Campaigners fighting a decade-long battle to save a row of historic terraced houses suffered a heavy blow yesterday after their legal bid to halt demolition failed.
Conservation group OPEN Dalston claimed that a council decision to grant permission for the demolition of the Dalston Lane houses was unlawful.
But following a High Court hearing, Judge Mr Justice Collins dismissed the campaigners’ claim, arguing that the council had wanted to retain the facades but lawfully decided it could not be done.
Collins J: The council wanted to retain the facades but in my view, lawfully decided that couldn’t be done. The claim is DISMISSED.
— Save Dalston Lane (@SaveDalstonLane) November 24, 2014
Earlier this year the council began to demolish the houses in Dalston Lane, planning to replace them with a new development scheme in ‘heritage likeness’.
The development scheme, contracted to engineering firm Murphy, includes 44 flats and new retail units but no ‘affordable’ housing. The Council argues the development would not be financially viable if included homes for social renting.
But OPEN Dalston, who have dubbed the designs ‘Georgian Disney’, pointed out that the building work breached planning controls, forcing building works to stop.
The council then took a decision in March 2014 to forge ahead with building works – a decision OPEN Dalston challenged in the High Court yesterday.
Speaking following the High Court defeat, Bill Parry-Davis of OPEN Dalston said: “Despite its claims to be champions of our heritage Hackney is in fact destroying it in favour of bogus replicas.
“For years it has stood idly by and watched our Georgian houses and local businesses being destroyed and families being driven from the area.
“It failed to consult and, I fear, has missed the opportunity offered to save the houses and preserve local character and for affordable housing.
“OPEN has lost a Court case but it is Hackney’s citizens and future generations who have ultimately lost out and sadly that is irreversible.”
The ruling was also criticised by author Michael Rosen, a long-standing supporter of the campaign.
Mr Rosen, who spoke at a benefit night for the Save Dalston Lane campaign at Passing Clouds last weekend, said: “I wonder how it is that elected representatives can think they are doing a good job on behalf of the people, when they spend years neglecting fine historical buildings, longstanding tenancies and then spend thousands of pounds in court to justify demolishing the buildings with the argument that it was their neglect that made it necessary!”
“What we need all over London are local authorities who are prepared to build communities from the bottom up, supporting tenants and freeholders who want to do up the places they live and work in, supporting the longstanding networks of family and friendships, supporting housing for need.
“It shouldn’t be the job of a local authority to smash up the spaces we live and work in simply because it suits big corporate developers.”
A Council spokesman said: “This is a step forward to finally bring back into use this part of Dalston Lane, to provide space for existing and new businesses, as well as for new homes.”
OPEN Dalston are now considering whether to appeal the decision./ 25 November, 2014