Dalston tenants see sunlight in homes for first time in three years after giant advert removed
PUBLISHED: 12:32 18 November 2019 | UPDATED: 09:18 20 November 2019
Tenants in Kingsland Road awoke to the sun shining into their homes for the first time in three years yesterday after a giant advertisement was pulled down.
The 17 households living above The Diner at the junction with Dalston Lane have been denied sunlight since their landlord sold the sides of the building as advertising space in 2016.
Hackney Council says it prosecuted ad firm Blowup Media over the sign in 2017 and magistrates ruled it was legal.
But after a cross-party campaign led by local Green party activists, at about 1am on Sunday workers were seen with a crane taking it down.
Mihret Zeratsion, 59, was placed in the building by Lambeth Council while she waits for a permanent home. She's been bidding for 10 years.
She told the Gazette: "I have had sunshine after three years in my room. I woke up and thought: 'What is happening?'. Today everything is okay."
Mihret said despite numerous complaints from tenants about the advert, no one listened.
"They don't care," she said. "The landlord said he got a lot of money for it."
Alex Armitage, the Green party candidate for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, praised the collaborative nature of the campaign, which included his party, the London Renters Union, Open Dalston and Dalston Labour councillor Soraya Adejare.
He said: "For over three years tenants have been unable to see out of their windows because their landlord sold the sunlight to an advertisement company who erected a huge hoarding around the building.
"This really shows the power of what community action can do.
"There was a coalition of people that campaigned, and we really came together as a community. There was no political tribalism."
Alex said the campaigners would continue to pressure the landlord into improving living conditions in the building, which is reported to have leaks and a lack of security.
BlowUp Media, which rented the space, said in 2016 it "targets the hard to reach 'eclectic go-getters' in east London."
"Dalston is a great place to explore with its clubs, street foods, markets, independents and geeks of all styles," it said, adding that the first advert there would reach 600,000 people in two weeks.
It is not yet known who is responsible for the advert being removed.
The Gazette understands the council has recently been taking legal advice on how to get it taken down.
Previous attempts to remove similar adverts in the borough have also been overturned by the Planning Inspectorate on appeal, and so the town hall is reluctant to go toe-to-toe with advertising companies with deeper pockets.
Hackney Society chair and planning expert Nick Perry said: "We are increasingly seeing blatant, undisguised gaming of a system that is slow to respond to advertising consent offences and carries with it small fines well below the value of the advertising and which doesn't even affect the agencies and middle men.
"It's way too easy to run rings around councils and end up quids-in at the end of process. We need to see a stronger line being taken with full recourse to the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover the generous fees the building owners have made in these cases."
The council says it has also previously served improvement notices on the landlord, which they had complied with. It is now investigating the building again, but stated it had not used it as temporary accommodation for families on its housing list since 2015.
A spokesperson said: "These adverts were installed illegally, and the owner's failure to remove them previously despite previous enforcement attempts by the council shows not just the greed of some landlords but also the challenges councils face preventing this kind of advertising.
"We're delighted the adverts have finally been taken down, and we will continue to take whatever action we can to ensure any similar adverts installed without consent in the borough are removed.
"We are now investigating the conditions inside the buildings, and will not hesitate to serve notices on the landlord if the homes here fail to meet the standards that we expect and the residents deserve."
BlowUp Media did not respond to a request for comment.