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Save Gillett Square - HCD proposed works to Bradbury Street workspace

Find out more about our plans to redevelop our building at Bradbury Street

Statement in response to campaign against HCD - 30th April 2018:

Over the last few days, there has been a snowball of communications that appear to originate from a handful of individuals who have sought to wage a campaign against Hackney Co-operative Developments CIC (HCD – a community owned and asset locked social enterprise) over recent months, and in the early hours of Sunday morning, a fire was started at our property (damaging our building and the property of one of our tenants, Kaffa Coffee).

It is important that the Gillett Square community know that much of the information urging opposition to our proposed works is either incorrect or intentionally misleading, and is clearly engineered to instil fear in those who care most about Gillett Square and our community who use and value the square (be it businesses who trade in the square, or those who enjoy visiting the space).

It is equally important that the community feel they can share their concerns with HCD, and that we have the opportunity to provide clarity where it is needed. As such, our CEO (Edward Quigley) will recommence weekly visits to Kaffa Coffee in Gillett Square to speak with those members of the community who wish to find out more about our plans.  Please visit from 1-3pm on Thursday afternoons.

Reference has been made to ‘developers’ behind the current proposals, and this is clearly intended to paint a misleading picture – framing our proposed works as being something that has been planned by an entity that disregards the qualities and community of Gillett Square. However, the fact is that it is not a commercial developer behind the current proposals, but one of Dalston’s longest established social enterprises, owned by its community members (not profit-driven shareholders), who have worked for over 35 years to support the Dalston community in the face of many challenges within Hackney.

HCD owns the building and through our years of work to enable small, vulnerable businesses to grow and thrive in Gillett Square, and the regular animation of the square – whether that is through our pop-up playground or other events that we coordinate – we have made a major contribution to the Gillett Square that so many love and wish to protect, and we will continue to do so. HCD has not and would not allow Gillett Square to become gentrified or socially cleansed, as has been suggested.  This ignores the values that HCD stands for and the diverse community of tenants and individuals that we have helped to foster at Gillett Square.

A campaign against HCD ignores the fact that our building is in desperate need of essential refurbishment, and without this, Gillett Square and Dalston will lose much needed affordable workspace that helps those organisations who struggle to find workspace at commercial rates.  It ignores too the need for more affordable workspace in Dalston, particularly as commercial developers are increasingly active and provide commercial space that is beyond the reach of many.  This is not new; plans for HCD to undertake substatial works to our building at Bradbury Street date back to 2011:

"HCD’s current workspaces are generally old, poorly insulated and high maintenance premises. Especially those around Gillett Square are both complex and in use 24/7 throughout the year, presenting major security, regulatory, health and safety issues. All this burdens our management overheads, our service charges and carbon footprint. This not only concerns HCD and its tenants, but also the wider environment and the image of the neighbourhood. Building on the best of HCD’s existing practices and knowledge it is now imperative to search out and deploy the expertise to reduce this burden." - Adam Hart - HCD Strategic Director, 2011 - HCD Strategic Plan 2011-2015 (available to download here).

"Dalston Works will create c475sqm of new B1 workspace. Energy efficiency improvements to the existing building will substantially reduce the sites carbon footprint, positively impacting on HCD's finances, improving long-term financial sustainability and ability to offer excellent value to new and growing SMEs"  Dominic Ellison - CEO, 2016 submission to GLA for funding.

To address points referenced by those seeking to obstruct HCD and our work:

The loss of market pods

The pod structures themselves were always temporary trading units, and not designed for permanent use. They have degraded over time and will continue to do so, and they provide poor insulation for tenants, sub-standard services and poor use of space. We want to provide our existing tenants with new, larger spaces to trade from and to remove the many issues that come with the existing pods. The design of the new spaces will build directly on the character of the current pods, and this is something that has come from the extensive consultation with all our tenants. We recognise that the appearance of the current pods is seen by many as an asset to Gillett Square, and the new space as part of our development will reflect this.

The works will permanently impact negatively on Gillett Square as a public space

No. Whilst the square will obviously be impacted during the period of works, HCD will continue to animate the space and once proposed works are complete, we will continue our long-established programme of community-led activity in the square. Such is our commitment to Gillett Square and retaining use of the space as much as possible, that we have been successful in securing agreement from Hackney Council to allow our current pod businesses to temporarily trade from the south side of the car park – ensuring that as much of the square is accessible as possible during the proposed works.

“It would also create a perception of, if not an actual, post-Grenfell fire risk”

It is regretful that anyone would feel that connecting the Grenfell tragedy and the loss of life that destroyed a community to proposals from a social enterprise to refurbish a building is either reasonable or in good taste.

The fire in the early hours of Sunday morning appears to have been deliberately started. HCD will be liaising closely with the police to identify and prosecute those responsible and would ask anyone who has any information to come forward to HCD or the police. An attack on HCD and our tenants is an attack on the Gillett Square and wider Dalston community, and we stand in unity with our Markos and the community to oppose this.

HCD take the safety of our tenants, visitors to our buildings and the community as a whole incredibly seriously. In developing our current proposals, the safety element has been a priority and continues to be.

Proposals include alterations that would prevent future large cultural events from using the car-park area

This is deliberately misleading. The proposals provide for current pods tenants to trade temporarily from structures that will be sited on the south side of the car park. This ensures that marginal and vulnerable businesses who currently trade at Gillett Square will continue to do so during works, and then return to a much-improved building. HCD do not have consent nor agreement with Hackney Council for a permanent structure and were this something that the community wanted to see, we would work with the community, stakeholders and Hackney Council to complete the original plan for Gillett Square.

Additionally, HCD have met with Hackney Council to discuss Gillett Square featuring, once again, as part of Hackney Carnival during the proposed works.

The proposal is over-ambitious and would overstretch HCD, an under-resourced organisation at many levels and result in community-owned buildings being lost to the private sector

Again; a deliberately misleading statement and one made from assumption, other than facts. HCD has, over many years, undertaken major development projects (not least the original development of the Bradbury Street/Dalston Culture House workspaces) and done so successfully. Most recently, we have redeveloped our building at Downham Road and we are currently fitting out new offices in Woodberry Down.

A vastly experienced project team has worked for many months with HCD staff and Directors (and tenants) as the current proposals have been developed, and a comprehensive risk analyses and due diligence will be the backbone of any proposed works, ensuring that the building is fit for purpose for many years to come, and HCD continues to be a sustainably run organisation. We feel that we should accept the challenge of providing start-up and small Hackney businesses, charities and community groups with affordable workspace that is more than just functional.

HCD respects (and encourages) the views of those who care about Gillett Square as much as we do. It has been at the root of the comprehensive consultation that we have undertaken, firstly with our tenants and then with the wider community.  We want the community of Gillett Square to learn more about our proposals and be provided with factually correct information, rather than assumption and scaremongering from a small few.

Please take the time to read our proposals here, communicate with us – tell us what you’re concerned about. Our CEO, Edward Quigley, spent many weeks towards the end of 2017 meeting with the community at Gillett Square to talk through the works and any concerns that individuals or groups had, this will commence again from this Thursday, 3rd May, at Kaffa Coffee from 1pm to 3pm.

 

An introduction to Hackney Co-operative Developments CIC (HCD):

HCD are a community interest company, meaning that we exist to benefit the community, rather than private stakeholders. This is particularly relevant in the context of our proposed redevelopment of our building at Bradbury Street. Our properties are protected Hackney community assets. They cannot be broken up for private gain, but will be preserved to support local economic activity and in the instance of our proposed redevelopment, enhanced in order to support existing (and new) Hackney businesses. You can find out more about HCD here, as well as our mission here, and we would encourage everyone who is interested in finding out more about our proposals to take a moment to visit these pages, as our work is rooted in the long-established values of HCD as an organisation that is invested in improving life for the community in Hackney.  Our proposals for the redevelopment of Bradbury Street are similarly inspired by our core values.

There is no clearer evidence for our positive work than the range of social and ethical organisations, local start-ups, marginalised individuals, cultural entrepreneurs and creative professionals who are our tenants, and have grown with HCD. Alongside these tenants, the evidence of our work can be seen in the activity within the square and the many different individuals and groups who feel at home in Gillett Square. The strength of our work can be seen in our many dynamic tenants and the activity and animation in Gillett Square, and we now want to invest in providing our tenants (and the community) with an improved building.

Submission of planning application

Following our consultation with tenants and stakeholders (see below), we have submitted a comprehensive planning application to Hackney Council for the proposed redevelopment of our building at Bradbury Street. You can view our submission by visiting the Hackney Planning Application search page here, and entering the planning reference for our submission: 2018/0792.

How have you consulted with the community?

Our public consultation with local residents, businesses and stakeholders ran from Friday 20th October to Friday 3rd November 2017. Aside from direct communication within our network of local stakeholders, use of our social media platforms and flyers made available to users of Gillett Square (through our pod businesses), we also letter-dropped 200+ neighbouring residents and businesses to alert them to our plans.

What are we proposing?

We are proposing a redevelopment of our existing buildings at Bradbury Street to improve existing workspace, and to provide new workspace through the creation of a new, third-floor (plus mezzanine). Improvements to existing workspace include environmental performance, new kitchens/toilets and shared spaces within extended walkways, new meeting room provision, provision of shower facilities, levelled floors, new heating and more. On the ground floor, we are proposing to provide current 'pod' occupiers with new space that retains the qualities of the current market pods, in terms of their character and uniqueness, and at the same time provide improved services within the spaces and more permanent accommodation within the fabric of a redeveloped and improved building. We have committed extensive time to speaking with pod businesses on the proposed design of new ground floor space and the evolution of our proposals can be seen in the designs (you can download on the left).

Where can you get further information on our proposals?

Please visit the Hackney Planning Search page (above) to view our planning submission.  You can also view the downloads on the left (or below on mobile devices). These include the design proposals, as well as a document that details our consultation to date with current occupiers of the building and incorporating an FAQ document that came out of the first phase of consultation with occupiers of the building. A flyer was made available to users of Gillett Square, so that they can understand what we are doing (and importantly, what we are not doing), as well as how to find out more information.

What about the current businesses - how will they be affected, and how are we supporting them?

Relocation during works - businesses in the pods and upper floors will need to relocate during the works (which will last 12 months, from July 2018). We have worked hard to ensure that the impact of the works is minimised as much as possible. Phasing of the works, to allow some tenants to remain in the building, is not possible because of cost, time and safety implications.
Support offered: office occupiers - tenants on the 1st and 2nd floors will have the opportunity to relocate to newly refurbished HCD premises in the north of the borough (Woodberry Down). This will be at the same rent as they are currently paying, and for the duration of the works only. We have allocated a budget to assist with the cost of moving to Woodberry Down, and we are also offering tenants a three-months' rent free period over the duration of their temporary relocation. Alternatively, tenants can make their own relocation arrangements for the period of works, safe in the knowledge they will be able to return to the building following completion. Finally, and subject to available budget, we will also look to provide tenants with additional support with their relocation (HR, IT etc).
Support offered: pod occupiers - businesses in our pods can continue to trade within Gillett Square during the period of works, and we are pleased to state that we have agreed with Hackney Council consent for siting temporary trading structures within the car park on the north side of the square, facing towards the current pod location. In addition to the above, pod occupiers will receive a three-months' rent free period over the duration of their temporary relocation.
Support offered: all tenants - lease terms and conditions - new leases for workspace within the newly refurbished building will be on similar terms and conditions to those in place now and we have committed to tenants that any increase in rent will be capped at a maximum of 10% of current rent and frozen at this level for at least 24 months.
Support offered: continued animation of Gillett Square during works - we intend to continue animating Gillett Square during the period of works on the building and in addition to the activities we currently deliver, we are exploring opportunities to deliver a mixed visual arts project using available hoarding around the site. Current ideas include providing three 'canvasses' on the hoardings, each with a programme of different artwork throughout the year, including street artists, local schools and photography from Gillett Square. We welcome any ideas you may have about the animation of Gillett Square during works, or thereafter.

Will the current market pod structures be retained permanently?

This is something that we are currently exploring, and is subject to several factors, including: permission from London Borough of Hackney (as landlord) to permanently site the current pods in another location on the square and on what terms, planning permission for any permanent re-site, connection to services, costs incurred in service connection and ensuring current structures are made fit for purpose in an alternate location (the current pre-fabricated pods have no 'backs', have been modified to varying degrees and butt up against the structure of the building on Bradbury Street).

Our dialogue with our current pod occupiers has been about returning to new ground floor space within the building and we are delighted that our proposals have evolved in such a way that current pod businesses can see the value in returning to the building.

Will rents be hiked up following the works?

No. We have committed to an increase of no more than 10% of current rent paid by tenants, and we will be doing all that we can to avoid any increase at all. In addition to agreeing to cap any increase at 10%, we have also committed to freezing rent at this rate for at least 24 months. This is to help our businesses budget accurately for their return to the building.

We have undertaken robust and thorough financial due diligence, overseen by our Chief Finance Officer and Chief Executive Officer, with further oversight from our Property Sub-committee (mandated by the General Council to oversee development plans, and made up of GC members and HCD senior staff). Furthermore, we have provided our financial planning and business case to our funders, who require rigorous financial due dilligence.

We have an enviable reputation for providing workspace at very low rent (compared to market value) with all income generated re-invested in our community and our economic development and cultural programming activities. We also have a track record of undertaking development works of this nature (the obvious case in point being the original development of these buildings and most recently a redevelopment of our building at Downham Road) and doing so successfully.

Will this gentrify Gillett Square and be damaging to those who currently use and value the space?

No. We don't believe that our proposals will gentrify the square, or alienate those who use the space, because:

  1. We are not a commercial developer. We care about our tenants, their businesses and livelihoods, the community and those who feel as we do; that Gillett Square is a unique and special public space. Whilst ensuring we can operate sustainably, we are not driven by maximising rental income from our properties. Our values are evident in all that we do and can be traced through our work to lead (in partnership with others) on the development of both Gillett Square and our building on Bradbury Street over many years. A brief history of our work with Gillett Square can be found here
  2. The uniqueness of the square has been achieved in no small part by the regular activity and animation of the square. This has been led by HCD for several years; from our pop-up playground and Universal Board Games through to regular events, such as film screenings, we are committed to facilitating community-led activity, as well as other cultural and commercial activity that benefits the diverse Dalston community. You can find out more about the events we organise here
  3. We have always supported businesses in Gillett Square, and we are extremely proud of how many of these businesses have grown and become an integral part of the community as a direct result of the support HCD has offered - this is something we value and will ensure is retained during and after this latest phase of development
  4. The design of the proposed redevelopment has evolved greatly in recent weeks, because of ongoing and meaningful dialogue with our tenants, and with a focus on ensuring that a redeveloped building is sensitive to Gillett Square as a trading location and as a public space for a diverse mix of individuals and groups.  We feel that the proposals and specifically the aesthetics of our current design; the approach we have taken to new ground floor workspace, in particular, through intense dialogue with current businesses, along with our historical (and ongoing) animation of the square clearly demonstrates both that we do not wish to allow the area to be gentrified, and that we also have the capacity to strongly influence this, as a landlord, community interest company and facilitator of community-led activity
  5. Key milestones in the development of Gillett Square over the years have been led by HCD working in partnership with Hawkins/Brown architects and once again, we are working with Hawkins/Brown in collaboration with [Y/N] Studio