WHAT-NEXT-FOR-DALSTON

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					WHAT NOW FOR DALSTON? Dalston 4 London Project. Public Debate organised by Hackney Co-operative Developments CIC. 31st January, 2008 at the Vortex Jazz Club, Gillett Square, Dalston Chaired by Father William Taylor (WT), of St. Ethelburga’s Church Panel: Adam Hart (AH) Jennette Arnold (JA) Lindsay Tripp (LT) Sonia Khan (SK) Peter Kenyon (PK) Neil Barklem (NB)

CEO, Hackney Cooperative Developments GLA Assembly member for NE London Renaisi, Invest in Hackney CEO, Hackney Training and Employment Network Trustee, The Bootstrap Company Ltd. CE, the Innovatory, Hoxton; Hackney Enterprises Network Bill Parry-Davis (BP-D) Chair, OPEN Dalston Guy Nicholson (GN) LBH Cabinet Member for Regeneration Dr. Bekele Gessess (BG) CEO, Agroforep Hackney Refugee Forum (Where names of speakers from the floor are not known, they are identified by the organisation they represented. We have had to guess at the spelling of some names.) Adam Hart began the proceedings, saying that HCD's Dalston4London project intends to hold several further 'What Now for Dalston ?' meetings, and introduced the panel. Question 1: Dalston is primed for massive inward investment: will this be good for the area? What are the threats and opportunities? Panel: GN: The strength of Dalston is that it enjoys variety, and is visited by many people, who generate a great deal of business. Thanks to the railway, land values are now hitting £3 million an acre in the town centre and there will be massive inward investment. The question is how to use it to make an enhanced offer: there is a danger of people being priced out of the area. JA: I’m part of the Montserratian community here in Dalston. I welcome change and aspiration but there is a danger of displacement of local communities. The increasing land value will change the population and we need more drive about who is leading on behalf of the Dalston people: this is not clear enough. Is it a GLA issue, or a local one? I would see Guy and the borough as having the lead. BP-D: The Dalston Lane South development was sold to OPEN on the grounds that it would attract a critical mass of well-off people who would spend £480 a week each in Dalston and that there would be 12 trains an hour to the City – although we know that the East London Line does not run into the City. Much of that money is going to go to supermarkets and multiples, however, so the money will leave the borough. The value of the Council-owned land on that site has been given away to TfL in order to fund the slab and bus station. Good

things about the development are that section 106 money will hopefully be reinvested in local training and education facilities and the public realm. PK: Although Bootstrap Enterprises went into liquidation last year, it has been replaced by the Bootstrap Co. Ltd. whose new trustees have been working hard to turn its business around. Like HCD, it is among the pioneers attracting inward investment from Europe and other sources; it also has the largest solar panel installation in London and there is a skills base which can make use of the new land values, if they can be captured. SK: This isn’t necessarily a good thing. It is well known from previous instances that private money invested for private gain is not beneficial for local communities: trickle-down does not work. We need to ensure that s.106 money does help and that public money goes to those most in need – the older, those with learning difficulties and other groups such as those among the clients of HCVS – via organisations who can use it best. What Dalston has already needs to be valued. LT (who admitted to some professional bias): Invest in Hackney has looked at how inward investment can serve the community. It can lead to job creation, and multiples/supermarkets can provide these opportunities. They should not, however, come in at the expense of the existing diversity of small businesses. They needn’t dominate and can attract investment which benefits the smaller businesses. NB: I hope so! There will be both opportunities and threats. Franchises can expand an individual’s income faster than private enterprise and there is more scope for that if money is coming in. Big franchises could swamp smaller businesses, but they offer better financial opportunities than small businesses. Comments from the floor: Frances Hollis, Space Studios: The rise of land prices is already severely and adversely affecting us. (a male voice) HCVS: I am appalled at the fallacy of incomers spending £400+ per week here. We have everything we need already in Dalston. But do we have confidence in our local decision-makers? Diana Weir: Since the arrival of Tesco, Sainsbury’s has been actively comparing prices with them and some prices have actually risen, so they are now operating a duopoly with regard to prices i.e. the arrival of competition has not driven prices down. Eileen ?: Why would anyone want to come to Dalston if it looks like everywhere else? People come here for the longstanding market, not for identikit chains. We need more green space – not concrete squares - and more rental provision for small units, local people and groups. Anon (female): Don’t the Council have to agree to which businesses come in? Andrew Boff: The money is lovely but the question is, who is spending it? When only 12% of the new blocks will be affordable housing, it seems as if the powers that be are ashamed of Dalston’s working class heritage. This looks like a sort of social cleansing. Can the panel reassure us?

BG: If it improves the environment, creates children’s facilities and jobs, then yes. We had the bitter experience in the 1950s and 1960s in Africa, Asia and South America where mass investment only displaced local peoples. We need a very strong partnership involving local people. Black and ethnic minorities have never been part of the decision-making process: they need to be empowered. (a female voice) Hackney Society/a local Conservation Area Advisory Committee: Is there any policy for positive discrimination in favour of local people for new jobs? Is there any opportunity to have a community hall?

Panel: LT: Of every pound spent by Hackney resident, 84p is spent outside the borough. We don’t want a clone town dominated by chain stores; the high street is too big to rely on niche offers. JA: Transport for London’s involvement is part of their £10 billion investment programme. It is right that Dalston have part of that. There is a compact with the Council over getting local jobs in London Overground. I have taken responsibility for monitoring the number of jobs for locals coming out of that money. SK: Money going into training for local residents should lead to employment opportunities for them. GN: There will be a new town centre library with free computer access, a new centre for the archives and a new public space the size of a football pitch. (Hecklers from the floor objected that we already have locally both a library with free computer access and an archive centre, while the supposed ‘public space’ is only a street.) AH: A pity we couldn’t just have had a football pitch<. GN: Businesses need to be supported: the challenge is to prevent cloning. At the moment Gillett Square is underused. BP-D: The new public square was deemed to meet public needs but it gets only two hours of light a day, being in a canyon of tall buildings. A racial equality impact assessment is mandatory on all major developments but none was done for the Dalston Junction/Dalston Lane South developments - which is illegal. We have lost both the Dalston Theatre, which was a landmark building for the black community, and the Hephzebah Church School, which was 100% black. The flats in this development are almost all for sale to young white professionals – not for rental – and there are only 58 affordable flats.

Question 2: How can new enterprises affect worklessness? What should developers be asked for? What partnerships are needed? Panel: PK: Hackney Co-operative Developments, the Bootstrap Co. and others, such as HBV Enterprise, represent local expertise already.

As to Tesco etc, it depends on who the landlord is. For trustees, their business is hard to turn down as they are good tenants but we would at least ensure that that money stays in the community. We can learn from what happened on Dalston Lane South; help us persuade the local authority that these local organisations can capture such inward investment. Community ownership is important. BG: There are communities which are hard to reach because of language problems, children on the streets and the like. We need a refugee centre where local professionals can come to provide help to these groups. Physical community space is needed. We need to give motivation to these people to engage, and we need investment. We must raise awareness among the minorities about community resources. WT: What is happening in Dalston now is similar to the emergence of Spitalfields in the 1980s when inward investment arrived there. It has become a destination zone in the public imagination quite recently, in the way that Spitalfields did 10-20 years ago. Rosemary Hutchins, a sole trader in Spitalfields: Inward investment in Spitalfields drove out small traders, except where they took over empty buildings, such as Trumans Brewery. The original regeneration was not the result of major funding, but small local initiatives. On the subject of fair trade: Tesco, Asda and Primark pay their people very little and don’t agree to any fair trade deals. It would be nice to think that Dalston could be a fair trade area. George Bull, HBV: My experience in Brent is that displaced people are not offered any equally cheap property. Marie Murray, OPEN: I want to ask GN what Hackney Council is doing about that. What mechanism is there in existence for that? GN: The Council is seeking investment to provide a Town Centre Manager to work with businesses of all sizes to have these discussions and help deliver policies on this, focusing on Dalston and Hackney Central. LT: I would add that the Council has recently held a big review of how it uses ‘planning gain’ profits: at least part should go to the community where the development is being done. This policy will mean an increase in affordable housing and work spaces, community spaces and training programmes. The s.106 money should be ring-fenced. JA: It’s late to be bringing this to the table! We should be ring-fencing not only the s.106 money but also informal co-operative organisations, including those with the black/ethnic minority profile. The profile of Dalston is changing all the time – now Eastern Europeans appear to be the major new immigrant group – and there is no one centre to represent all. Enterprise mutual funds, including Hackney Community Transport, have the models and the learning but we need to respect who has primacy/who is already doing this. Who is driving all of this? LT: A representative from the Planning Dept should attend future meetings, to discuss planning gain. Comments from the floor: Michelle Goldberg: There is a movement for local community land trusts.

GN: The Council administration’s present policy on public ownership is that it should be done through the Council. Ongoing work includes voluntary sector accommodation ownership. Creation of a town centre partnership provides a local forum – which is the place for talking about these things. Martin Slaven, Games Monitor: We run a website critical of the Olympics. I’ve attended a lot of meetings like this and the panel always avoids the sense of the meeting. This is all an issue of gentrification. Section.106 goes nowhere near providing the basic minimum on social ownership. (a female voice) Hackney Planning & Regeneration: Yes, we would be happy to attend; we have had one meeting already. We have been doing equality impact assessments on all major developments since the tail end of 2006 – although I’m not talking about Dalston Lane South. We are choosing to extend it to large applications. AH: There is clearly a common theme of local ownership and taking responsibility for our own destiny. SK: I would remind people that there are many organisations which are not on the radar but which share in our long history of community activity. Think about the diversity of such groups. There should not be just one Council-owned community facility. Hamish Dunbar, OTO café: I’m opening a café in Ashwin Street, on the ground floor of the Bootstraps building. There is also a lot of development going on north of Dalston Lane. I talked to the Council about the low-rise buildings on Kingsland High Street, including Pepper’n’Spice, which are on land owned by TfL and due to be demolished, and Poundstore opposite. TfL want to recoup the costs of tunnelling under there and maximise their profits from these sites, it will apparently be ‘building intensive’, which sounds ominous. The original Dalston Area Action Plan provided for an open public space in the area to be demolished. GN: The new town centre partnership which is being set up by the Council will be just the place to discuss this. The Area Action Plan is to come up for discussion again this summer: at the moment there is a rudderless town centre. WT: We are talking about this here, today. Might I ask who lives and who works in Dalston (shows of hands). Diana Weir: What exactly do you mean by Dalston? Surely not just the ward of Dalston ? General discussion: much feeling that Ridley Road market was the centre of Dalston; others felt that it was the stretch of the Kingsland High Street between the Ball’s Pond Road and Ridley Road. Douglas ?, Find your Voice: The issue is how to ensure that the grass roots are benefited by inward investment. They don’t benefit at present; how do you ensure this? PK: It is clear that the Council doesn’t believe in community ownership (at which GN protested that this wasn’t what he had said) but in public ownership with community access for ‘public’ spaces, and this is the issue. The expertise is here but we need the Council to be a

willing partner in enabling it to happen. Can they be persuaded to adopt a positive attitude towards community ownership? That way, money will be spent here. NB: Look at the success of community-driven initiatives south of the river, around the Oxo Tower: Lambeth and Southwark Councils are very proud of those now. BG: This is one of the least developed areas in the country and it is important that we organise ourselves: go on picket lines, lobby and write to our representatives. Heather Bembridge (Beveridge?), a former social worker: How many people here are willing to address the fundamental issue of poverty and vulnerable people? There is a great imbalance between rich and the working classes: there are a lot of middle-class voices here. We do not even have public toilets in Dalston and the water feature which would have softened the effect of Gillett Square was wiped. We should look at the fundamentals. WT: The middle classes do work too <. Marie Murray, OPEN: Dialogue and trust are needed. We have tried to work with Hackney Council to get information to pass onto local people, most recently in a meeting with Sue Foster and the Planning Department, but they are not genuinely trying to work with us. They will not attend OPEN meetings because they say that they are ‘not representative’ and that they can’t favour single groups. WT: It seems that there is a high level of trust within the community, but a low level of trust of elected politicians. (General applause.) GN: Poverty and engagement are the crux. This is the 21st most deprived ward in London. The policy on s.106 money is that it should be spent according to evidence and need. The partnership forum is the place for discussion. AH: Shouldn’t it be a place, not the place? GN: Well, OK. Question 3 Should there be a Dalston Festival? Adam has said that Dalston is one long festival. What would you celebrate for Dalston? Panel: BP-D: What would make me celebrate would be: a) when Hackney Council starts listening to the community; b) the Council buying back the Georgian terraces and selling them on to local people; c) when public money is spent in Dalston – none has been spent in the last 50 years! d) when ‘consultation’ is not a foregone conclusion. JA: WT represents the Corporation of London (which WT conceded, albeit only in a very minor way, as a member of its Assembly): let’s get more from them! When TfL is committed to restoring street-level development: it’s accountable to the GLA, ie to me and, through me, to you; I will get the plans out to you. It is committed to the mutual model but strong

leadership is needed, as well as the town centre partnership and respect for leadership, where appropriate. (This was what made the Coin Street development successful.) LT: The festival highlight for Dalston would be when where Dalston residents spend a much higher proportion of their money in Dalston. From the floor: Yes, that’s what this is all about, isn’t it? – money. SK: What comes into the area is driven by national priorities and measurable targets. I would celebrate seeing money going to those most vulnerable, and organisations need to be more inclusive. GN: Dalston has something truly international, and that is food. Between Shoreditch and Stoke Newington, there is a boulevard of food and Dalston is at its centre. All along the Kingsland Road there are places where people can meet, and talk, and eat food from many countries: this is a great strength. NB: Residents and businesses don’t like what’s happening and the way it’s happening: we need structures to work through, as has been suggested. Many stakeholders are here today, so people shouldn’t go away from this meeting feeling negative: they could perhaps set up an alternative body (or bodies), as well as working through the current ones. WT: Just a thought: if you Google ‘regeneration’, most of the sites you find are about medical healing. Should this ‘wound’ be left alone to heal itself, ie don’t interfere? This isn’t all about money but also about politics and participation. AH: Now I am convinced that we will have many more such events. There is a need for organisation: I perceive an enormous hole in the structure of governance when it comes to community regeneration, democracy and community-led organisation in Dalston. This is for GN, particularly: nearly five years ago, when I was also part of Hackney Community Partnership and other local bodies, as well as HCD – I and others put forward a proposal for a Dalston Trust, to work on regeneration of the town centre. This was met with a resounding silence from every member of Hackney Council we approached (I have over 1000 unanswered emails). The new Town Centres Manager told us two days ago about the proposed Dalston Partnership Forum as if it were a Council initiative: they have now reinvented the idea themselves. We wait to see whether we will be invited to join. We need to be dealing with developers and being involved at the beginning of plans, so we will be putting together that Dalston Trust to work towards this and inviting the Council to attend. Dalston has a logo, I LOVE DALSTON, which is a masterpiece that is not appreciated yet: have you noticed, the heart in I LOVE DALSTON is broken? That is significant because it recognises the fact that a broken heart can be mended. A broken heart is not the end of the road but the blues, what heals the soul: by recognising our pain, we can transmute it into something worthwhile and heal. Hackney Council threatened to pull out if we put up I LOVE DALSTON balloons at the Gillett Square launch. WT: Thanks to all


				
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