The Dalston East Curve Garden on Dalston Lane faces an uncertain future due to the proposed ‘regeneration’ of the area.
The Garden is in the middle of one of the areas on which Hackney Council is focusing in its Dalston Area Action Plan (DAAP), part of the ‘Core Strategy’ framework for the borough initiated in November 2010, which will also apply to Hackney Central.
According to a development proposal document seen by the Hackney Citizen, the Eastern Curve area will be revamped as a shopping circuit linking Dalston Lane with a redeveloped Dalston Shopping Centre via a pedestrian area.
The document’s vision is of a “major new public realm” which would be a “community and creative quarter” surrounded by a number of buildings at least six storeys high.
The Eastern Curve would become a series of interlinked urban spaces with the western end fronted by shops, cafés and “other community facilities”.
The proposal states that: “While both centres [Dalston and Hackney Central] are major focal points for shopping, too much spending power leaves the borough. It is therefore necessary to encourage the provision of more and higher quality shopping and services to encourage local residents to shop more locally for a wider range of goods and services.”
Local businesses on Dalston Lane were disappointed by the news. Andrew Merritt at FARM:shop, a not-for-profit urban farming hub and café, said: “It’s a very good space and shouldn’t go. Local people go there and use it. If it is being redeveloped, at least they should give another piece of land.”
David Hibbert of To The Jungle café concurred, saying: “It’s just nice to have that green space. I don’t know what else they would really be able to achieve by it and what they’d really gain. You’d only lose something.”
Bill Parry-Davies, a solicitor who runs OPEN Dalston, a local community forum, is sceptical that regeneration would revitalise independent shopping in the area.
He told the Hackney Citizen: “The formula of chain store/retail-led regeneration has been tried and failed elsewhere. Our approach has been that the council should nurture local independent businesses so that Dalston has a unique – not chain-store – offer to attract footfall and money into the local economy.”
Hackney Council was asked to comment on these concerns, but had failed to do so at the time this story went to print.
Prior to the garden’s opening, the site was part of the derelict old Eastern Curve railway line that had once linked the previous version of Dalston Junction Station to a local goods yard and the North London Line.
The line extension closed in 1944, with the tracks removed twenty years later. In 2009, architectural collective Exyzt built the temporary Dalston Mill on the site, with the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden opening its doors a year later.
Update Thursday 14 March 2013:
In a statement Hackney Council said there are no current plans to transform the community garden although development proposals may come forward in the short term from key landowners around the Eastern Curve to deliver this as public realm/open space. The Council says it will seek to ensure that any scheme is compliant with the Area Action Plan (AAP).
The Council says the Area Action Plan’s Public Realm Strategy recognises that Dalston is in need of public realm and open space, and through the plan has identified these areas for protection or new areas to be delivered. Much of this land is currently privately owned.
According to Hackney Council, the proposal to designate the ‘Eastern Curve’ for public realm and open space also aims to better integrate the land to the rear of Dalston Lane and Kingsland High Street with the rest of the town centre, forming a major new high quality public space which could accommodate areas of green space as well as provide a new pedestrian and cyclist route through the town centre to support new retail frontage.