Darkness over Hackney as a frenzy of new building makes ever-greater raids on our skyline

skyStMark©DA: Taylor Wimpey "lantern" /dusbin" building nex to Kingsland Hi St Dalston Lon E8 Hackney 270517 © DavidAltheer[at]gmail.com
Anyone seen the sun? Dalston’s “Dustbin” building looms over Kingsland station
© sandra meredith
Flat to be built on the roof will block the light to neighbours’ flats

Big money has flowed into Hackney to cash in on the property boom. But as fast as flats go up, the natural light around homes goes down. And people who object to the shrinking skyline can find the planning process unhelpful. Homertonresident Sandy Meredith describes her experience


THE application for a housing development in a quiet Homerton street just south of Well Street was a small one, not of great significance. But it was to several neighbours, who believed it would cost them daylight and sunshine.

Structadene, a London property speculator, had applied to build a three-bedroom flat and two studios on the roof of 51 Tudor Road E9 7SN. 

The application, 2016/4144, alarmed the occupants of 15 flats next door. The proposed extra floor, taking the total to four floors, would lengthen the long shadow already cast on their homes by No 51. Fewer precious hours of midsummer sun would, they contended, reach the small gardens between the buildings.

The developer’s daylight/sunlight assessment said: “The proposed development will not create any new areas which receive less than two hours of sunlight on 21 March. The before/after ratio is 1 (no loss).”

Though the gardens get no sun in March, they do during the summer months. That loss was not considered.

The residents of 47 to 49 submitted an objection to the application. But first they commissioned an independent light review, which described the developer’s daylight/sunlight assessment as using selective results and lacking key information, making it “impossible to formulate a well-informed decision for planning”. 

StMark’s Dalston London E8 dramatic old skyline 220317 © david.altheer[ at ] gmail.com
A contrast: satisfyingly dramatic skyline at St Mark’s in Hackney E8

Councillor Chris Kennedy was the only member to talk about their objections at the 5 July 2017 sub-committee meeting, when planning officer Michael Garvey spoke in favour of the application. This is how it went.

Kennedy: “Shouldn’t we be concerned about these residents’ loss of light?”

Garvey: “The developer’s assessment says the windows of those residents’ flats already get poor daylight. They won’t lose more than 20% of that. It’s acceptable within the guidelines.”

Kennedy: “Are you saying that we can take some of their light because it doesn’t breach the guidelines, and then, theoretically, allow another floor to be built on top of that, which also won’t quite breach the guidelines, and keep going up until they have no light at all?”

Garvey: “That’s right, we could do that. But we probably won’t.” 

Kennedy: “Why don’t we just stop this now? Why can’t we just leave these people their little bit of light?”

Subcom chairman Vincent Stops: “Stoke Newington used to be a village, and now look at it — you can’t stop development.”

The majority of the planning sub-committee approved the application. But isn’t the planning councillors’ role to stop bad development? 

Who benefits in this case? Not the neighbouring residents, whose right to light was overruled. Not the tenants of 51 Tudor Road, who use the roof as an outdoor space. 

The only beneficiary is the property speculator.


* Sandra Meredith is the author of A Death in Custody, paperback (Lightwood Books, £6.99) and ebook.

* Backstory: Mega-millions Dalston site sold onLittle light shines from the dustbinAnother tower over downtown Dalston 

All pictures © DavidAltheer [at] gmail.com (apart from rooftop pic) and all for sale for reproduction. Bigger format versions usually available

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One thought on “Darkness over Hackney as a frenzy of new building makes ever-greater raids on our skyline

  1. As the piece describes, the issue of loss of light was discussed and considered by planning officers and members.

    There would be no point in the sub-committee’s refusing to grant permission if it believed that the application complied with policy.

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