Our response to the Dalston Plan

We have submitted feedback on the consultation process itself, on what we think is missing from the vision, and on housing and retail because these link directly to the Morning Lane People’s Space campaign and we have evidence of what Hackney residents want from our consultation. 

This feedback is given below under the headings from the online consultation. We encourage everyone in Hackney to add their voice. You can do this by clicking on the links in the headings (be patient – the pages load slowly). If you agree with any of our comments, you are welcome to submit them too. We also encourage people to get involved in the Save Ridley Road Campaign.

The deadline is 1st October.

Outdoor screening of the Save Ridley Road film at the market

VISION & OBJECTIVES FOR DALSTON

We are NOT satisfied with the current vision and objectives. The two key things that we think are missing from these are: to deliver social-rent housing, and to stop gentrification by ensuring that retail, culture, housing, public space, jobs and transport work for ALL Hackney residents. 

We believe the main objective should be that people who live in this area, including those who have done so for generations, and their children, can afford to continue to live here. And that they can afford to rent workspace and pay the business rates. It is shameful that one of the plan’s objectives is ‘to ensure that local people have an opportunity to remain part of the community’. Local people are not a part of the community, we are the community. 

NEW BUILDINGS AND HOMES

Social-rent housing is only mentioned once in this plan. It is not even mentioned as something coming up in earlier stages of the consultation. This is a serious omission as we know from our survey that this is the top priority for people who live in our borough. 

Specifically:

  • There needs to be greater focus on social and council housing rather than on ‘affordable’ housing. Even so-called ‘genuinely affordable’ housing is NOT affordable for most Hackney residents as it includes categories like London Living Rent and London Shared Ownership. The dominance of private housing contributes to the gentrification of Dalston and to polarisation.
  • Housing development is planned for Ridley Road and for the redevelopment of Kingsland Shopping Centre next door, where there are two alternative proposals, for 314 or 484 dwellings. The development of private housing here will not just contribute to general gentrification of the area but will impact on the adjacent Ridley Road Market threatening its unique character.  
  • Some of the development sites are Council-owned land. The Council must take advantage of the government’s changes to the laws on local authority borrowing and seek support from the Mayor of London to build only social-rent council homes there. 
  • This plan echoes Hackney Planning policy in stating that ‘a minimum of 50 per cent affordable housing will be sought on site for schemes of 10 units or more’. The Council must commit to enforcing this. The planning department and planning committee routinely allow developers to escape from their obligations to build ‘affordable’ housing by claiming it is not ‘viable’ to do so.

WORKSPACE EMPLOYMENT AND RETAIL

As in Morning Lane, this plan proposes replacing inclusive and affordable retail with exclusive and unaffordable shops, cafes and restaurants. While it will increase the workspace available, very little of this will be affordable for most of the people who live in Hackney. 

Specifically:

  • The plan, like it does with Ridley Road Market, presents Kingsland Shopping Centre as a problem, with ‘a poor relationship with its neighbours, preventing movement across the Town Centre’. This is a well used shopping centre that contains affordable shops including a large supermarket, provides public space and offers products catering to a range of cultures. The plan needs to acknowledge the use value of the existing centre.
  • People, when consulted, have said, as they did in response to our survey, that ‘new cafes, restaurants and shops are pricing out the existing retail and do not cater to all local people’. The proposals for Ridley Road and Kingsland Shopping Centre must be rethought in this light so that they deliver inclusive spaces and in the light of the experience with Dalston Square where not all the retail units are let. 
  • There is a commitment to 10% of new employment floorspace being ‘affordable’. This is incredibly low, and even this target is sometimes not met due to ‘viability’. Affordable is defined as up to 60% of market rates which is unaffordable for most. The majority of workspace must be genuinely affordable otherwise it will increase polarisation.
  • The planned expansion of digital-creative businesses into Dalston is problematic. All evidence shows that these will offer very few opportunities to Hackney residents. Getting the skills to enter the sector is time consuming and expensive leading it to being elitist.

RIDLEY ROAD MARKET

The Council’s stated commitment to supporting Ridley Road Market and not turning it into another Broadway Market is at variance with this plan that ignores the views of existing market traders and portrays the market as a problem in need of reform.

Specifically:

  • The Council should address the needs of market traders who report decline and increasing pressure caused primarily by gentrification and new terms and conditions imposed by the Council. The top request from traders is for adequate toilet provision and the Council must urgently address this.
  • The Council’s view that young people smoking a joint is criminal antisocial behaviour is a racist response to something that has long been normal in the community. It stigmatises the market and makes it appear a problem area in need of redevelopment and change. It is also used to justify installing 26 CCTV cameras that will change the atmosphere.
  • Extending market operation hours is likely to increase pressure on the already overworked traders. Even if they do not want to work the increased hours they may be forced to so as not to lose out to newer ‘trendy’ traders. Similarly, trying to get stall holders to accept cards instead of cash and renting out certain stalls very cheap to encourage new stall holders will also gentrify the market. 
  • On page 107, the report mentions ‘the overwhelming housing need in the Borough’ and says ‘Ridley Road has been identified by our Housing Capacity Study as a suitable site for infill’. The 26 units of housing suggested will not meet this ‘overwhelming housing need’ as the need is for social-rent housing, and as these sites are all in private ownership. But it will change the nature of Ridley Road as a market.  

FEEDBACK HOW DID WE DO?

We do not think the online consultation is working. The evidence for this is the very low number of responses. On 6th August after the consultation had been open for over six weeks, three areas had no responses (Vision & Objectives for Dalston; Workspace, Employment and Retail: Opportunity Sites in Dalston). The remaining nine areas had between 1 and 8 responses each. This includes areas of huge local interest such as Ridley Road Market where there is an active campaign that even under Covid restrictions got around 100 people to their outdoor events, and both transport and housing which have generated popular grassroots action across Hackney in the past year. 

Morning Lane People’s Space got 1384 responses to a consultation carried out over a similar time period of two months last autumn. We feel that Hackney Council can learn from what made our consultation accessible:

  • Asking open questions and ones that people don’t feel they need to read a long technical document before replying to and don’t require people to order lists of objectives written in policyspeak. 
  • Working online and offline via street stalls and door-to-door leafleting – the offline sample was more representative of Hackney in terms of age, race and social class. 
  • Building trust within the community so that people are willing to share their views.
  • Working with local groups to share the consultation including, for example, speaking at a local church and talking to contacts in Tenants and Residents Associations. 

One thing that would make it easier for people to respond and that could encourage public dialogue about the Dalston Plan would be to show the comments that have been submitted and allow people to agree or disagree with them.

Further, we do not think that the organisers have understood and represented all the issues in this consultation. Two key missing ones which came up often in response to the open questions in our own survey are: gentrification, and the need for council and social housing (not ‘affordable’ or ‘genuinely affordable’ housing). 

In reporting back on the outcomes of earlier consultations, why is there no breakdown of how many people took part by social class, race, gender and age or any analysis of their different perspectives? We found that views on Hackney planning differ significantly by class and race.

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