Legal challenge over Dalston flats

An artists to-scale impression of proposed building. Pic: Hazel Mew

An artists to-scale impression of proposed building. Pic: Hazel Mew

A Dalston local has launched a legal challenge against Hackney Council’s decision to build luxury flats and a cafe that will overshadow a nursery school and block out sunlight on “precious” outdoor space.

The council’s planning committee approved proposals by developers Chan & Eayrs to construct a three storey block of flats on land next to Colvestone Primary School, on Colvestone Crescent, in September.

Judith Watt, a Colvestone Crescent resident, issued a judicial review on October 22 against the council’s decision after an independent report that she commissioned concluded that the storey block would increase “existing overshadowing by up to three or four times” on Colvestone’s nursery school playground.

The report by Anstey Horne, chartered surveyors specialising in rights of light, stated that the development will leave “around half of the (playground) space in the proposed scheme’s shadow for a significant amount of the day for much of the year”.

“I’ve lived in Colvestone Crescent since 1993 and, over that time, I’ve seen hundreds of nursery-age kids happily using that space for learning and playing – all day long, weather permitting” Watt told EastLondonLines.

“I was outraged by the council’s decision to allow a 9.5 metre brick wall that will tower over that precious outdoor space.”

The three storey development, which will be constructed on land that joins Ridley Road, Birkbeck Road and Colvestone Crescent, will consist of a cafe at basement and ground floor level and two one bedroom flats at first and second floor level.

“Not only will this will block the sunlight over much of the playground for most of the day, especially during the winter months – making the space dark, damp and cold – it will also resemble a prison wall” Watt explained.

Colvestone Primary School parents and local residents have launched an online petition against the development, with the page having gained over three quarters of its 200 signature target at the time of publishing.

The Save Our Sunshine petition calls on Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney, to intervene personally to stop the planned development and to ‘put the education, health and well-being of the children first’.

Residents have also started a Crowdfunder page, in the hope that donators will contribute to the costs of the legal challenge put forward by Watt.

Mami McKeran, who began the petition and has two children at Colvestone Primary school, said: “The council has a duty and responsibility to safeguard the children of the borough.”

“Regeneration of the area should not come at such a high price to the most vulnerable members of the local community.”

A judicial review is a court procedure that challenges the way in which a decision has been made by a public body, for example local authorities and immigration authorities.

The review allows the claimant to seek a court order that could change, prohibit or quash the public body’s decision.

Victoria Watson, a mother of two children at Colvestone Primary School, told EastLondonLines: “I have two children already at Colvestone Primary and a third who I hope will start at the nursery in a few years time.”

“I am saddened that by the time my youngest goes to the nursery, he will lose out on this sunlit space if the proposed three-storey development goes ahead.”

“It is not simply a playground, it is the nursery’s dedicated outdoor learning environment that is used every day throughout the year. Is it’s future to be permanently overshadowed?”

The area earmarked for construction was formerly owned by the council.

When the site was sold the local authority wrote a restrictive covenant into the deeds, protecting Colvestone Primary School’s right to “uninterrupted and unheeded access of light and air”.

“I hope that they [Hackney Council] will act responsibly by enforcing the historic property covenant that protect sunlight to the school’s land” McKean added.

According to McKeran, residents are not against development of the land, with many believing that a development of a ground floor and basement is acceptable if it is subject to scrutiny impact on the school.

Alistair Friend, a former school governor who has a child in year six at Colvestone, said: “I recognise that development needs to occur and as such I would be happy for a ground floor building on this particular space, the ideal and obvious solution would be for the school to have it.”

“But I think we are betraying children and their wellbeing if we allow this proposed building to go ahead.”

“I am truly shocked that the developers/ architects have even considered doing this;
to my mind they are as culpable as Hackneys inept planning process in proposing such a damaging build.”

A spokesperson for Hackney Council told EastLondonLines that the local authority “is now considering its response to the claim.”

Chan & Eayrs did not respond to a request for comment.

Hackney Council are currently facing another ongoing angry backlash over the development of private homes near school land.

An online petition launched last month, labelled “Hackney school playgrounds are not for sale”, opposes the local authority’s plans to build private homes on school playgrounds.

The council has proposed to relocate and rebuild Benthal Primary School and Nightingale Primary School, as well as a new secondary school constructed at the original Benthal school site, with all three newly erected schools sharing their land with “residential developments”.

Pre-planning proposals for the new Nightingale Primary School reveal two residential towers of 11 and 14 storeys high, with locals calling the design “poor” and “overcrowded” and likening the new schools to “battery farms”.

Christine Murray, a Nightingale school parent who launched the petition, told EastLondonLines in October: “At the first proposed school [Nightingale], the play spaces are on the roof, in permanent shadow of the towers.”

“The residents will be able to look right down on top of the school. As for the classrooms, there aren’t many windows. The corridors are internal, artificially lit rat-runs.”

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