Campaign group’s last chance to halt Hackney Council’s “Georgian Disney” bid
PUBLISHED: 15:38 01 October 2014 | UPDATED: 15:38 01 October 2014
The future of a row of historic Georgian houses earmarked for demolition by Hackney Council hangs in the balance and will be decided at a Judicial Review on Friday.
The council demolished three of 16 houses in Dalston Lane in 2007 following a fire and began bulldozing the remainder in January.
It only halted work when conservation group OPEN (Organisation for Promotion of Environmental Needs Ltd) Dalston pointed out it was unlawful because the properties lay in a conservation area and planning permission had not been secured.
Now the group is challenging a decision made at the council’s planning committee in March, which gave the green light for total demolition to pave the way for 44 homes – none of which is classed as “affordable” – along with 1,000 square metres of open plan retail space.
At the committee hearing an engineer from Murphy – with whom the council has entered into a £2.38 million deal to build the scheme – argued it was impossible to retain the 19th-century Georgian facades because they would render the scheme “structurally unsound”.
But the committee was also told that the council’s independent structural engineer had argued there was nothing wrong with the bricks, and it would be possible to save the facades with a different design.
The terrace is earmarked for conservation in the Dalston area action plan, and a scheme to restore and retain the façade was granted planning permission in 2012.
Bill Parry-Davies, founder of OPEN Dalston which has spent 10 years trying to save the buildings, said the heritage pastiche scheme would be like a “Disney Georgian imitation”.
He said: “The buildings are important because they preserve the character of the area so people can see how Dalston used to be and share the pride in our local heritage.
“It’s quite clear these buildings could be saved.
“It was the design of the commercial-led scheme that was the problem, which involves knocking down all the ground floor walls to create open-plan shops.
“To demolish would be another example of the council’s disrespect of local heritage and locals’ views.”
Mr Parry-Davies will argue at the High Court that the council has not given due consideration to alternative schemes which would do less damage to the area.
He will also question how it came about that either council officers or a cabinet member authorised demolition of the buildings, after cabinet had authorised a scheme to conserve them.
He said: “At some point someone said, “Knock it down,” and it was only after our intervention they were called off.
“On what basis were the bulldozers sent in? It was without planning permission and without cabinet approval.”
The Georgian Group has accused the council of “studied neglect”, by letting the buildings fall into dereliction over the past decade.
A council spokesman said: “It is not appropriate to comment on as yet unresolved legal matters.”
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