‘Gentrification in action’: Town Hall defends Dalston Plan as campaigners let rip

Morning Lane People’s Space campaigners. Photograph: MOPS

Campaigners who fear Dalston is at risk of gentrification are urging residents to tell council bosses what they think of a blueprint for the area.

Plans include more than 600 new homes, with a minimum of 50 per cent of them affordable, and a £1 million investment for the historic Ridley Road Market.

But the Morning Lane People’s Space (MOPS) campaign fear that some people could be priced out and are stressing the need for homes and shops that residents can afford.

The group told Hackney Council its Dalston Plan fails to deliver homes for social rent.

The draft proposals follow the Dalston Conversation in 2018 and the council is currently holding another consultation on its ideas.

The Town Hall says it is aiming “to stop gentrification by ensuring that retail, culture, housing, public space, jobs and transport work for all Hackney residents”.

MOPS said: “We believe the main objective should be that people who live in this area, including those who have done so for generations, and their children, can afford to continue to live here. And that they can afford to rent workspace and pay the business rates.

“It is shameful that one of the plan’s objectives is ‘to ensure that local people have an opportunity to remain part of the community’. Local people are not a part of the community – we are the community.”

In its submission to the current consultation, the campaign said it should focus on social and council homes rather than affordable homes, which it says are only a pipe dream for most Hackney residents.

The council says homes in Dalston cost 15 times the average salary, with three-bedroom ones in particular demand.

MOPS claims the plans for hundreds of homes at Ridley Road and nearby privately owned Kingsland Shopping Centre will lead to gentrification and could “threaten the unique character” of the market.

It is calling on the Town Hall to build only social rent homes on land it owns.

A Save Ridley Road banner, pictured in 2019

Campaigners also fear the proposals will replace “inclusive and affordable retail with exclusive and unaffordable shops, cafes and restaurants”.

They point out that the Kingsland Shopping Centre is “well used” and includes affordable shops, adding: “The proposals for Ridley Road and Kingsland Shopping Centre must be rethought in this light so that they deliver inclusive spaces and in the light of the experience with Dalston Square, where not all the retail units are let.”

Save Ridley Road campaigners are worried that new homes on the site of the Kingsland Shopping Centre will irrevocably alter the character of Dalston.

Danny Hayward from the campaign group said: “What we’re talking about here is the equivalent of a whole new Dalston Square being dropped onto the existing shopping centre on Kingsland Road. 

“Recent history shows that no matter what Hackney Council says, these will almost all be rented out at completely unaffordable market rates.

“The knock-on effect on Ridley Road next door will be counted in demographic shifts, noise complaints and further private development on Ridley Road itself – and already the council is saying it wants to ‘design out’ crime and install dozens of new CCTV cameras on the market.

“Simply put, this is gentrification in action.”  

The group says Ridley Road Market should not be portrayed “as a problem in need of reform”.

The proposals for the market include a new layout with seating areas, and a reduction in the number of stalls by 36 to 133.

The market contributes 70 per cent of the footfall to the town centre, according to the council, but campaigners say Broadway Market-style gentrification is fuelling decline.

They spoke of traders wanting adequate toilets, and called on the council to provide more loos rather than regard the site as a good spot for infill homes.

“It will change the nature of Ridley Road as a market,” the campaign said.

The Dalston Plan is based on a three-year conversation with residents

Hackney Council says the Dalston Plan will ensure there is no loss of retail space in any new development on Ridley Road.

It said the vision “explicitly seeks to protect Ridley Road Market and existing traders”.

Guy Nicholson,  Hackney’s deputy mayor for housing supply, planning and inclusive economy, said: “We know what a special, inclusive place Dalston is and what the area means to local residents and businesses.

“That’s why we set up the Dalston Conversation, a three-year discussion between the local community and the council which saw local stakeholders, businesses and more than 5,000 residents of all ages shape the Dalston Plan that is now out for consultation.”

He said the council cannot “dictate every change in a thriving and growing town centre”, adding: “But we will use every power we have to ensure that new development benefits the local community first and shape Dalston’s future based on the community’s priorities.

“This includes affordable spaces for local businesses, genuinely affordable homes, and safeguards for much-loved local places and spaces like Ridley Road street market and the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden.

“The Dalston Plan will be an important device to help ensure a fair recovery from the pandemic; it will put in place a clear, strong and enforceable guidance to ensure new development works for Dalston, its heritage, its character and its local community.”

The consultation can be found here.