Sunday, 8 June 2008

The Hackney way: Decide first. Ask questions later.

On 4th June Hackney Council began its long awaited public consultation on the proposed new boundaries for the Shoreditch Conservation Areas. Designation of conservation areas prevents uncontrolled demolition and ensures that any adverse impact of new developments on the distinctivness and character of an area is considered. Changes to conservation area boundaries are therefore of great importance to landowners, developers and to local communties.

Councils are legally obliged to review their conservation areas periodically and to consult the public before approving any changes to them. On 25th February Hackney Council finally considered an independent expert’s appraisal of the buildings of Shoreditch. The appraisal contains recommendations to extend Shoreditch’s conservation areas to include additional buildings. The appraisal commented, for example, that The Light at 233 Shoreditch High Street “makes an important local contribution to the historic townscape character through its continuity of scale, architectural character and quality of design and contruction”. Other buildings were also recommended for inclusion.

However The Light stands on land which Hammerson propose should be redeveloped as a 50 storey towerblock. Hackney Council also owns part of the development site.

The Council's Cabinet Member for Regeneration, and its Director, both recommended that The Light, and additional buildings, should not be included within the new conservation area boundaries. The landowners will therefore not need to seek any approval for their demolition. All the additional buildings identified are, like The Light, also affected by outstanding redevelopment proposals. Indeed some of them have already been demolished.

None of this would be apparent from reading the Council’s public consultation leaflet. It appears to show that it is the independent experts, and not the Council, who are recommending that they be excluded from the Conservation Areas. No explanation is given.

The Council Solicitor’s advice on the form of public consultation was to “ensure that it reflects the Cabinet’s position namely that the premises remain outside the Conservation Area”. The Council is, in effect, consulting on whether it should now change its mind instead of first awaiting the public's views before adopting its "position" - namely to exclude these important buildings and thus allow their uncontrolled demolition.

“Con”(noun) a complicated confidence trick planned and executed with great care; (verb) to deprive of by deceit; (colloquial) abbreviation of public consultation.

1 comment:

Will Rise against the High Rise said...

Do Local Councils therefore have the ability and capability to "Write their own Blank Cheques" and or "Rubber Stamp/ act in their own vested interest???