More disdain heaped on Dalston Green Ecotower

* Hackney  council planning committee gave the investor planning permission (for the last application) on Wed 5 Mar 2014. – Ed.


A PLANNING CONSULTANT and the Hackney Society have joined in the criticism of the Dalston Green/Ecotower proposal that has become so controversial since this site reported it last summer.

The consultant, who wants to be unnamed because he occasionally deals with Hackney council, told Loving Dalston: “What surprises me most of all is that, as I understand it, there is no provision for affordable homes.”

One of the Hackney Society’s architect-members said that the proposed 18-floor block was “over-scaled” and thus overly dominant in the area. It would not be in harmony with its context, the historic retail buildings of the street.

The consultant agreed that the height was incongruous. “I am surprised,” he said, “that the council approved something as tall as this.” Even if it were only five storeys, because it was not on a corner site, it would have an impact on the symmetry of the roof line of the high street.

The Hackney Society spokesman said: “We feel that the design is of low quality and overly dominant… resulting in a building which is not in harmony with its context.

The development site next to Dalston Kingsland station and top, the proposed high-rise

“The CGIs [computer-generated images] show the building bathed in greenery. This is unrealistic… experience shows that private balconies rarely have any greenery on.

“On the majority of views the building will appear very grey and not green…

“The building is predominantly residential but has an external appearance more akin to a City office building.”

The Dalston Conservation Area Advisory Committee, a voluntary body that advises on local planning matters, has also expressed strong opposition.

David Altheer 0502312

* The planning sub-committee will discuss the application, 2011/3439, for 51-57 Kingsland High Street, at Hackney Town Hall, Mare Street, London E8 1EA, today Wed 7 Mar 2012, 6.30pm. It is listed as item 6.

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12 thoughts on “More disdain heaped on Dalston Green Ecotower

  1. I notice that the (anti-) “environmental group” OPENDalston is stating that the windows in the proposal that overlook Kingsland station would have “compromised future development of the railway station”, and this was one of the reasons that councillors rejected the advice of their planners.
    But doesn’t the existing building on the other side of the station also have windows that overlook the station (see pic above)? And hasn’t this already compromised future development of the station?

  2. The article says “The consultant, who wants to be unnamed because he occasionally deals with Hackney council, told Loving Dalston: ‘What surprises me most of all is that, as I understand it, there is no provision for affordable homes’.”

    I wondering why this “consultant” hasn’t worked worked out that the trade-off for the development of private flats in this building is the redevelopment of the railway station. [Most reporters are reluctant to quote people anonymously — so my decision to run the consultant’s comment was not taken carelessly. But the consultant gave a good reason not to be named. — Ed.]

    1. I understand that planning consultants might not want to give their name, Editor. But if the consultant understood this project, he would know that a key element of this proposal was the redevelopment of Kingland Road station. The overcrowding at this miserable station is going to lead to people not being able to access the station. The trains have an increased capacity, and will hold even more passengers when the circle of the London Overground is completed. [Yes, it is a miserable station. It was not always thus. Under state management, the platforms were bedecked with bright flowers. – Ed.]

  3. Benjamin should learn and think more about local redevelopment and the already extreme residential over-density of Dalston (compared with that in other wards of Hackney) before he expresses such unfounded criticism. Dalston, Haggerston, Hoxton and De Beauvoir, in particular, are and have in recent years been experiencing a ballooning residential redevelopment of almost every imaginable former industrial, brownfield, back lot or even back garden space in the rush to increase that local over-density even further.
    Dalston does not owe Hackney, London or the country any more intense residential redevelopment; it already houses many more people than its fair share of the population of Hackney generally.
    Opponents of this greedy and selfish scheme are merely seeking to reduce to a reasonable level the amount of further new housing on this site, so that it does not wreck the already damaged but still inherently beautiful architecture of Dalston town centre.

    1. Diana, of course Hackney has had redevelopment of many brownfield sites in recent years – we have a massive housing shortage. And of course much of it has been in Dalston, Haggerston, Hoxton and De Beauvoir – they have good transport and are close to the City.
      If these brownfield sites were developed to their full potential it would take some of the pressure off greenbelt.
      You say (as if you own the area) “Dalston does not owe Hackney, London or the country any more intense residential redevelopment”, so I’ll ask you what I ask other opponents of high-density inner-city development: How are you going to address our chronic housing shortage in an environmentally sustainable way and so avoid low-rise urban sprawl, which the European Environment Agency calls “the worst-case scenario”?
      Self-certified and self-serving claims of “extreme over-density of Dalston” aren’t sufficient.
      Besides, from what’s quoted in this piece, Hackney Society’s objections seem principally to be of aesthetics.

  4. Isn’t it strange that all the opposition to the proposal seems to be principally about its height and yet not even one of the opposers has attempted to answer the question how we address the chronic and dire housing crisis in an environmentally sustainable manner and avoid “the worst-case scenario” of low-rise urban sprawl (as the European Environment Agency puts it)? Especially troubling, given that I know that the Hackney Society spokesman’s practice claims to promote “environmentally friendly and innovative architecture”.
    I also can’t see how the Hackney Society claims to “realise that it is impossible to stem the flow of change, and recognises that the architectural development of the borough will add to its variety and interest in the future”, then says that the proposal is “overly dominant” and “not in harmony with its context, the historic retail buildings of the street”.
    It sounds as if these people are entrenched in the mindset of the provincial heritage village where architectural stagnancy is more important than addressing a housing crisis in an environmentally sustainable way.

    1. It is of course true that cities of tall buildings consume proportionally less power than low-rise sprawling cities. However, I don’t think this gives a developer carte blanche to develop as tall a building as they like, wherever they like. There is planning legislation to prevent historic buildings/areas and their settings being destroyed by other developments, which are insensitive. Of which I believe this proposal is one.

      1. Your highly subjective and self-serving usage of “destroyed” and “insensitive” is telling. I can only assume you’re one of those architects who cannot appreciate contrast and instead prioritises an aspiration to architectural homogeneity over that of architecture’s primary function – to house people (especially in a time of dire housing shortage) – ie, subjective aesthetic taste over function.
        I am pleased, however, that you have the honesty to admit that what you favour would be something less environmentally friendly.

        1. Benjamin, I note that you don’t put your full name here.
          Editor, If the comments are public record, why remove them? I wish that you had not done so, as I would not need to rewrite this post.
          First, the comments were from the Hackney Society, a group of local people experienced in conservation, building design and development, and not merely from me. Perhaps you could try to keep your future comments on a professional level, rather than trying to attack my concept of good and environmentally friendly design.
          Relevant part of comments, which disproves your above statement:
          The Kingsland Road block [planning application] is over-scaled and thus overly dominant, next to the historic retail buildings of the street, the result being an incongruous addition to the streetscape. Though this is sometimes possible to pull off if artistically handled, this building is not of sufficient quality to achieve that and appears to be the result of over-development.
          My own view: Quite apart from this, the building is not a sustainable building, it is only code 4, which is the minimal standard, virtually anywhere in the country. I am also not convinced about your argument that building £400,000+ flats in the middle of Dalston will deal with the housing shortage. I would have thought that social or affordable family housing was more of a priority.
          I had previously stated my own view of how I thought the building could be redesigned to accommodate more units and a lower mass, but I suspect the editor was not keen, so removed it. Note: my own view and not necessarily the Hackney Society’s. [I did not remove your comments – rather, using indirect speech and direct quotations, I summarised them fairly. (Here I have shortened your message to Benjamin because it was obviously but cryptically personal.) As for the “relevant part of comments”, I did report them fairly (I remember your deployment over-scale as a verb). I did not attack your or anyone’s concept of “good and environmentally friendly design”. Neither did I mention “£400,000+ flats”. I wonder, Andrew, whether you have noticed the message to commenters, below, whereby I explain that comments may be edited. I’d add only that I am not keen to comment in this section because it is for readers. – Ed. ]

          1. Andrew, “over-scaled and thus overly dominant, next to the historic retail buildings of the street, the result being an incongruous addition to the streetscape”?

            Over-scaled for what exactly? A world capital with a dire housing crisis, or a stagnant provincial heritage town?

            Also, I guess the price of £400,000 for a flat is an estimate by the developer. The real price would be decided by the market, which is defined by supply and demand. I find it strange that some Nimbys are arguing for cheaper housing while simultaneously limiting supply. One has to question their sincerity.

          2. Hi, Benjamin,
            In my view the proposed building ignores the cornice line below the roof of the existing buildings in favour of building above this. I think that this gives the proposed building an uncomfortable feel in the street. As you say, everybody’s view is subjective. That is why we have a planning department, legislation and councillors. No system is perfect but it endeavours to set rules and guidelines within which we design.
            An alternative to this would be something like China, where development is considered a necessity for the economic success of the country. The result is that in a lot of cases everything, including extremely historic buildings, is demolished without consideration.
            Here we have a different view: guidelines are in place to try to manage and protect existing developments, so that we do not demolish all of our history, such that future generations have no chance to experience it.
            Dalston may not be a World Heritage site but it has some architecturally interesting buildings, which I believe any new building should respect. Note, I do not have the view that this necessarily limits the height of the building, but it does call for well thought-out and high-quality design, in order to maximise the benefit of the site.
            The £400,000 price tag was put forward by the developer as a way of estimating the profit margin from the construction. As you say, the market would ultimately decide on this but that was not really my point. Any development of over 14 (I think that is correct) units in Hackney, is supposed to have 50% social housing.
            At the 51-57 Kingsland High Street site, this was initially reduced to 30%, then removed in order to pay for station refurbs. My point was that I would have thought that the social housing requirement was more important to your argument of addressing housing shortage.
            I’m going to leave it there. Perhaps we will have this discussion again if the building is resubmitted at some point.

            One tiny but important point (of which nobody else seems to have taken heed): Rothas, the owner of the site, is a property-investment company, not a developer. The head of the company that set up Rothas insists that the tower will this year be its first development project and that it is not trying to win development permission just to boost the site price.
            I have, of course, reported that insistence every time I have challenged Rothas on the issue. – Ed.

          3. Andrew, since no one is arguing that the Peacocks building is of any historical merit, I can’t see the relevance of your China comparison.
            “Affordable” housing and “social” housing are not the same thing.
            There is a target guideline of 50% affordable, ie, not a requirement (which to my knowledge has never been met, and I’m not sure whether London Mayor Boris Johnson recently dropped it). I’m not arguing against “affordable” housing, but all housing provision addresses short supply.
            It appears that you have opposed the provision of hundreds of homes in a housing crisis primarily on the ground that the proposed new building’s appearance, admittedly subjectively, gives you an “uncomfortable feeling” because you don’t appreciate contrast. I’d suggest that that isn’t good enough.
            One more point. Since 17th-century, oak-beamed, wattle-and-daub and thatched housing was surpassed in height and materials by the ubiquitous Georgian brick terraces, and Victorian mansion blocks were taller again, as were early 20th-century apartment blocks such as the ten-storey Nell Gwynn House, wouldn’t it be fair to say that had you been the arbiter of what is architecturally acceptable throughout the ages, and that building to existing cornice lines had been enforced so as to avoid an “uncomfortable feeling”, then our architectural heritage, which you claim to value, would today look very different – and London would either sprawl to the coast, or simply not be viable as a world capital? The proposal is entirely in keeping with the timeless quest for progress and architecture that addresses contemporary needs.

            Over the last year Loving Dalston has hardly mentioned “affordable” housing, one reason being that it ceased more than a year ago to be a requirement in the London plan and is being weakened nationally. – Ed.

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