actually looked at the existing high street? It’s as shabby as it gets, and that’s because of the properties being poorly maintained as there will be no management company or service and maintenance charges being paid.
    I am all for preserving the past, but you cannot ignore a brighter future. The Tesco carpark is a danger to pedestrians and high-street traffic alike, because cars reverse into the bus lane and vie for space. Anything allocated for that site would be better than what exists.
    As for the people opposing the development, they are probably those who opposed a “soulless Tesco” store opening there some years ago, and no doubt use it all the same. Hypocrisy through and through.

  5. Hackney is overcrowded. Adding more high-density homes is not the answer but the start of a new problem.
    These developments are high-maintenance. They become shabby in no time.

  6. This is a “dog” of a building, which is being unkind to dogs.
    As a local resident I have no problem with a building of this scale on this site, as I think it will generally be in keeping. A storey lower would be better. The design is the key issue and this is not good enough. As the agent says, above, it is only an outline application. with very few details provided. The owner will get permission and sell it on to a developer, making a tidy profit. Then the principle of a building of that scale will be established and someone will come along with sub-standard detail plans for the building and Hackney planners (who have shown consistently little or no design skills or knowledge) will let the building through.
    I am in the business and see it happen regularly. This is a ploy to raise the value of the site without spending any money on the design of the building. Outline applications are rarely used to obtain planning permission when the intention is to build a building.

    1. The principle of a building of that scale has already been established, as recently as 2003.
      The reason that the application is outline is that at present building work could not commence until 2016, when Tesco’s lease expires. There is no point in spending the much larger planning fees, architect fees etc. of a detailed application at this stage.
      Should the application be approved, then the work of negotiating with the tenants to perhaps vacate before the lease expires can begin.
      Should an agreement be reached, a detailed application would be made in conjunction with a joint-venture partner.

  7. The building as shown is dull and uninspired. A toddler could have drawn that. Boxes within a box… oh, half is sitting on a rectangle! It bears no resemblance to the architecture on Kingsland High Street nor does it have individual character. The street, one of London’s most historic thoroughfares, deserves more respect. Put your computer on to “sympathetic” mode, Mr Architect, and question what you’re paying for, Mr Developer.

    1. You complain, Hackneybound, that the proposal doesn’t have “individual character”, and then you complain that it “bears no resemblance” to the existing terrace and ask for something more “sympathetic”. If you were about in the 1930s presumably you would have objected to the building of the Modernist Art Deco Rio cinema opposite?

  8. I am getting tired of the NIMBY (not in my back yard) attitude in Dalston. Luckily nobody seems to listen. And by the way, people with money aren’t all bad.

  9. This will be right opposite the iconic and much-loved Rio cinema — one of the few really special landmarks we have in Dalston. It will be taller than it and dominate the crossroads where the Rio is sited. And the area in front of the Rio, which the council has invested a lot of money in prettifying, with its cherry trees and cobbles, where people love to congregate and excited schoolchildren queue in the mornings for their special movie showings, will be thrown into shadow by it for most of the morning.
    Yes, we want new development in Dalston, including affordable homes. But we do NOT want these mediocre soul-less clone buildings plonked down in the few pleasant open-air spaces that are left for local residents. [Your reportorial phrasing is delightful. The story has been updated since you commented. — Ed.]

    1. The car park in front of Tesco hardly qualifies as a pleasant open-air space.
      It would be good to see some landscaping in front of the building, and maybe some public domain features, such as benches, rather than another car park.

  10. I am dealing with this application on behalf of the company. I was given the wrong spelling of the registered office. The site has previously had consent for a building of the same mass in 2003 and in 1991. Interestingly, of 48 people consulted in 2003, none objected.
    The application is in line with planning policy and specifically with the Dalston Area Action Plan. It is an outline application and the design in the plans is by no means what would ultimately be built.
    Compared with the building on the former Peacocks site, it is a modest development. [The reference to a misspelling has been deleted from the story. — Ed.]

    1. It would be nice to see some enrichment of the public domain in front of any new development there. The corner is currently a car park. There is an opportunity for some trees, benches and maybe some green space.
      I would say to the architect, it looks like you might be using good-quality yellow London brick in part of the building, which is a good thing when it matches the local stock — not so good when it looks like Lego. Maybe you could use some slate as well, as that echoes the roofs. The multicoloured cladding is hard to decipher from the plans. That can often look cheap when badly done.

      1. Brick?! Slate?! Marc, if it aspires to be a modern 21st-century building, why not use 21st-century materials?
        Should London have been rebuilt after the Great Fire in oak beams, wattle and daub and thatch? Or do we actually believe in progress? Why spoil the Modernist integrity of a building by using anachronistic materials? Can no-one appreciate contrast between the period and modern?

        1. Modernism has pretty much been replaced by Post-Modernism in the UK.
          The current architectural vernacular typically references past materials and design. You often see yellow brick, slate and materials such as copper and wood used in domestic architecture. On the plans for this development there is a mansard, and yellow brick on the Sandringham Road side, which references the Victorian buildings along that street.
          The current Tesco building is a typical result of the Modernist movement, with no sense of context or sympathy for its place on a Victorian street.
          Are we going to make the same mistake twice?
          It is important that the materials are high-quality and age well. We have seen too many cheap plastic claddings which look good for a year or so, but soon become dirty and tired. [I shall have to reconsider my belief that PoMo died a decade or two ago, although you, Marc, have made it sound acceptable. — Ed.]

          1. I guess that material “contextualism” can be considered part of the Po-Mo genre, but I’d suggest that the whole concept of referencing the past whether through style, material or scale stultifies both architectural progress and functionality.
            Celebrating contrast is where it’s at (check out Foster’s Jameson House), with the contrast in style and scale acting as a foil to each other, and that allows for functional architecture that addresses contemporary needs and provides a historically honest reading of a streetscape.
            You even see heritage groups like the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (which recently had to part company with the Prince of Wales, over the issue) adopt a more honest approach these days, preferring that the history of a building can be honestly read.
            Would you regard the Rio Cinema “with no sense of context or sympathy for its place on a Victorian street” as a “mistake”?

          2. This is for Benjamin, because the reply was missing to his post.
            It’s a fair point about the Rio Cinema. Art Deco was a movement within itself that turned its back on the past.
            But the Rio does mostly respect the line of the buildings on the high street in position and height. And the use of stucco and brick reflects the 18th and 19th century materials found across London.
            If were offered a really great modern building on Kingsland High Street, I could be persuaded that it could stand alone. For instance on Holloway Road, there is the Daniel Liebeskind university building, which is a striking example of contemporary architecture. But the chances of that happening in this part of Hackney are low. So I would prefer a building that fitted its context. [Yes, once the Victorian theatre was demolished, how good it would have been for Liebeskind or Zaha Hadid, architects who excite, to have designed the Barratt “Dalston Square” stuff. – Ed.]

          3. Marc, so you’d be happy with the Sandringham Road elevation to be stuccoed?
            I don’t get the need to be constantly referencing the past – it seems more like an obsessive compulsive disorder than a credible design ethos to me.
            Personally, I think Liebeskind’s Holloway Road effort is too small to work – it looks more DIY than WOW! But neither Liebeskind nor Hadid is very good at putting function first, which I think is essential in housing that is designed to last. David Adjaya would be my preference, but we’re digressing now.

          4. The obvious candidate from the starchitects to design housing schemes is Richard Rogers (1 Hyde Park, Neo on Bankside etc.)
            I doubt that any high-profile architect’s work will be seen in Dalston – especially since “Open” Dalston comes out of the woodwork whenever non-statist change is proposed in the area.
            I find that Foster and Partners are inconsistent in their work. They can be brilliant, they can be mundane. The fashion for glass and steel which characterises most office builds is becoming tired and jaded, in my opinion.
            As for Dalston Square, the overall build quality is fairly strong, plus we get a new station, library and open space. The “theatre” that was there had little left of its original interior. The only interesting surviving feature was the portico facing Dalston Lane.
            It would have been great to have a world-class architect working there. Maybe we can get one to design the new Kingsland Station development. But it will happen only if there is budget available from the private flats. [The building of the new railway line was not dependent on the demolition of the theatre. The building that used to house the CLR James Library was dull if not ugly, but it was adequate, especially when budget constraints were visited on Hackney council. I add these facts only for clarification. I’m grateful for Marc’s letter, although its inference is that the Dalston planning-application frenzy is unlikely to attract heart-lifting designs. Disappointing, although surely E8’s Kinetica windmill flat iron, by Waugh Thistleton, might cause the occasional heart at least to flutter? – Ed.]

          5. Again, the aesthetic letdown of Dalston Square for me is the brick cladding (complete with panels of wood-grain effect sticky-back plastic) used in phase I. But the later phases are quite good, I think.
            I’m not waiting for a starchitect to lift my heart – simple, functional, modern architecture that addresses the housing shortage in an environmentally sustainable manner would do it for me. – Ed.

          6. Editor, the old Dalston library was dying on its feet. A tiny collection and under-used. There were often more staff than visitors. On top of which the bunker of a building was depressing and poorly ventilated (too hot in summer). If it were not for the free internet, it would have been targeted for closure years ago.
            The new library, to my eyes, is the best that you can hope for. Good collection, proper quiet reading/work area. Children in a separate area where they can make a bit of noise without annoying other users. Meeting rooms. None of this would be there without the flats.
            The new square has potential to be a focus point for pedestrian Dalston when the cafés and shops start opening. Will Open Dalston apologise if the whole thing turns out to be a success? Don’t hold your breath.
            I agree about Kinetica. I like it, and can see it from my back window. Telford Homes developments are generally more innovative than most new-build residential stuff we see.

  11. The building where Tesco is located is a dreadful 1960s excretion, which deserves the wrecking ball. The Argos next door in Sanrdingham Road is even worse, but that is not part of this site. I would say five storeys is about right there, six with a mansard.

    The design plans look like a considerable improvement on what is currently sitting on that corner, but it’s hard to judge the detailing on architectural plans.

    I fail to understand why none of the multitude of sub-standard social housing developments meet with any opposition. A bit further up the high street is a five-storey mixed-social-housing development that rises above the roof line. The material’s being used are low grade, the finishing poor. But nobody has objected.

    Which really goes to show that this is more about the predicable lobby of comrades who don’t like the changes that are happening in the borough, and little to do with heritage.

  12. What is wrong with people — a protest petition?! On one hand everyone is relentlessly going on about the lack of new homes being built, and the moment proposals are drawn up, they suddenly want to oppose the plans.
    As for affordability, if you want to live a mile and a half out of Europe’s financial centre, you should naturally expect to pay a premium… don’t you think?!

    1. It is typical of a newcomer to the area to use a phrase like “choose to live” in an area. Some people have lived here for generations. It is the residents’ space that is being encroached on by the financial institutions, the clubbers and the property developers, not the other way round.

      1. I have lived here for over 20 years. What element of residents’ space is being encroached on by that building design? There is a Tesco, a car park and a disused basement.

      2. I don’t agree with you, I’m afraid. Last time I looked Dalston was a free place in which to settle, so yes, people can choose where to live. Residents don’t have more rights than those aspiring to live somewhere. In any case, I wouldn’t want to live in a place where the latter was true…

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