The public have no right to read the discussions between Hackney Council and dodgy developer Hackney Walk about their plans for 55 Morning Lane. This is the disappointing ruling of the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The Commissioner has read the information that we can’t see and decided “it is clearly not of a trivial nature”. Yet still he has decided it’s in the public interest for pre-application discussions between Councils and developers to be confidential. This distorted logic assumes that we get better results for the public when we don’t know what’s happening rather than when local residents have the information we need to hold our elected representatives to account.
From 2010 to 2022, Hackney Council built just 464 council rent homes in the borough. During that same 12 year period, they sold 895 homes. That’s a net loss of 431 units of public housing, despite thousands of Hackney residents being in insecure and temporary accomodation, sometimes for years.
Thanks to Ruth Parkinson for finding this out and sharing it with us. She submitted a Freedom of Information request asking for “the total number of council homes sold under Right To Buy or other deals/schemes ie to developers total for each year 2010 to 2022” and the “number of council homes built year by year 2010 to 2022 not to include shared ownership or affordable housing as defined by the council”. The Council have told Ruth the total number of council homes sold but not how many were sold outside of Right to Buy, the national scheme under which tenants have a right to buy their council property.
You can see the year-by-year numbers supplied by Hackney Council above.
Use this letter to ask your local councillors to demand at least 50% social rent council housing on any development on the Tesco site in Hackney Central and to support Morning Lane People’s Space in campaigning for an open transparent process going forward.
I am a resident in your ward. I write to you regarding future plans for the Tesco site at 55 Morning Lane.
Morning Lane People’s Space have been running a campaign around the proposed development for over 2 years. Throughout this period, they have held public meetings and regularly leafleted outside the store, on local estates and in local businesses. In the process they have talked with thousands of people. Last year the campaign promoted a survey seeking local people’s priorities for the site and received a huge response compared to most community ‘consultation’ exercises. About 1400 people gave feedback, identifying their top priorities for the site as social housing and a large supermarket. The campaigners, harnessing the expressed wishes of the community, are demanding at least 50% council housing at social rent on the site.
I believe this is a very reasonable ‘ask’ given that we are in the midst of a housing emergency and the land in question was paid for by public money. Hackney Council’s stated aim is a fairer, safer and more sustainable borough. Hackney Labour’s manifesto commits to building significantly more social rent homes in this term of office than in recent years. I am therefore dismayed by Mayor Phillip Glanville’s response to the campaign’s demand that it would be ‘almost impossible’ to ensure that half of the homes built will be social housing. If this is the case on a site owned by the Council, then the possibility of ever securing anything approaching the amount of social housing actually needed in the borough looks very grim indeed. Other sites have achieved more social housing in recent years, the Peabody development in the old Holloway Prison in Islington is creating 42% social rent homes and overall, 60% affordable housing,
As Hackney Council have not made their viability study for the Tesco site public, I am therefore requesting your support in finding the answer as to why they cannot provide 50% social rent housing there, instead suggesting 30% ‘affordable’ which is unaffordable to most Hackney residents. It is vital that they publish their viability study so that it can be subjected to scrutiny and so that the planning process is transparent. I also ask you to join the campaign in demanding at least 50% social housing, exploring all avenues such as funding from the Mayor of London. I am aware that the council is looking for a new partner to develop the site now that Hackney Walk have dropped out. I am anxious that the Morning Lane People’s Space campaign group who have championed the voice of the community thus far will be marginalised in the future. I would urge you to support their continued involvement to maintain a democratic, open and transparent development process.
This development and the opportunity it provides to create social housing is a key issue for myself and many local residents. I hope you will make every effort to take this issue up on our behalf and I look forward to your response.
The Mayor of Hackney’s statement on the future of the Tesco site in Hackney Central shows he takes this development seriously. The statement talks of a “new approach” but contains nothing that is new. Hackney Council will continue strategic control of the development, which we welcome. They also say they will proceed “openly, transparently and alongside the community”. This has not happened so far and Morning Lane People’s Space have consistently challenged them on this. Three Freedom of Information requests from us on details of the previous plan have been rejected (one of these we reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office and is currently under investigation by them). The land purchase and the deal with the original developer were not consulted on by the council. The Mayor attended a meeting with the community in 2020, at our invitation, and the council set up the Hackney Central Community Panel in 2021. This panel is not genuine consultation. It is a test bed for the council’s plans designed to give the illusion not the reality of consultation. The only consultation on the local community’s needs and priorities for the Tesco Morning Lane site has been carried out by us in MOPS. The “feedback we have already received” which the Mayor speaks about is from the MOPS survey which identified public housing and a big supermarket as residents’ top priorities. In the council chamber, answering Green councillor Zoë Garbett, the Mayor said they would not be able meet the MOPS demand for 50% council housing at social rent, nor would the council collaborate with MOPS on our consultation for the future plans. They would try to meet a target of 30% so-called ‘affordable homes’. The mayor is honouring his promise of meeting with Morning Lane People’s Space next month. We will reiterate that 50% council housing at social rent on the site is already a compromise. Hackney needs 100% public housing in new developments on public land. Affordable is a term we no longer use as it includes tenures like shared ownership that are UNaffordable to most Londoners. We do not need more private market housing in Hackney. History will judge; public land must be used for public housing.
Corporate consultants SEC Newgate describe Hackney Council as “resolutely pro-development in the face of opposing political campaigns in the borough” like us and Save Ridley Road. As a result, “the bulk of housing built in Hackney in at least the last two decades has been for market sale”. Hackney council put developers and their desire for huge profits above the needs of the people of Hackney. As we outline below, this is clear in the manifesto on which Labour won power in last month’s elections. It is something that we in Morning Lane People’s Space resolutely oppose as we campaign for a people’s plan for the Tesco site in Hackney Central.
Hackney Council has been ‘regenerating’ its housing estates. This means demolishing council homes and replacing them chiefly with expensive private housing. For example, Woodberry Down originally had almost 2000 council homes. By the end of the regeneration scheme, with Berkeley Homes as the developer, it is projected to have over 5,500 homes, only 20% of which will be for social rent and they will be managed by Genesis Housing Association, not by the council.
Successive Conservative governments have severely cut funding to local government. In a desperate bid to fund basic services, Hackney Council is increasingly becoming a developer of market housing on sites like 55 Morning Lane which it bought five years ago for £60 million of public money. This is unlikely to be successful, as they’re competing with ruthless profiteers. But even if it were successful, the council would become a ruthless profiteer, and Hackney will be covered with expensive housing aimed at investors, with ordinary people marginalised and pushed out of the borough or forced into an insecure and overpriced private housing.
The manifesto on which Labour was re-elected to run Hackney Council doubles down on this failed agenda.
This manifesto lists 12 projects to be continued or completed including Woodberry Down. Most are controversial and some have been fiercely resisted by residents. At Lincoln Court, the council plans to fill the play decks between the existing tower blocks with yet more high rise housing: 87 units consisting of 29 social rent, 29 shared ownership, and 29 market sale. This will densify the living conditions of existing residents, deprive their children of play space, and gentrify the area. All for the gain of just 29 social-rent homes. The Britannia Project breaches manifesto commitments. For example, we are promised “the right mix of accessible and family housing”. But of the 314 market homes, 30 shared ownership homes and 51 social-rent homes, only 13 will have more than two bedrooms. This disadvantages many families seeking affordable housing, and adds to the problem of overcrowding in London.
Throughout the manifesto, we find statements that hide the reality of what is happening. We are told Hackney Council “have helped a record number of homeless people and families … moving homeless families out of temporary accommodation and into decent homes”. In reality, they’ve removed thousands from the housing waiting list and in just one year, they directed over 400 households into private rented housing. When they tell us that they “will build 1,000 council homes for social rent”, they don’t say that this includes homes promised but not delivered in the previous four years, nor how many shared ownership and market homes will also be built.
It’s not just Hackney’s housing policies that are excluding people and serving the needs of big capital. The manifesto informs us that Hackney is “a council that works to facilitate growth. … We will look to community-led regeneration and place-based to ‘place-shape’ our town centres, high streets, neighbourhoods and estates” to “support good growth”. This is doublespeak. What is ‘good growth’ and who benefits? And what does ‘place shape’ even mean?
What Hackney Council needs to do is to start listening to those of us who live here. We have documented how previous consultations are narrow exercises designed to get the answers the Council wants. In the manifesto, they are oblivious to these problems and to the growing distrust: “We will build on the best practice that has been developed through the Dalston and Hackney Central Conversations”. They promise even more so-called ‘Conversations’: “We will restart … the Clapton and Homerton place-making plans … toward a Clapton Conversation and a Homerton Conversation”.
Finally, what does this mean for 55 Morning Lane? With the Council’s deal with failed developer Hackney Walk collapsing in the middle of the local election campaign, there’s very little about the site in the manifesto. Our new regime promises to develop “the Morning Lane site as an extension of the town centre” and to “explore and plan for a new space for the Hackney Museum and also explore the creation of a Hackney Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice”. We need human rights and social justice in practice, not in a museum. It would be ironic if this Centre ends up alongside a development that increases inequality but quite on brand for a council that ultimately prioritises profit over people.
The pro-developer and market orientation of Hackney Council underlines the need for campaigns for social housing, real consultation and community plans to continue. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you want to get involved.
Recently the Council asked Hackney residents yet again for our views on their plans for Hackney Central. Although it was widely publicised by the Council including via street advertising, emails and social media, not many people took part. But if the Council listen to those who did, they will rethink their plans for the area. If they ignore the results of this consultation, itwill increase the existing distrust between the community and the council and mean even fewer people take part the next time.
Only 9 people strongly agreed that the Council’s missions for Hackney Central are clear and easy to understand, 25 agreed and 10 neither agreed nor disagreed. In comparison 42 people strongly disagreed and another 6 disagreed. That’s a majority 53% saying we don’t understand your missions.
On whether “the five missions capture what I think to be the biggest priorities in Hackney Central for the next ten years”, the results were nearly as bad, with 40 strongly disagreeing, 8 disagreeing, 22 agreeing, 17 strongly agreeing and 6 in the neither category. Again that’s over half of people who took part disagreeing, most of them strongly. People felt pretty much the same when they were asked about the individual five missions. And on the Council’s Grand Challenge for Hackney Central, whatever that is, again over half of those disagreed with it.
WE CARE ABOUT 55 MORNING LANE
The consultation also included an interactive map of Hackney Central where you could add your ideas for the area and give a thumbs up to agree with someone else’s idea. 93 ideas were registered and 156 agreements – though we don’t know how many people took part as you could add as many ideas or agreements as you wanted. 14 of the ideas relate to 55 Morning Lane – that’s a lot more than for anywhere else in Hackney Central and nearly half (48%) of the thumbs ups were for one of those 14 ideas.
Here’s some of those ideas:
There has been enough development already. Leave the car park for as it is. Look how useful it has been during the initial Covid crises? I do not want to hear another so called affordable housing development taking place and changing the culture and the landscape in Hackney.
Stop gentrification. We need homes and services that we can all afford e.g. a large supermarket 2. We need community and public spaces, including non-commercial space. 3. Affordable housing that is ACTUALLY affordable for real people!
Build council homes at social rent a large supermarket and community space
You need to do more involve the community in this development. Any new housing must include at least 50% social rent and open public space for Hackney residents to enjoy. We also need affordable shopping not luxury shops or the ‘fashion hub’ (remember that?).
The Tesco site should have a large supermarket that serves the local community, at least 50% social-rent council housing, and some public space for the community.
Keep the large Tesco site and the free parking facilities. Any housing developed on the site should be exclusively council social rented housing to meet local people’s urgent needs.
I saw something on a flyer about Morning Lane People’s Space doing a consultation on what should happen to Tesco when it gets knocked down so filled in a response to their consultation. I really really hope the council takes their input seriously, and involves more people and ideas in the development of this site. The Tesco (and its carpark) are an important part of the local ecosystem – given what’s happened with Hackney Walk, just up the road – so much public money spent on supporting private business that’s now all closed, it’s going to be really important to get this right. I’m not a driver and don’t own a car, but I know some people who have to drive (or use cabs that can drop them off somewhere safe where they have time to get out) because of mobility issues – this carpark is very useful for them, for shoppers fetching big items from iceland/tesco etc and for people that need picking up (by parents, cabs etc) after a night out so they can get home safely. I hope it doesn’t all get built on, and I hope whatever block and shops that come here aren’t so fancy/exclusive/’luxury’ that they aren’t useful or welcoming to most people nearby
Finally, this is our contribution. 48 people agreed with it.
Thanks to everyone who came to our public meeting on 31st March 2022. This day marked the end of the 5-year Option Agreement between Hackney Council and dodgy developer Hackney Walk Ltd. This means that our council can now go back to the drawing board. At this meeting we called on them work with us to develop a people’s plan for the 55 Morning Lane Tesco site in Hackney Central.
Everyone at the meeting agreed that the Council must use public land like 55 Morning Lane to meet the desperate need for social rent housing. Our campaign is calling for 50% of all the housing built there to be council housing at social rents. Some people in the meeting felt that was too low. Also on housing, people stressed the need for beautiful housing for families, not just more one and two-bed flats, and for housing that’s energy efficient.
Social rent housing may not bring in the same profits as high private rents but it cuts the the amount the council spends on temporary accomodation and it builds community wealth by giving people secure homes, keeping them safer, healthier and happier, giving them the chance to build roots in Hackney and making them more able to contribute to the life of our borough.
Those at the meeting want to see a new supermarket of the same size as the current Tesco and that like the current store offers culturally diverse food at low prices. We talked about the possibility of making a new store on multiple floors and having the car parking underground.
Everyone also wanted to see more public space including spaces that are family friendly, intergenerational, community run and green.
We’ll be doing more work to bring forward the community’s views in the months ahead. We invite everyone to contribute to that process.
IF SO, READ ON AND RESPOND TO THE CONSULTATION before the DEADLINE of midnight on Thursday 28 April 2022
Our response is divided into WHAT ARE THE ISSUES and HOW TO RESPOND
WHAT ARE THE ISSUES?
Our campaign has been around the Tesco site at 55 Morning Lane – a large site owned by the Council in the heart of Hackney. We have consulted thousands of people, and they say they need a big supermarket and if there is any housing it should be social rent housing.
We can use this consultation to demand that the council don’t sell out to private developers.
The consultation title ‘Keep Hackney Building’ implies building is always a good thing. This is not the view from the 1400 Hackney residents who filled out our survey.
From 2015-19, the council came close to hitting its five-year target of building 7,995 new homes. But over 5,200 were for sale or rent at market rates and just 227 were for social rent. This year, thousands of families have been taken off the housing waiting list. They were not given homes. They were removed without their consent from a housing list that they had been on, in hope, often, for years.
Building expensive flats, shops and cafes is displacing Hackney residents. It is social cleansing.
We think our Council should NOT be consulting us about how they can ‘Keep Hackney Building’ but about ‘What Hackney Should be Building’?
This consultation is only about land that the council owns, not private land. Hackney Council is already committed in its planning policy to ensuring that at least 50% of all new homes are ‘affordable’. But this ‘affordable’ category contains shared ownership housing that is not affordable to most Hackney residents.
On public land, a minimum of 50% of all new homes must be for social rent as this is the only housing that most people can afford.
If you agree with us, it’s important to respond to this consultation.
1. The Council is committed to investing in existing Council homes alongside delivering new Council homes for local people. Do you agree or disagree with this?
This question is written to try to make it impossible for anyone to disagree. We suggest leaving it blank because it is misleading. Only some council housing is for social rent. Hackney now uses the phrase ‘council homes’ to include expensive tenures like shared ownership and even housing for market sale.
2. What kinds of sites should the Council look to build new homes on?
This question is about building new housing, not social rent or even so-called ‘affordable’ homes. We left the tick boxes blank and used the ‘Add something else’ option to focus on social-rent homes. We put: “Refurbishing NOT replacing outdated council homes; Building where the local community consents AND to provide social-rent housing”.
3. To provide the number of new homes we need should the Council build: Taller buildings, with more open space; Lower-rise buildings, with less open space
4. Why did you choose this answer?
Again these questions are about building new housing, not social rent or even so-called ‘affordable’ homes. We left question 3 blank and replied with this to question 4: “Whether lower rise or high rise, the priority must be social-rent housing”.
5. What should the Council’s priorities be when building new homes?
6. What features are most important for successful new home projects?
These are yet more questions about ‘new housing’. So again we left the tick boxes blank and used the ‘Add something else’ options to focus on social-rent homes: “1. Providing social rent housing to provide homes for people on the waiting list. 2. Not gentrifying Hackney”.
Questions 7 to 10 provide a chance to demand social-rent housing at 55 Morning Lane.
7. Do you have any suggestions for locations that we could consider for new Council homes?
55 Morning Lane
8. What is the current use at the location?
A large one-storey Tesco and a car park
9. Why have you suggested this location?
Add something else: “It’s identified for development by the Council and owned by them, there is space to build up and down”.
10. What would you like to see delivered at this location?
At least 50% social-rent council housing while retaining a cheap supermarket of at least the same size and town-centre parking.
The first part of the consultation asks people how much they agree with five ‘Missions’, each with a list of ‘Action Areas’ that do not give any details of proposals. It is both vague and patronising. Rather than taking the opportunity to ask people what they think of specific plans it is a tick-box exercise.
In this response we explain our view of the Consultation and how we have responded. We encourage people to take part.
OUR VIEW OF THE CONSULTATION
The Grand Challenge Surveyasks you to answer by choosing one of five options (from strongly agree to strongly disagree) for each of the following: The Grand Challenge for Hackney Central, the five Missions (whether they capture the biggest priorities in Hackney Central for the next ten years, whether they are clear and easy to understand, and whether you agree with them). You can’t differentiate between particular Action Areas within the Missions.
The five Missions are: 1: Champion our Character, 2: Wellbeing for All, 3: A Fair Economy, 4: Green and Resilient, 5: Developing Well. The Missions are worded so as to be hard to reject. Who can strongly disagree with ‘wellbeing for all’ or ‘a fair economy’?
Each Mission consists of five to seven bullet point Action Areas. The bullet points have been boiled down so far that the meaning or implications are unclear.
Take ‘Mission 1: Champion our Character’, the five ‘Action areas’’ are ‘Unique heritage of Hackney Central’, ‘Hackney Central’s 24-hour economy’, ‘Cultural programming’, ‘Spatial & frontage improvements’ and ‘Reinvigorate high streets’. These could mean a variety of things. What will happen to Hackney Central’s unique heritage? What aspect of Hackney Central’s 24-hour economy is the focus – affordable shops, posh bars and restaurants, community provision? What and whose culture will be programmed and how?
Turning to ‘Mission 2: Wellbeing for All’, this includes ‘New affordable homes’ (note affordable not social-rent housing), ‘Physical barriers to public space’ and ‘Street space for civic life’. Once again, the meaning and implications of these are unclear.
And so it goes on.
There are no specific developments or proposals mentioned. Not for the Tesco site, the Clapton bus garage, the council depot or the railway arches, to name but four of the proposed redevelopment sites.
HOW WE HAVE RESPONDED
Our recommendation is to STRONGLY DISAGREE with all the statements because the Missions are not specific enough, and our experience is that any positive response will be taken by the Council as agreement to whatever development ideas they have for Hackney Central during the next ten years, however damaging those may be.
After the closed questions, there is a space for ‘Any other comments’. We think that this is the most useful part of the survey because it is open to any response. Below are the points that we have made on behalf of the campaign. We encourage others to make similar points.
The priorities for Hackney Central should be: 1. Delivering social-rent housing NOT so-called ‘affordable’ housing. Hackney Council’s ‘affordable housing’ definition includes tenures like shared ownership which are not affordable for most people in Hackney. 2. Stopping gentrification by focusing on homes and services that we can all afford e.g. keeping a large supermarket, creating cafes and other venues for everyone. 3. Creating community and public spaces, including youth provision and non-commercial space. 4. Involving local people in meaningful consultation about what happens in the area not tokenistic and patronising consultations like this one.
Click ‘have your say’ in the top right hand corner and add a pin at the Tesco site, 55 Morning Lane. Below are our comments. We encourage others to make similar points. You can also click on this link to our comment and use the ‘thumbs up’ to agree with it.
This consultation is happening via an online survey that is open until midnight on Monday 23rd November. You can access it here: https://hcc.commonplace.is/proposals/survey/step1 This post outlines our response including our suggestion for how to complete the survey.
It is good to see Hackney Council taking the lead from us in one sense. This survey simplifies their usual consultations. The online survey is quicker to complete and avoids much of the technical jargon that can put people off. It already has over 100 responses which is more than recent online consultations have obtained at a similar point.
If the Council wants to get a representative sample of Hackney residents they will need to work offline, as we did by, for example, having a stall with paper surveys in a busy shopping area, taking surveys into organisations like churches, and connecting with TRAs (Tenants and Residents Associations) and other community groups.
Beyond that, this survey is another example of the leading and biased consultations that we have sadly come to expect from Hackney Council. This bias is evident in the following ways:
The use of closed questions without an ‘other’ category. For example, under community safety the only priorities permissible are preventing drug dealing/drug use, public urination, street drinking, and other anti-social behaviour. If these aren’t your priorities you can’t say ‘none of the above’. If your priority for community safety is to prevent the closure of children’s centres and youth services, you can’t register this.
The use of closed questions with very limited options. The community safety question at least allows a choice of four options. Of the remaining five closed questions, four have just two or three options. For example, under Streetscene & public realm design, you can opt for tackling dangerous junctions or increasing pedestrian crossings (or both). It seems the Council have more-or-less decided what to do. By asking us to choose between these two options, they can then focus on the one that comes top and present this as reflecting the priorities of residents.
The openness-to-interpretation of the options: For example, under Local economy, people can choose between: Increased cultural activities, Better shopping and retail offer, and Improving the night time economy. We know that many residents are concerned about the lack of cheap accessible shopping and are very worried that we will lose the Morning Lane Tesco. But if they opt for ‘Better shopping and retail offer’, how will that be interpreted? Will Hackney Council use it to justify building a new fashion hub or encouraging ‘makers’ to set up shop on Morning Lane as their partner developer Hackney Walk suggested in 2019?
The exclusion of key issues from the options: Housing was people’s top priority across all demographic groups in our survey of 1384 people. There would be no way of knowing this from the Council’s consultation because the only place housing appears is fleetingly under Housing and Development, where we are asked to select our priorities from the three options: More housing, including affordable housing; General development; and Improving poor quality of the built environment/maintaining heritage assets. Not only was people’s top issue housing but our survey showed that most do NOT want ‘more housing’. They have seen through the lie that is ‘affordable housing’. Repeatedly they told us that their priority is social housing and council housing. This is not within the options prescribed by the Council’s consultation.
There is a free response box: ‘Please tell us why you selected these options. Please indicate clearly which option you selected before telling us why’. This at least allows people to explain their responses. However, it would be better to put this under each of the six questions to make it easier for people completing the survey and to give a fuller picture to those analysing the survey data.
The Council is using this survey to reconfirm priorities from an earlier more open consultation carried out as part of the Hackney Central Conversation. However, this earlier consultation is flawed in that it had a low response rate and an unrepresentative sample. Although 2000 people took part, the vast majority of these did not comment themselves but either liked or disliked one or more comments from others. There were a little over 300 people who commented in total. Their comments cover a wide range of topics from crime to housing, from the environment to commerce. As a result, the Council decided its priorities in a specific area on the basis of very few responses.
These responses do NOT come from a cross section of Hackney’s population. Notably, 173 respondents provided details about their home ownership. 45% are mortgaged property owners, 17% rent from a private landlord, and fewer than 20% live in social housing. Yet, in our borough, 45% of all households rent from a social landlord and about a third are private renters. Hackney residents are now being asked to choose between the priorities of a group who are wealthier and have more secure housing than most people who live here. This is likely to be why social and council housing, affordable shopping and gentrification appear much less often in the Council’s data than in our more representative and larger survey.
Our recommendation is to complete this survey as follows:
Skip all the prepackaged questions.
In the box asking why you selected your priorities, explain that you left them blank because they are loaded questions that do not allow you to prioritise what matters to you.
Give your priorities in response to the open question: ‘Is there anything we’ve missed? Leave comments below to tell us what you think should be the priorities for Hackney Central’.
We will be sharing the priorities that Hackney residents shared with us
building council housing at social rents
affordable and accessible shopping
public and community spaces
consultations that don’t insult the intelligence of the people of Hackney