The Hanging Gardens of Dalston
The development by Dalston Kingsland station replacing the old Peacocks store is official called Dalston Green. I don’t like the choice of name, as it really isn’t green space and Dalston is short of the latter. This was said on the old London Development Authority web site about Dalston.
On average in London 38% of land is given over to green space – in Dalston it is less than 12%.
There is more here about the LDA’s plans for Dalston. As the LDA has been abolished it would be interesting to know the view of the GLA.
So you can see why I prefer the Hanging Gardens of Dalston, as the development will not add to any green space in the area.
The Proposed Development
I should start by saying, that the proposed development will not affect me on a permanent basis, unless the access to Dalston Kingsland station is improved from the south-west. But during constructi0n, I fear it might make it difficult to walk to the station from the same direction.
The development is tall, is all flats for sale, and has no on-site parking except for two disabled spaces. The green part comes because they are intending that residents cultivate gardens on their balconies. Some will, but many won’t I fear. Incidentally, when we lived on the eleventh floor of Cromwell Tower in the Barbican, we didn’t bother to grow anything.
So my first question is will the developers actually sell all of the flats? I have been told that the penthouses are about a million. And that of course goes with a maximum green view of 12%, no water view and no car parking. For that sort of money in Hackney, you can buy a whole house. OK, a lot of the flats will be much cheaper, but I think they’ll struggle to sell them to owner-occupiers.
Which leaves those, who are buying-to-let. I have two buy-to-let properties outside London and both have water views. They are not a problem to let. I would think that these in Dalston might be difficult. Especially, if you want to make a return on your money.
About the only thing going for the development, is that it has its own railway station and as the developers are rebuilding this with lifts and full step-free access, this is a plus to offset the car parking problems.
But the biggest problem of the development is that it is not a friendly neighbour and it will cast a deep shadow over all the buildings around. A lot of people are objecting to that.
A Deal Over Windows
Apparently, the developer has done a deal to rebuild the station with step-free access and has now got the ability to put windows on the northern side of the tower. You could argue that only the north and east sides of the tower have any interesting views, with the railway and the Kingsland Road respectively. It does seem a bit dodgy, but then all the parties involved are reputable.
The picture shows Dalston Kingsland station from the westbound platform with the Peacocks store on the right.
Note how it would be impossible to squeeze another track into the cutting. But does the deal between the parties allow them to build over the tracks? This might be actually easier than not, as somewhere underneath all this is HS1.
The cross-London routes and the London Overground are probably in for a lot of changes over the next few years. If TfL get their way a lot of freight will leave the North London Line through Dalston Kingsland and move to a newly-electrified Gospel Oak to Barking line. Some freight will never get near London at all, due to developments elsewhere, like the Bacon Factory Curve at Ipswich. This will increase the number of passenger trains on the North London Line, but not enough to cope for the expected increase in passengers on the line.
Further increase in capacity will come from lengthening the trains from four coaches to five. The trains are designed to be coupled in various combinations and four to five, is just a matter of coupling in the coach and telling the train it is now longer. Some stations are ready for the extra coach, but Dalston Kingsland is not, so temporarily the longer trains would use selective door opening. The way the trains are designed means this won’t be a problem, especially as it would be easy for passengers to move to a coach from which exit was not allowed.
Selective door opening is only a short term fix though and inevitably the platforms will have to be lengthened.
The platforms at Dalston Kingsland are actually staggered, so only one platform would need to be lengthened. I took this picture from the western end of the westbound platform.
It shows the stagger well, and it would appear space has been left to extend the eastbound platform at its western end, with perhaps a bit of modification to the overhead wiring. The westbound platform would probably take a five car train with just a couple of metres of extra platform.
One advantage of extending the platforms at the western end, would be that the station frontage could be moved backwards from the Kingsland Road, if this would make a better balanced building.
The Rail South To and From the East Problem
At present if you come up from the South and want to get to anywhere in the East, like Stratford, you have to change at Canonbury via either steps or two lifts.
From the East to go South, you presently change at Canonbury by walking across the platform.
This is probably better than fighting your way down Kingsland High Road. Especially, with some heavy purchases from the Eastfield shopping centre at Stratford.
When I do the trip from Stratford to Dalston Junction, I always go via Canonbury.
Looking at the area today, I wonder whether it would be possible to slip a southbound platform between the southbound line and the end of the westbound platform, so that passengers could just walk across between a westbound train and a southbound one. There may be enough space, but would the expense be worth it given that Canonbury works well as an East-to-South interchange.
It Gets Complicated
If we look at all the site from Boleyn Road to the station, it is either directly owned by TfL/Network Rail or the developers, who may be under the rail companies control because of the northern windows issue.
Given too, that Peacocks have gone bust since all this development was planned and the Overground is going from strength to strength, might we not see a bigger plan covering the whole site, much more sympathetic to the better buildings on the Kingsland Road. A decent architect might even be able to build a small green space into the development, as after all Dalston needs it.
A Walking Route Between the Two Dalston Stations
This I think is very much needed, as I’ve said earlier, it’s not good to walk along the crowded Kingsland Road. But if all the development on the west side of the road is done together, there is a chance, that something everybody would be proud off can be created. There is probably space for a decent bus lay-by and the walking route could also branch down the Balls Pond Road, where hopefully a light-controlled crossing could cross that road to the Bentley Road car-park. We might even see some better shops and cafes alongside the walking route to compliment the pub and the Shanghai restaurant.
A lot of what I have said here is kite-flying and can probably be shown up as rubbish. But I hope it shows how to treat the various sites to the west of the Kingsland Road holistically as one site could lead to something that is more in keeping with the surroundings, is probably shorter in height and offers benefits to everybody who uses the trains or the Kingsland Road.