A consultation by Hackney Council is being seen as an “unprecedented opportunity” to secure the place of arts and culture in the district.

Arcola Theatre
A performance at Arcola Theatre in Dalston, which hopes to benefit from the plans

A public consultation, due to close this weekend, is gathering views on how best to develop the East London district of Dalston as an “arts-led cultural destination”.

The ‘Dalston Quarter’ consultation is being described as an “unprecedented opportunity” to secure a place for arts and culture, and designate an area of the town centre in which community, cultural and creative uses will be supported and developed through “part refurbishment” and “part development” of council-owned sites.

“The aim is to create an exciting area consisting of a range of community and creative uses as well as public spaces as part of a balanced approach to land use across the wider town centre,” the document says.

“These uses have the potential to generate business and employment opportunities and enhance the appeal of the area as a place to visit.”

Long-term development

Hackney Council has been committed to developing the area since 2013, when it introduced a planning document for Dalston as a framework for coordinating development and urban design.

The new vision aims to enhance Dalston’s “distinct character” and ensure the introduction of cultural and creative employment floorspace that “might not otherwise come forward” if the sites were developed as part of a private-led development without the Council’s involvement.

The local authority says the development will help secure the refurbishment and longevity of existing buildings of heritage value, and help provide greater certainty to temporary uses of these buildings.

“Dalston Town Centre is undergoing rapid change, and there is potential for the creative and cultural benefits of the Council-led Dalston Quarter to help shape the development of privately-owned sites in and around the wider town centre – which will include longer term challenges from the future arrival of Crossrail 2,” the Council adds.

“Unprecedented opportunity”

The consultation, led by the Council, sets out a series of draft principles for public response, such as a commitment to ‘shared space’, and a public realm “befitting the ‘Dalston Quarter’”.

Arcola Theatre, which held a pop-up tent for three years on one of the proposed development sites, is among those who are responding to the consultation. In its draft response, the theatre calls for buildings in the area to prioritise creative, cultural, community and workspace uses, and for no demolition of buildings of significance to be permitted on financial viability grounds alone.

The theatre also calls for the Council to commit to a minimum of 35% affordable housing in the area.

The consultation closes on 30 April. Responses will be used to inform the Development Principles, which will be agreed by the council before being sent out for public consultation again.