Care about Dalston? Suddenly you and many others may find yourself studying a supermarket car park

Marie©DA20: © Marie Murray, co-founder Curve Garden, Dalston Ln, Hackney, London E8 081116
Kingslandcarpk©DA: Kingsland Centre car pk Dalston E8 © 130119
Road to the aisles: the car park is a way into the shopping mall. Top: Dalston Curve Garden co-founder Marie Murray at the venue, which is opposite the CLR James Library

WHEN DALSTONERS recently received a leaflet with a message from an agent of a big West End property investor, they may well have been cheered. 

The Kingsland Centre car park was to be transformed into flats and shops. And the popular Dalston Curve Garden appeared to be safe from development. At least, that part of it that Criterion Capital owns: one section is owned by Hackney council. 

Of course it is not that simple, and when Loving Dalston spoke to Criterion, its answers brought to mind the word “nuance”. The company said: “The Dalston Curve Garden at E8 3DF will be retained and will not be adversely affected by this development. We see the garden as a key community asset and of great benefit to the Dalston area… [we] have invited “the organisation to discuss with us its requirements”.

Criterion’s thinking is to leave the garden land “untouched by the development but,” it says, “we welcome all ideas to improve the experience of this community space. That is why we are consulting local residents [by Zoom this week: details below] and the garden itself on the relationship between the garden and the new development.” Enjoyment of the space would not be impaired.

Criterion has tried before to develop the whole site, including the shopping centre, but the scheme, by Andrew Waugh, of Waugh Thistleton in Shoreditch, impressed neither planners nor Sainsbury’s, the key tenant in the shopping mall and owner of a 2,999-year (yes, 3 millennia) lease.

Letterbox leaflet: the handout for Criterion featured this aerial view of the car park

This time the architects, who will be busy now on plans for flats and shops on the car park site, will be Buckley Gray Yeoman, also of Shoreditch. Motorists, don’t panic: Criterion says the (under-used) car park under the shopping centre will still be available. 

The wedge of prime land shown above will not be the end of it, because, says Criterion, the developer “shares the same ambition as many Dalstoners to see the whole of the shopping centre redeveloped, so the current proposal is simply phase 1 of this overall vision. 

Criterion explains why: “There are two reasons. Firstly, Criterion is unable to gain any firm interest from Sainsbury’s to draw up plans for redevelopment of the central portion. (This is how Sainsbury’s responded: “Were open to working with Criterion to understand how its redevelopment can be delivered taking into consideration the site constraints, including ensuring that we can continue to trade.”)

“Secondly, the western portion of the site is subject to Crossrail 2 safeguarding as it is above the planned site for a new Dalston station. So for now, there can be no development there, though we certainly see the car-park development as the first phase of a wider long-term redevelopment of the whole shopping centre.”

Halloween©DA18curve: © last flickerings of the 1,100 pumpkins lit up by children and other volunteers for Halloween @ Eastern Curve Garden #Dalston E8 3DF 311018
Hallowed ground: the thousand or so Halloween pumpkins annually lit up by children and other volunteers at the Dalston Curve Garden draw people from all over London

Informed Hackneyites will know that Crossrail 2 exists as a project only in the minds of TFL executives — it could be years before Criterion fulfils its ambition of developing the site from the car park to Kingsland High Street E8.

Anyone worried by the prospect of more skyline loss will not be reassured by Criterion’s answer to Loving Dalston that building height “will be guided by a thorough analysis of key townscape and heritage views, and potential effects on neighbours. 

“We will of course share our thinking with the local community once we have a better understanding, in a few months.

Loving Dalston is to write about the charitable foundation created by Criterion Capital founder Asif Aziz, pictured here with partner Darija

“In Hackney [council]’s Local Plan the shopping centre is allocated for a “mixed-use development with retail, commercial and residential”. 

 As for the idea of a footbridge from the car park to Ridley Road and London’s best street market, Criterion was lukewarm, saying “no plans we are considering would rule out a footbridge”.

Marie Murray, pictured at top, one of the curve garden’s founders, told Loving Dalston that Criterion’s hand-delivered leaflets showed the Dalston Curve Garden as outside the area it proposed to develop, although “it is right next door”. 

She added: “The garden was created to offer much-needed green public space in an area which had little or none and over the last 10 years it has become a much-loved community hub where people can connect with nature and with one another. 

“The impact of the pandemic has emphasised just how vital access to green space on your doorstep is for the good of people’s health.”

Dalston ward councillor Soraya Adejare told this site: “Any proposals which do not retain the Dalston Curve Garden in its present format will be unacceptable.”

Murray is up against a powerful force at tomorrow’s Zoom public consultation. Criterion Capital’s website says it is “the largest landowner is [in?] the Piccadilly Circus-Leicester Square corridor”. 

David Altheer 191221

* Tomorrow Weds 200121 at 7pm and the next day Thurs 210121 at 3pm you can have your say in the Criterion online public consultation. Go to — Weds meeting ID 865 1277 9813 and Thurs 815 6734 0809. The organiser decided against requiring registration “as we are keen to get as many attendees as possible”. Good luck with that.

* Backstory: New Kingsland centreHigh-rise may replace Kingsland centreCycle route to start at Dalston mural, Big money makes its move and Boris buys Dalston a garden 

* All pictures © All available for sale via that eddress.

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink. Links to articles in The Guardian do not imply any approval of its historic involvement with slavery. No news  outlet would ignore a resource as useful to society as that newspaper. 

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