Be a brick – help the Pembury!

It hardly seems the time for kicking philanthropic gestures in the mouth but it appears that the Peabody Trust are gamely jumping in to ruin a handsome example of the type of social housing their founder, George Peabody, became famous for building.

Making matters worse for residents of the Pembury Estate, the estate under question, is that few have actually heard about the plans, prompting a grass-roots movement by some residents to mobilise objections in the five days left before the application goes through.

The DLR loves a bit of DIY activism, ‘original features’ maintenance (the one area where our taste, disgustingly, aligns with those of Keatons) and really anything associated with the best pub in the borough. So we wholeheartedly support this campaign, brought to us by links and hearsay. A short synopsis below and then what you can do to help, dear reader.

Residents of the Pembury Estate only received letters about the planning proposals submitted by Peabody last week – almost a full month after the application was received by Hackney Council. It’s perhaps easy to see why the council and Peabody might have been a bit sheepish publicising the details: it’s a completely ludicrous idea that will reduce the 28 elegantly detailed and robust ex-London County Council buildings of the Old Pembury Estate, built in 1930s, to a model of the kind of sink estate that it has been rehabilitated from. The bustling multi-cultural mix of council tenants and leaseholders, young families and elderly residents are soon to find the outside of their homes clad in cheap polystyrene foam if this planning application is allowed to pass.

Pembury at present

Proposed Pembury of the future. They keep it grainy to keep you from noticing that the building now looks like it's wearing a foam gilet.

It appears, from our telescope across the way, cups on the walls of the Hackney Council and News Corps-style phone tapping, to be a late smash-and-grab raid on the much abused and soon-to-be-cancelled Government CESP fund, a marketplace in which often dubious building firms with ‘efficiency’ projects hawk their wares. Apparently a private developer in partnership with the Peabody Trust is planning to clad all of the external brick walls over the entire estate with 11 centimetres of cheap insulation foam, a thin layer of render and a light pastel painted finish. Hackney Council advise against the use of render because it ages badly, is prone to cracking, staining and graffiti – making it expensive and difficult to maintain – but this seems to have been overlooked. Also overlooked seems to be the sheer extent of the proposed change, despite the application’s stating that ‘the insulation will have a minimal impact on the appearance of the building… Given the fact that the work will not materially change the appearance of the blocks, the policy is compliant with Core Policy 24.’ Core Policy 24 is the Local Development Framework document, which, along with Hackney Planning Guidelines, outlines how architectural alterations need to be in keeping with the original building’s colour, texture, materials and historical standing; changing the entire façade of the building from brick to foam with a light-painted render seems blatantly to overturn this proviso. That Hackney is described as a brick borough makes the whole thing even less likely to succeed – or so you’d think.

At the moment the application will be passed unless significant numbers of reasoned objections are raised by the public.

Some residents are outraged, although again few of the people who live on the Pembury Estate have even been told – either by Peabody or Hackney Council. Letters have gone out sporadically; a couple of signs have appeared last week on lampposts, but many residents feel this hardly constitutes a public consultation period whose purpose is to inform every affected member of the community (both within the estate and without) and to give them 21 days to respond.

A growing group of residents are coming together to try to inform others and generate a significant response. In order to stop this terrible idea making it through planning they need as many objections to the council as possible. There are just four days left in the consultation to get objections in. Please help the residents save their Hackney homes by writing to the planning department.

Full details can be found on the Facebook group Save the Pembury. A group of residents will also be hosting a drop-in advice, letter-writing and printing workshop this Sunday 13th November from 5-8pm at the Pembury Senior Citizens Centre, just off Pembury Road on the right as you walk up the hill from the Pembury Tavern (itself an excellent additional reason to drop by and show your support… nothing goes together like civil action and curiously intoxicating micro-brewed ales).

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3 Responses to Be a brick – help the Pembury!

  1. Dan says:

    Great write up, thanks.

  2. Yes, but… Cladding buildings with foam-plus-render is common throughout Germany and works very well. In principle there seems no reason why it shouldn’t work equally as well in Hackney. The upside is that, if implemented properly, everyone living there should benefit from lower fuel bills. The real issue seems to be that it has been communicated poorly.

  3. Marilyn Wheeler-Early says:

    Yes, thank you Steve Redmond, but were they on brick built buildings, were the residents consulted, was the workmanship of a high standard, are the materials being used here in UK of as high a standard, are the windows properly double glazed and installed to an efficient standard, do they have efficient A rated central heating systems??????????????????????????? Need we go on, this appears not to be GREEN but GREED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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