Wednesday, 11 December 2013

C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S sung by Millfields Community School & Children's Centre

Currently No. 3 in the iTunes Kids Music Chart, C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S is sung and performed by the students of Millfields Community School and Children's Centre, Hackney.

You can buy the song on itunes to help raise funds for a new playground and the UNICEF sing for Syria Campaign.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Lea Bridge Road Crossing scheme - consultation

Hackney Council are doing a consultation on a proposal for a new Toucan (signal controlled pedestrian and cycle) crossing on Lea Bridge Road by the Princess of Wales pub. Leaflets appear to have gone to residents on the south of the road, but not to residents on the north, such as Latham's Yard, who will also be directly affected. It also doesn't appear to be on the Hackney website - so we've therefore re-produced it below. We will do a posting on our view of the the proposal shortly. The deadline for responding is Friday 15 November.

a dreamlife of hackney marshes - 6 november

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Marshman Cometh - Saturday 26th October

Emailed received from the Marshman Chronicles:

Love candles? Love books? Love the fear of being eaten by bears?

Then here’s a little free event that might be of interest... if you happen to be in London on the evening of the 26th October...

I’m going to be reading from my forthcoming book Marshland on the marshes, along with local poet Sam Berkson, author of Life in Transit who’ll perform a selection of his poems.

It’s going to be a candlelit affair, spooky and romantic. We may even hear the munching of bears as they come out from their hiding place to feed on crows and... um... people.

If you want to come along, meet Saturday 26th October at 7pm by the old changing rooms on North Marsh, opposite Cow Bridge (the bright green one). If searching on a map, the closest landmark is the Hackney Marshes entrance to the Middlesex Filter Beds which is a 1 minute walk away.

After the reading, we can all go to the pub to get warm with booze.

Here’s the Facebook page with more details: My Face, Your Book

Thursday, 3 October 2013

millfields folly


Mabley Green Users Group campaign to turn the green space in Homerton into the world's largest 'edible park'
London Fields users get to enjoy Hackney's  largest wildflower meadow (full of beautiful flowers, providing a rich habitat for insects and birds)


Clissold Park users compete to win the national People's Park Award given to the most Green Flag park in the country.

So what are Millfields Users Group Committee campaigning for? They're campaigning to save Hackney parks largest concrete eyesore - the abandoned paddling pool.

Millfields Users Group Committee (12 members) say "we all agreed that the paddling pool area on Millfields should not be dug up". 

Ignoring the commitment it previously gave to MUG members (300 plus, apparently) to include a green option in proposals for the space, MUG Committee seem to banking on Clapton's gentrification to eventually find local support for its folly. It says "the population locally is changing rapidly - new users may have new ideas on how to best use the space". Hmmm ... which seems to be code for: let's ignore current park users who don't agree with us and bank on future ghost users supporting us. 
The MUG committee state removing the concrete "would be a waste of limited money", but we understand they're still pushing the idea of a granite piazza. We look forward to seeing the costings for that!

Monday, 23 September 2013

'Memoirs of an East End Guttersnipe' talk - Saturday 28th September

As part of the Clapton Festival, Brian Walker will be giving a talk entitled "Memoirs of an East End Guttersnipe". 

It will take place at the Levy Centre, 18-24 Lower Clapton Road, E5 opposite the Kings Hall Leisure Centre) at 3.00pm on Saturday 28th September.

Brian, whose skills as a traditional sign painter continue to enliven the local street-scape, still lives a stone's throw from the former Lea Bridge home where he was born in 1938. His popular website "Tales of the Old East End" features reminiscences and anecdotes about the people and places which formed the backdrop of his early years.

Do come along to hear about such characters as The Clapton Cowboy Tex Withers, Jenny Pepper'ole and the Great Battle of Lea Bridge, and the Champion Female Boxer of Britain May Nelson (see photograph).

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Lea Bridge Old School House: objection to planning application

Below are the grounds for objection included in a response to Hackney Planning to the application (Ref: 2013/2118) submitted for the School House, 146a Lea Bridge Road, E5). Since this was submitted, we've heard that the Clapton Arts Trust was unsuccessful in its heritage funding application. Our view remains that time should be allowed to secure a community-based use of the building. You can find further grounds for objecting on the school house Facebook page. 

1. Insufficient detail in drawings and plans
The listed building application includes insufficient detail to fully understand the current building condition or to assess the potential impact of the proposals.
The drawings and plans are sketchy and do not accurately describe the building. For example, and perhaps most startling, the front elevation shows a rounded, not a pointed Gothic/ Tudor arch. There is a clear need for a full measured survey to be prepared to a proper listed building application standard.
The application should be refused, withdrawn or found invalid in order to correct deficiencies in the drawings and plans.
2. Application boundary
The ‘red line’ application boundary excludes the eastern half of the site and therefore covers only half the listed building curtilage. This also omits the mature plane trees from the application, which have therefore not been taken account of.

Granting consent will result in an inappropriate subdivision of the planning unit into two, which will no longer accord with the listed building’s curtilage, unnecessarily complicating planning and listed building control.

The application should be refused, withdrawn or found invalid in order to correct these deficiencies in the application.

3. Balance of loss of fabric vs. conservation or reinstatement
Proposed plans are a broad-brush set of intentions backed up by general statements of intent. There are no firm details of the extent of sacrifice vs. restoration and preservation of the renaming fabric, or detailed method statements on repairs and restoration. This is probably because parts of the building are now unsafe to access or boarded up (see below).

This creates a ‘suck it and see’ approach; where planning and listed building consent may be granted, but only afterwards (and only if and when the scheme proceeds) will the extent of reinstatement of lost or decayed fabric be determined.

A significant part of the decay is a result of neglect over many years by the current building owners. It is not reasonable for the current state of the building to become the baseline for what can be saved or restored and how much degraded fabric sacrificed. This is contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework, which states that no owner should be permitted to gain such advantage.

Judging the appropriate balance should normally be considered in light of a viability statement. No such statement is submitted; so that it is not at all clear if even this harmful scheme, and this unwelcome proposed use, will be implemented.
The application should be refused, withdrawn or found invalid in order to correct these deficiencies in the application.

4. Change of use
Permission for change of use to residential should be refused for the following reasons:
  • Loss of the proposed social and community use. This change of use is contrary to policy. Such space is precious and rare, in high demand (where it is affordable), and unlikely to be re-provided elsewhere in the area. Lea Bridge is an area deficient in social and community space and many local groups and schools are actively seeking additional space.
  •  Failure to re-provide affordable workspace. The Paradise Park permission was amended to reduce the amount of B1 affordable workspace in order to permit the museum use. The use of the building should automatically revert B1 affordable space, should the Trusts’ proposals fall by the wayside. Policy seeks to protect employment uses and the Paradise Park development re-provided relatively little space in the first place.
  • Harm to the character of the building. The original use is most often the best use and this is most closely reflected in the Trust’s proposals. Squeezing two residential units into this small volume results in a diminution in the character of the property – particularly the horizontal subdivision of the main schoolroom.
This application for change of use should be judged against policy, either on the basis of loss of social and community use and/ or loss of affordable workspace. In either case, policy seeks to resist such loss, and the application should therefore be refused.
5. Museum proposals and the Trust
The Trust and their proposed museum plan has been allowed insufficient time to assemble their proposals and pursue Heritage Lottery Funding. Whilst the 12-month period offered by the developer has expired, in hindsight this was clearly too short and therefore unreasonable.
A further minimum period of at least 12 months should be offered to the Trust, in effect re-setting the clock.

The developer clearly believes the current situation is a ‘tabula rasa’, and an opportunity to bring forward fresh new proposals, unencumbered by previous permissions and undertakings to the Trust and to the Planning Authority.

If the developer chooses to follow this assertive route (and they in turn may be frustrated at lack of progress on the part of others), they should be asked to revert to the previous permission to provide affordable workspace as part and parcel of the consented Paradise Park Scheme.

It should be remembered that the consented scheme (in a protected employment area and a conservation area and the site of a historic dock) contained many compromises in terms of heritage and land use issues that were only accepted on balance and in the light of the other attributes of the scheme, including proposals for either affordable workspace or a museum.

6. Repairs notice
The submitted structural survey is limited by the fact that access to parts of the building is now unsafe. This is clear evidence that the state of the building has deteriorated significantly and that this process may be accelerating. It is clear also that a repairs notice should now be urgently considered, in order to arrest the decay and allow safe access for an accurate assessment of the building’s condition to be carried out.  This should be a pre-requisite for consideration of the current listed building consent application; so that the repairs notice can be considered a positive step towards determining the best scheme for the site, whichever scheme that proves to be.
7. Local Planning Authority handling of the application
It is deeply puzzling that the Local planning Authority (LPA) has allowed this building to pass into this critical state of decay, and chosen to avoid the repairs notice route, until this late stage. This raises questions either of appropriate prioritization, capacity or competence on the part of the LPA. The previous listed building consent was allowed to expire on 25thAugust 2012. The date of the principal deed of the legal agreement was signed 15thMarch 2007; and amended on, or about, March 2010; and the terms in that agreement have been allowed to expire without further action by Hackney.

Correspondence on the Planning Register, dated 23 June 2009, from Giles Underhill of Landgate to LBH Planning states: ‘We also suggest an amendment to clause as we have given our assurance to Councillor Rathbone that we will give him 12 months to secure the necessary funding for the proposed ‘Museum on the River’.
Is well meant, but misguided political interference staying the Authority’s hand? English Heritage should take a very careful look at this case. If the situation does not appear to be in order they should consider recovering and determining the application themselves.

Whatever the reasons for the current situation, and in order to correct the position, a repairs notice should be prepared and issued in draft form to all parties concerned, without waiting for this application to be determined. As noted above, basic repairs and bracing is needed urgently, if only to allow safe access for a proper survey to be undertaken and accurate drawings and plan prepared.

8. Harm to the listed building
The proposed mezzanine will result in harm to the listed building and should not be permitted.

Introduction of a mezzanine floor across most of the school hall represents a substantial, unjustified, and permanent loss of a principal characteristic of the building that points most directly to its former use as a school house/ mission room.

The mezzanine interferes with and blocks views of the characteristic roof trusses.
The mezzanine triggers the need for roof lights on prominent roof slopes visible in street and riverside views. Disruption of the external appearance is unjustified in the same way conservation area policies often oppose roof lights on front roof slopes

A more modest mezzanine would still interfere with main window to the north and the chimney breast to the south and disrupt views of the roof trusses.  It should be opposed in principle.

The detailing of the front window/ door is clumsy and even fails to reflect the characteristic Gothic/ Tudor arched opening mentioned in the listing details.

9. Heritage Appraisal
The applicant’s heritage appraisal is insufficiently rigorous and fails to appreciate the architectural and historic significance of the school/mission hall, which is attributed to the eminent Architect Arthur Ashpitel, Architect of St Barnabus, Homerton (Listed Grade II), whose father constructed Paradise Dock (Arthur Ashpital’s obituary is attached and clearly refers to his involvement with the Schoolhouse at Lea Bridge).

The Schoolhouse itself, detached from a church, is extremely rare. Such schoolhouses have an important place in Hackney’s social and economic history.

10 Deficiencies in the option appraisal in the Design and Access Statement
The applicant’s Design and Access Statement (DAS) fails to examine alternatives, including the proposed museum. Given that the scheme proposes harm to the building, and as a minimum, the DAS should consider alternatives to decking over the hall and which is the most appropriate use for the hall. It does not.

If this is the best possible scheme that is practical, viable and deliverable (and in the end it may prove the best chance of saving the building), then the applicant should demonstrate this by evaluating the other options.

The application should be refused, withdrawn or found invalid because the alternatives have not been properly appraised.

Refusal will allow a proper assessment of the potential futures for the building to be carried out and give all parties the time to devise alternative proposals that can be judged on their merits.

At least four alternatives should be examined:
1. The Trusts proposals for a community museum use, possibly with a riverside extension.
2. A hybrid with a community museum use in the main hall (vested in the Trust), and a cross funding development of the school masters house to the rear for one or more residential units.
3. Reversion to affordable workspace fitted out to shell and core standard for the entire building (arguably the established, lawful use because the museum use did not properly commence).
4. The proposed two residential unit scheme.
In my view, the order in which the options are set out above is also the order of priority the LPA should attach to the options.
11. Matters of detail not addressed by the application
There are a number or related, detailed matters that should be borne in mind:-

Reinstatement of the boundary wall and railings and the Yorkstone paving to the front should be secured (The Yorkstone was funded by Vision Homes through S.106 monies but recently stolen, then temporarily replaced with a macadam surface).

Immediate efforts should be made to secure fallen or perilously loose stonework (octagonal chimney’s etc.). This should be stored safely inside the building.
The building has been repeatedly left open and unsecured (both boundary gates and doors into the building). Flammable materials have been deposited both outside the doors and inside the building. Proper management and safeguarding should be insisted upon – a further reason to follow the repairs notice route.

A hoarding has lined the site for many years, bearing advertising and flags for the development, to the advantage of the developer, and maintained long after works on the main scheme have been completed. The hoarding should be replaced or made good ( or possibly replaced with a fence to make the building visible, the site secure, and to increase surveillance), including for those parts of the site mysteriously excluded from the application boundary.

Sankofa: the truth behind black history month 1926-2013

the hidden river festival - sunday 22nd september

Friday, 6 September 2013

walthamstow wetlands and the marine engine house

If you missed the Walthamstow Wetlands consultations events - this film will give you some further information. 
Walthamstow Wetlands Film from SAM LIEBMANN SHOWREEL on Vimeo.

Having gone along to one of the consultation events, we were concerned that the plans to turn the old Marine Engine House into a heritage /wildlife centre involve unnecessarily excessive and therefore harmful changes to this heritage asset:  Surely a contradiction for a heritage lottery funded project.

The massive main pumping engine hall is cut in half by a new first floor, so the sense of scale of the original pumping engines will be lost. 

The balance of the 'multi-use' space created (both internal and extensive multilevel external wrap around terraces) seems weighted towards a private function space/wedding venue, whilst the education room is pushed into a side block and the wardens accommodation pushed out into a new smaller building nearby, at extra cost. 

Lots of potential here for another white elephant (The high cost of running the Golf Centre building meant the golf course itself, with relatively low running costs, was closed by the Park Authority).

We also thought there was a contradiction between a noisy and brightly lit licensed function/wedding venue with extensive external terraces right next to the reservoirs and the wetlands that the whole project is designed to protect and conserve.

The overall sense is that too much money is being sucked into an over-sized and costly building project with few heritage benefits, and at the cost of investing in the Wetlands themselves.

We think there is a strong heritage and economic case for the building project to be scaled back and for external appearance of the Marine Engine House to remain unaltered, preserving cherished views of this landmark from across the old reservoirs, along Ferry Lane and views along the river Lea.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Waltham Forest Arts Club Summer Exhibition @ The Mill, Coppermill Lane E17

The Mill is a short walk across the Marshes,
7 - 11 Coppermill Lane
E17 7HA

opening times
Tuesday -  Thursday - 10 - 7pm
Fri and Sat 10 - 6pm
Sunday 11 - 2pm

for more information the Mill

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Clapton churches, boxers & change

Hackney council has organised a number of free guided heritage health walks in August. 

One of them is on Clapton churches, boxers and change - from St John at Hackney via Clapton Square; Round Chapel; Chatsworth Road; Pedro Club.

Places are limited and booking is essential. To book your email: Linda Sydow (Hackney Council).

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Save millfields village green's railings!

Way back in December 2011, Millfields User Group voted to remove the railings around the ‘village green’ in Millfields south (the dog-free / dog training area). This was agreed (12 votes to 6).

This is the fenced, grassed area, near the old Lodge building and next to the basketball and tennis courts.

After a long delay, Hackney Council now plans to implement this historic decision without further consultation.

Should the original decision be reviewed first, if only to check that it still commands broad support and that the reasons in favour of the scheme are still valid?

We think the proposals are flawed. When the full details are known and the impacts understood (probably when it’s too late to reconsider), this is likely to prove unpopular and another ‘own goal’. The Parks Department should, therefore, carefully reconsider the decision to keep the railings around this section of Millfields.

If this was a good and popular decision in 2011, supporters should not be afraid of taking the time to re-state the reasons why this is still the best option.

The concerns reported to the meeting in 2011 were about a small number of irresponsible and obviously anti-social dog owners who were allowing their dogs to foul the area and not clearing up afterwards. Children from a nearby school were playing in the areas of undergrowth and came into physical contact with dog mess. Obviously of deep concern, but ultimately a single incident.

There were no advisory signs, as can be found in enclosed areas in Parks throughout Hackney, including Millfields north. It was, and is, far from clear what the area is meant to be for. Is it supposed to be ‘dog-free’, ‘children and parents only’, and/or ‘quiet space for older people’. Even responsible dog owners are confused - some sincerely believe it is a dedicated dog training area.

The result of a freedom of information (FOI) request to Hackney Council reveals that the Parks Department is also confused and holds contradictory positions. Is all this confusion the underlying cause of the problem, not the railings?

If responsible local dog owners are not clearly advised on the right thing to do, no wonder less responsible owners take advantage of the confusion in policy and do not fear any enforcement.

If the problem is in any way caused or exacerbated by the railings around the grassed area, it is far from clear that removing the railings will suddenly cause all dog owners to behave responsibly. It will certainly not create a single square metre of open space that is any safer for children to play in than the rest of Millfields, and it will not add a single piece of play equipment.

Cogent arguments in favour of keeping the railings were made at the meeting in 2011. A far simpler and cheaper solution, easy to implement as an experiment, is to make the signage crystal clear. Either:
·      make it clear this is a dog-free area; or
·      if dogs are allowed, reminds owners of the need to clear up after their dogs (our preference).

Either way (and whatever the case for and against), the cheap and simple option of putting up clear signage should clearly be tried first. Even if the railings are taken down, there is still a need for a similar level of signage and enforcement.

The 2011 meeting was well chaired by Amy Erickson of the Hackney Parks Forum (HPF). She counseled the group to carefully consider the issues before voting to remove the railings. In her experience, parks user groups were struggling to persuade the Parks Department to install railings for quiet areas, children’s play space and to create dog free zones. Once lost, getting railings reinstated, here or elsewhere on Millfields, will clearly be an uphill struggle and will probably need expensive planning permission as well.

The results of the FOI request reveal that the Parks Department believes HPF are now in favour of removing the railings. We do not know whether this is correct and HPF has now shifted its position in favour. If so, this could have implications for other parks that may be arguing for fenced off areas.

It is too easy for the issues to become narrowly focused on a dog’s freedom to roam vs. children’s freedom to play safely. In fact, there are wider and equally important concerns.  Millfields’ Biodiversity Plan describes this area as: “one of the most diverse areas of scrub / woodland on the entire site”.  It states it would be an: "ideal area to create a small nature garden with meadow areas, minibeast habitats and possibly a pond or other wetland feature."

Removing the railings will:

1.    take away a quiet haven and a pleasant counterpoint to the predominant areas of open grassland;
2.    diminish Millfields’ biodiversity and wildlife (see Wild Spaces: Protecting Hackney Nature);
3.    penalise responsible dog owners by removing an area which acts as a useful dog training area.

Let’s hope the Parks Department and the User group think again before it’s too late.

Examples of railings (protecting wildlife areas) and clear signage at nearby Markfield Park:

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

St John at Hackney Summer Fete- Saturday 6 July

'Save Lea Marshes' campaigners will be having a stall at the Fete. If you're going along - do stop by. They'll  have the new leaflet; other campaign materials; T shirts; seed balls, plants and seeds for sale, plus bric-a-brac. Bring anything you would like to sell in aid of the campaign's funds or make a donation.