The right buildings in the right places – managing a changing Hackney

Planning documents can sometimes come across as technical documents, and it can be difficult to understand what they actually mean or do. At first glimpse, Hackney’s draft Local Plan, agreed by the Council last month, could appear to be just that – a 250-page document even without the various add-ons!

But these hundreds of pages actually describe what Hackney’s neighbourhoods and town centres will look like over the next 15 years. This plan, nicknamed LP33, sets out to describe a fairer, safer and more sustainable place where Hackney’s communities can benefit from new development until 2033.

It sets new rules and makes requirements on those who want to build new buildings in Hackney, including dedicated planning policies for town centres like Dalston and Hackney Central, and proposals for a new town centre for Clapton. Above all, we are setting out to manage investment and development so that our neighbourhoods remain places where local businesses can thrive, residents can live and provide the spaces that support the services we need, when we need them.

Hackney is rapidly changing and this worries many of us living and growing up in the borough. It has become known as a great place to live in, grow up in and do business in. This reputation has spread far and wide and people want to come and be part of our community. As this demand increases, it creates profound changes in the affordability of homes, in the types of businesses found along the high street and the very size of the new buildings themselves. It brings changes that many think might not hold anything for them.

It would be wrong to suggest that the Council or LP33, has the authority to control all of this change. Our powers are limited and there will always be new buildings, new businesses and new residents. This, after all, has always been the story of our borough and that of London. But these changes should not come at the expense of local communities made up of residents and businesses who, over the years, have made this place their home. This change should and must be curated, used to improve our daily lives, our town centres, streets and public spaces – creating a place that is for everyone and not for just a few.

The principles that have guided LP33 are principles of equality. These were eloquently set out in our Mayor’s manifesto in May – a fairer, safer and more sustainable Hackney. Hackney’s Local Plan translates these principles from objectives into the detailed, technical policy that will make them happen.

So how does this technical document make the borough a fairer place? It means that anyone who builds even a single home in our borough would now be required to contribute to the provision of genuinely affordable homes – for social or living rent.

There is a proud tradition of industry and entrepreneurship in the borough, but if we don’t get the right type of new buildings in the right places, that industry and entrepreneurship will struggle and move on. That’s why the plan promotes office buildings being built in the south of the borough and in our town centres, and Hackney’s light industrial land is to be protected from redevelopment.

The cost of renting workspace – like rents for homes – continues to rise. We’re proposing to make developers prioritise genuinely affordable workspace in their new developments, with a special 60% discount on the market rate in Shoreditch and 40% discount in the rest of the borough.

But LP33 also proposes changes that will help us build a better, safer and more sustainable borough. Play space in new developments will have to be open to everyone to use. Accessible drinking fountains must form part of major building projects. Taller buildings must support nesting birds like swifts by installing nesting boxes, support carbon reduction and reduce overheating by bringing flora and fauna back into our town centres, not only by creating new green walls and green roofs, but also buildings designed to live or work in which support the growing of vertical forests.

Hackney will always be a tolerant place open to investment, to new ideas and to people. We have a proud heritage that has, over the generations, welcomed people from far and wide, and this has shaped our reputation as a creative place where people can flourish and have the space to express their new ideas. These changes have brought huge benefits to our borough over the years and our Local Plan aims to ensure that our proud heritage is carried into the next chapter of Hackney’s journey.

Cllr Guy Nicholson
Cabinet Member for Planning, Business and Investment