More about Beecholme

Beecholme is also the first postwar "mixed development" housing scheme in Hackney, with a mixture of houses and flats with the taller block having five storeys and containing one-bedroom and bedsit accommodation. It is featured in Volume 15 of Hackney History and was the site of Beecholme House, the family home of Maj. John André (d. 1780), who was executed as a British spy in the American War of Independence.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Clapton Tram Depot fiasco + what you can do to speak out

NB: I'll be adding to this post over the next few days, so check back and the gaps of info will be filled, so please bear with me.

We would like to thank
councillors Ian Rathbone, Linda Kelly and Deniz Oguzkanli
for their support in the continuing fight to reverse this travesty
to thank 
sub-committee members
councillors Linda Smith, Michael Desmond and Susan Fajana-Thomas
who voted to refuse the planning application


click on the Gazette article above to see it full size



   Demolish the archetypal
            and erect the ordinary...

What idiot came up with that plan?

As you are probably well aware, Hackney council's Planning sub-committee at a meeting this last Tue 29th voted 4:3 to approve the most dense new housing development in Hackney at 580 hrh and up to 7 storeys (Lathams just across the park has empty flats & office space and is 450hrh) and demolish one of the most archetypal of Claptons historic light industrial buildings left standing.
 (hrh = habitable rooms per hectare, a measure of density)

By the way, the development is Code Level 4 for Sustainable homes which is low and sets another bad precedent (like 7 floors) and should be at least Level 5.
The open space is very poor and completely overshadowed by development with an underground car park drive in it. There are even flats with windows looking out to brick walls both sides of the flat!

"Ill-conceived, over-dense,
badly designed & poorly spec'd
 city center type development."
That is the opinion of a senior designer
at one of the UK's most respected
Urban Planning & Design Consultancies.


 Lost forever

The Depot is currently full of art galleries, artists, craftsmen and local businesses with big studios with very high ceilings, cast iron beams and huge skylights the like of which will never be built again here in Clapton and which are critical to the current residents and businesses.
If the building goes, jobs go - never to be replaced.
The new commercial space is less than current and of an "office" type no good to light industry or artists
is identical to empty office space already available locally. 

The offer of reduced rent or rent-free for a period if a much longer lease is signed sounds almost generous until you realize that there are no comparable units in the new development.

The new spaces are not suitable for light industry or manufacturing.
The offer has also been rejected by the biggest employer on the site.

Genuine concern would be not changing the designation from light industrial and by separating the units from a much reduced residential section.

The reason for offices and shops is that you can put flats on top of them - you can't on top of noisy and dirty manufacturing.

Businesses are crying out for exactly the spaces the depot offers now (there is a waiting list) and there are empty offices locally (so little or no demand for more).

But the money is in the 90 flats (to 4 bedroom)

Rent free for a period doesn't sound quite so generous now, does it!


What you will not be aware of
 (unless you were at the meeting)
is what we can only assume to be  "unusual" goings on
during the planning sub-committee meeting.
Bizarrely, the chair suggested major modifications in order to get around issues with the planning application and where no decision was forthcoming or there was a question mark, he simply papered over the cracks and moved on.
It seemed as if he was doing everything he could
to get the application approved.
The general feeling at the meeting was that the 1,300+ objectors issues and comments as well as those raised by all three local councillors, the Hackney Society, local TRAs and groups were all completely ignored by the chair and regarded as a necessary evil, but not to be taken in the slightlest bit seriously (heaven forbid actually listened to) - in fact barely acknowledged.

People left angry because not one of their issues was addressed.
No explanation - nothing - either before, during or after the meeting.

When the biggest single employer at the depot told the meeting he would almost certainly have to close up shop with the loss of 5 jobs, the chair virtually ignored him, giving no real response.

The whole of Clapton should be insulted by this treatment.
Everyone at the meeting was.


There is also a question mark hanging over
a visit to the depot just hours before the meeting 

which was presumed to be in response to the request by councillor Rathbone that committee members actually see what was being produced at the the Depot and the actual structure.
There was also concern about a sub-station as well as a furniture maker working with fibreglass in a building adjacent to the depot and the suitability of putting flats next to both.

Councillor Rathbone was not allowed to attend to show the committee around as the committee didn't want to be influenced but rather make up their own minds.
Good, you might think.

Then why was the committee being lead by Graham Loveland and the developer's architect! (or so I've been told by two witnesses)
The visit consisted of a quick walk down the main yard and out and around to view the south aspect of the site on Prout Rd - in total around 15 minutes. They didn't  even go up to the first floor studios and workshops, didn't see the skylights, the cast iron beams, didn't see the sub-station, didn't check the fibreglass works and declined to enter any workshop or view any business.

They seem to have been shown on a development sales tour by the planner and architect.


Then there's Beecholme's
"Alf Partridge Community Hall"
 The planning application for the development had the Beecholme's "Alf Partridge Community Hall" included with two floors of flats on top as the community hall for the new lot of 90 flats, over half of which would be going to a housing association.

How can Hackney council just give our community hall away
to a developer to make money on?

The planning report gives the ground floor hall to a housing association and allows the developer to make a fortune by building (tiny roomed) double storey flats on top?

During the previous planning app and at a very early stage of the current app when there was talk of saving a lot more of the Tram Depot buildings than just one wall (and before the second change of architects) we, the Beecholme Estate TRA were offered the possibility of a new hall in exchange for live/work studios on top.
The developer wanted flats but we explained flats were not suitable above a hall with evening meetings and events and was amenable to live work studios.
I should stress that no deal was made or even an understanding reached as we were told there would be an obligatory consultation process at a later stage.
There has been none. In fact we've heard nothing at all since then.

Now the hall is to go to an RSL and we have to go cap in hand to use it?

The idea of a compromise "share" just will not work.
The practicalities of running a Hackney Homes TRA, with the complex "resident involvement structure", it's own budgets like the 184 communal repairs and EIB fund just will not mesh with the housing associations rules.
The issues of a Hackney Homes 1950's estate and a new housing association estate will be completely different of course as well (assuming the will even have a TRA).

At the planning committee meeting we (the Beecholme TRA) told the meeting we wanted nothing to do with the over-dense development, the loss of the depot and jobs but specifically did not want our hall swallowed up.

The chair asked an officer who owned the hall and when he was told the council, as managed by Hackney Homes, simply moved on as if it was a "done deal" and he had just given our hall of 40 years to the developer.


Then there's the issue with TFL
How on earth could TFL have agreed to this development with so many underground car parking spaces on top of the commercial vehicle area so close to the major Lea Bridge Road roundabout?
We all know that Upper Clapton Road is backed up way past the depot during rush hour as it is. The traffic chaos will be even worse. 
That is, let alone with the vehicle entrance opposite Brooke Road with 425 buses turning right from it into Upper Clapton Road.
There's a bus stop yards away for the 106, 253, 254, 388 as well. 

In fact, it so bad now, some time ago residents requested a "KEEP CLEAR" yellow diamond be place on Upper Clapton Road, at the entrance to Prout Road:

It can be quite hair-raising turning right into Prout Road as you come off the roundabout with drivers coming around the corner and flooring it to make the traffic lights. Either that or the road is blocked by the queue at the traffic lights.

By the way, how many people will either have second cars or not want to park in the underground car park because it's easier to park in Casimir or Prout Road, especially during the day, directly outside their flats?

 • An earlier version of the development had the underground car park entrance on Casimir Road and was refused because the road is so small there's barely enough room for one way traffic.
Prout and Casimir Roads can not take the extra traffic with safety, neither do they have the parking capacity.
• An different version of the development had less than 50% parking and was criticised for not having enough parking by planners!

• Now for this version of the development TFL had said 42 cars on top of the commercial traffic and deliveries was unacceptable
and advised just 7 disabled spaces. 

So the planning application decision should have been
deferred at the sub-committee
until parking and the series of unresolved issues
could be addressed... indeed our councillors called for
in the strongest terms possible
but were ignored

The site is just not suitable for this size or type of development.

The vehicle entrance is also the pedestrian walkway

Planners should have realised
 and not allowed this type or size of development to be submitted.
They could have interpreted the PEA as it was meant but chose not to.

External planners we have talked to
were "surprised" the PEA
had been "ignored"
at this late stage (of the Core Strategy) 

Local roads can't take the extra traffic any more than Leabridge can take the extra families - there isn't the school places or support services.

For the council to approve it at a time when big cuts in services are inevitable shows little forethought or consideration for residents.

Pedestrian safety hazard
The area behind the office block and in front of the units on the right is a combination vehicle and pedestrian area.
There's ground level commercial car spaces and the deliveries to the commercial units and shops (including articulated lorries), cars going in and out of the underground car park with pedestrians on the same space - the much spoke
central foot path/passage.

Send your letters to Hackney:

 If any member of the public wants to comment
on the planning committee, now is the time to do so to:

It is also important that concerns are

Send your letters to London:

Boris Johnson
Mayor of London
Greater London Authority
City Hall
The Queen's Walk
London SE1 2AA

Telephone: 020 7983 4100
Minicom: 020 7983 4458
Fax: 020 7983 4057

By email:

Diane Abbott MP
put your issue in writing to
Diane Abbott MP,
House of Commons,
London SW1A 0AA
or via
the Senior Caseworker George Chalkias
0207 219 4330

Jennette Arnold
Deputy Chair of the London Assembly
North East (Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest)

Jennette Arnold AM
City Hall
The Queen's Walk
London SE1 2AA

Telephone: 020 7983 4349
Fax: 020 7983 5879


Planning has been an ongoing problem
with no resolution

Hackney Gazette article on the 28th June:

Councillors call for Hackney's planning team to be suspended over Clapton Tram Sheds anger

Hackney council does it again:

Hackney Citizen article on the 9th July

I'd be laughing if I wasn't tearing the last of my hair out.

Just so you know what we are taking about
from inside the development looking north:

from inside the development looking south:
(there are still further blocks the other side on Prout Road)

There's another tower block (more flats) going up in Prout Rd in addition to the above.

Prout Road now:

The Tram Depot complex now

Structurally sound buildings full of historic character that have had a lot of work done to parts inside by residents but that has left to SUPERFICIALLY degrade.
It could easily be made to look great:


Don't be fooled by the rather misleading "fish-eye" lens view of the architects visuals. The building in the background left is 2 floors less and behind the street front tower block are more tower blocks of varying sizes:



Take a look at the elevation below
you can see the building behind is the same level
just tucked behind.


And of course the other side (not shown) is like this:

(the gap between the buildings should be greater and the street front block should be much deeper, but it's still closer to reality than the architects visuals)



Defending the Indefensible

Developers seem to walk over planning officers in the current planning vacuum, "guidelines" notwithstanding.

Listening to planning officers
defend the indefensible
really is
cringe worthy.

My conversation with a planning officer
(an extract - not verbatim but not far off):

"Q: How can you defend putting a family in a 2 bed flat with the single room (in the Tram Depot development) half the size of those in the 1950's Beecholme estate next door? There's not enough room for a desk and a wardrobe. How's a teenager going to have have friends over, remember, there's no garden and mum and dad will be in the lounge?

A: Well, if you put a single mother with a baby it would be fine.

Q: You mean to tell me that in the 90 odd flats, to make them livable, they all have to be filled with single parents with one to three children, all under 4 years old?

A: Well... yes, but...'s within the latest guidelines"

NOTE: Guidelines vary from authority to the next and there are regular changes to guidelines - for public, for affordable, for private housing - it's a mess and allows for a certain amount of "interpretation" so picking and choosing which one you want to apply is the order of the day.

I should add that the "room sizes" issue is country wide but this development has specific issues relating to Clapton and Leabridge.

The most objectionable aspect of this particular development in this particular site is it's density and the fact there's 90 flats up to 4 bedrooms in addition to offices and office type studio workshops (in the main unsuitable for the current residents) plus large ground floor shopfront in the 7 storey block.

In a city center to replace like with like perhaps

To reduce employment space where it's needed and increase
pressure on local services where it isn't, no.

The bigger issue is the loss of the buildings (which could be made to look great) and associated jobs as well as the displacement of all the artists, sculptors craftsmen and galleries.



Room sizes and the Mayor's

"London Housing Strategy"

Mayor of London Boris Johnson promised to reintroduce Parker Morris space standards for new residential developments in a bid to improve the quality of inner city living in 2008.

His move followed English Partnerships’ adoption of space standards 10% higher than those of Parker Morris in November 2007.

He said:

“I think it shameful that new buildings in London have some of the smallest rooms in Europe,” 

“and we will be re-establishing the space standards first promoted by the visionary planner Sir Parker Morris in 1961.”

“We need to build for the long term — buildings that people will want to keep for 100 years and not tear down in 30.”

and it seems that is the plan - Parker Morris plus 10% as the MINIMUM
See page 48 of the Mayor's 

published in Feb this year.

It goes to "Examination in Public" sometime this year, then after any revisions goes to the Sec. of State before final publication.

When and if it actually comes into effect or how close it will be anyone's guess.



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