Hackney residents tell our Council to change their plans

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.

WE DISAGREE

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.

55 Morning Lane must be developed based on the needs of Hackney residents for social-rent council housing, affordable and accessible shopping and community and public space. See this report carried out by Morning Lane People’s Space for more information: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1SChDd4voyXnBuZeifvwL1KeD_MfVdfnV/view?usp=sharing

Our March 2022 public meeting

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.

Our response to Hackney Council’s Consultation: Help Keep Hackney Building

 DO YOU CARE ABOUT HOUSING IN HACKNEY?

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.

HOW TO RESPOND

Click on this link. The Council’s questions are in bold and our responses in italics.

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. 

MORNING LANE PEOPLE’S SPACE RESPONSE TO Hackney Council’s The Grand Challenge and Missions Survey: Have your say on the future of Hackney Central 

THIS CONSULTATIONS HAS NOW CLOSED. WE’LL BE POSTING AN UPDATE ON IT SOON.

Here is the link to take part: https://hcc.commonplace.is/proposals/missions-and-grand-challenge/step1

The deadline is 28 February

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 Survey asks 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.

Finally, you are invited to leave your ‘project ideas’ on an interactive map. You can go directly to the map via this link: https://hcc.commonplace.is/map/hackney-central-map 

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. 

55 Morning Lane must be developed based on the needs of Hackney residents for social-rent council housing, affordable and accessible shopping and community and public space. See this report carried out by Morning Lane People’s Space for more information: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1SChDd4voyXnBuZeifvwL1KeD_MfVdfnV/view?usp=sharing 

Hackney Council’s biased survey to reconfirm priorities for Hackney Central 

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:

  1. Skip all the prepackaged questions. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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

  1. building council housing at social rents
  2. affordable and accessible shopping
  3. public and community spaces
  4. consultations that don’t insult the intelligence of the people of Hackney

Setting the record straight

We want to correct some of the things we’ve heard people say about the Morning Lane development.

The Mayor said that by buying the 55 Morning Lane site, the Council ensured that we will keep a Tesco store on the site.

This is not true. Tesco made the sale of the site conditional on there being a Tesco store incorporated into the development. Tesco have always wanted to remain on the site.

Continue reading “Setting the record straight”

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.

Continue reading “Our response to the Dalston Plan”

Hackney Council: do NOT cut the housing waiting list

At the beginning of 2021, we joined London Renters Union, Labour Campaign for Council Housing and other housing campaigners in opposing Hackney Council’s proposals to remove an estimated 7,000 people from the Council’s housing register (‘the housing waiting list’) that then stood at over 13,000.

We understand that the current financial settlement and legislation make it difficult to build council and social housing. However, the proposed changes did nothing to address the problem and instead would make a terrible situation worse.

Continue reading “Hackney Council: do NOT cut the housing waiting list”

LACK of Freedom of Information

On 12 August 2020, Morning Lane People’s Space submitted a Freedom of Information request to Hackney Council. We asked for all communication about 55 Morning Lane between our Council and private developers (“pre-application exchanges (January 2017-present) between Hackney Planning Department and the prospective developers of the 55 Morning Lane (Tesco) site”)

Public authorities have 20 working days to respond to such requests. Hackney Council took over 8 months. Such delays make it harder for residents to get involved and for grassroots campaigns like ours. On 22 April 2021, they replied, refusing to release any information. The Council asked their chosen developer Hackney Walk Ltd “to agree to the release of the information. They have responded saying that releasing the material into the public domain would be highly prejudicial to their client for commercial reasons”

It is not surprising that a private developer does not want this information released. Hackney Walk Ltd have said nothing about their plans for the site in over a year and a half and their previous development in Hackney, the ‘Fashion Hub’ is a total disaster. 

It is disappointing to see Hackney Council once again prioritising the interests of a private developer over those of Hackney citizens.

Continue reading “LACK of Freedom of Information”