Delight as London Lane tower is refused

"No Hackney High Rise" the campaign group opposing the development of a 10 storey tower block at 22-44 London Lane, is delighted that the application was refused by Hackney Council at the planning meeting on 18th April.  In an email to supporters they say:

"We are delighted that the council has listened to local residents. We have worked on our objection to this development for the last three years and our campaign has been defined by the intensity of concerns  against the march of tower blocks along the edge of London Fields. 

We applaud Hackney Council that their objections were entirely representative of the concerns of local people and visitors to the area that we met during the course of our campaign. We are excited at the prospect of working with Southern Housing Group to achieve a more  sustainable and sympathetic development on the site and will be contacting them shortly to progress this matter."

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Comment by Benjamin Counsell on May 2, 2012 at 9:29

You don't have to "promote" it. Just stop deterring density. It is not the job of an environmentalist group to be upholding technical benchmarks that have nothing to do with the environmentalist imperative of reducing carbon emissions. A credible environmentalist would be arguing against under-development in inner-London - for reasons of both environmental and social sustainability. All SH statements on planning issues that I've seen are akin to a road-safety group complaining that the traffic is too slow. It gives the impression that SH doesn't know what its talking about.

Comment by James Diamond on May 2, 2012 at 9:15

Are you saying that environmentalists should promote over-dense development at the expense of other aspects of sustainability?  "In terms of reducing carbon emissions the denser the better"   This may apply to urban areas in general, in terms of reducing travel emissions, but that does not mean over-developing every site.

Comment by Benjamin Counsell on May 2, 2012 at 9:02

"There is a difference between high density, and too high density, as set out in planning policy".

Maybe so, but this is a group promoting environmental sustainability and that is not an environmentalist point. In terms of reducing carbon emissions, the denser the better. We should be promoting density in inner London, not deterring it.

Are you saying that anyone on the Steering Group can issue an official SH statement on anything they choose - even if it goes against environmental thinking?

Comment by James Diamond on May 2, 2012 at 8:36

There is a difference between high density, and too high density, as set out in planning policy.  One of the grounds for refusal of this scheme was overdevelopment.  Members of Sustainable Hackney are welcome to come along to our steering group meetings and to stand for the steering group, as at last Wednesday's AGM.

Comment by Benjamin Counsell on May 2, 2012 at 7:58

James, whilst I'm pleased to learn that you are not an opponent of high-density, high-rise development, I am still perplexed as to why SH are making public statements of opposition to developments on the grounds of too high density. Whilst as private individuals of course we can support/oppose development on any grounds we wish, it seems counter-intuitive for a  group campaigning for environmental sustainability to complain about high-density when in terms of reducing carbon emissions, the denser the better. It would be akin to a group like 'Twenty is Plenty' only making public statements complaining about how slow the traffic is. If SH is to be perceived as credible in terms of promoting the environmentalist imperative of reducing carbon emissions, we should be issuing statements calling for a general increase in housing density in inner London - in line with mainstream environmental urban planning policy, rather than making official SH statements to the Planning Office that oppose high-density developments on grounds that have nothing to do with reducing carbon emissions.

I understand that you are a member of the Steering Group. Please could you explain to me how SH policy regarding these issues is decided and who has the right to issue SH statements?

Comment by James Diamond on May 1, 2012 at 12:41

This blog post reports the reaction of No Hackney High Rise to the refusal of permission.  

The refusal was on the grounds of overdevelopment (ie too high density), and lack of affordable housing.

Personally, I am not against development, and I am not against high-density or high-rise per se.  I am against over-development that does not meet the needs of local people.

Comment by Benjamin Counsell on May 1, 2012 at 7:43

Diana, I'm afraid it's going to take alot more than even your lorryload of salt to dismiss the laws of supply and demand.

All private property owners sell at the highest price they can, ie, the market price. If/when you sell your home will you be asking for less than the market rate? If not, does this make you "greedy"? You have to ask yourself where are these richer incomers to increasingly popular areas like Hackney going to live if not in new developments aimed at the affluent end of the market? The answer of course, is into the existing housing stock, which pushes up that price and forces out those at the lower end of the market. This is basic supply and demand.

Also, the 50% affordable homes target (it was always a target and not a "requirement") were scrapped by Boris Johnson. But the best way of making homes genuinely affordable is to greatly increase their supply. Stunting supply in a popular area is guaranteed to push up prices (which I suggest is why opposing development is such a popular activity amongst home owners). There is also a need for a huge increase in supply at the other end of the market which is why I actively supported Peabody's 12 storey Pembury Circus addition to the Pembury estate.

On a pedantic point; the quotes that you disagree with are not mine but that of one of the world's leading urban environmentalists.
Also, I don't wish to be rude, but your actions in regards to urban development are not those of an "environmentalist". You are exacerbating low-rise urban sprawl over greenbelt (with the high carbon emissons that go with it) which the European Environment Agency deems "the worst-case scenario". As a government spokesperson said recently in justifying recent changes in planning law;

“People don’t want to see high-rise flats being built….so, unfortunately there is little choice other than building on greenfield sites”.

Finally, please could someone confirm whether or not opposing high-density, high-rise housing is SH policy?

Comment by Diana Weir on April 30, 2012 at 19:22

Benjamin Counsell's views need to be taken with a whole lorryload of salt.

The claim that gentrification and pushing out poor people are the consequence of opposition to unsympathetically high-rise, over-dense development is nonsense. All these greedy potential developments in Hackney aim to sell at the highest possible price - usually to incomers who are much richer than those local people who are still quietly trying to maintain older houses.

They also invariably avoid, wherever possible, making any attempt to provide the 50% affordable housing required in developments of 10 or more dwellings by the London Plan. So it's the developers who are forcing out the poor people, not the environmentalists who are trying to preserve and lengthen the life of older buildings which set the character of our area.

Comment by Benjamin Counsell on April 25, 2012 at 8:03

Government spokesperson on recent changes to planning law;

“People don’t want to see high-rise flats being built….so, unfortunately there is little choice other than building on greenfield sites”.

So here's another example of a self-interest group exacerbating the environmental "worst-case scenario" of low-rise urban sprawl on greenfield with the increase in road use and carbon emissions that comes with it.

If a modestly tall building built on a brownfield site next to a train station a short distance from central London isn't viable then where is?

Alex Steffen is the environmentalist responsible for persuading Seattle to adopt its goal of carbon-neutrality. Here’s some excerpts from a short interview;

“If we’re talking about transportation, the best thing a city can do is densify as quickly as it can. That needs to be said every time this issue comes up, because it’s the only universal strategy that works.”

He goes on;

“In quite a few cities, most civic engagement is mostly a matter of fighting development, people saying, “not in my backyard.”……One of the most unfortunate side effects of the urban activism of the ’60s and ’70s is the belief that development is wrong and that fighting it makes you an environmentalist….what happens in cities that don’t grow is that they gentrify and poor people are pushed out. Trying to fight change makes you less sustainable and more unfair.”

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