Planning in Hackney Gone Wild: Two harassed residents speak out


An example of  over an over  developed house in one of the affected areas.

Back in January I was approached by a Hackney resident who was very concerned about the formation of  a neighborhood Forum in North Hackney, which would have included his neck of the wood.  He wrote a piece for  Hackney Hive which I had every attention of publishing, but didn’t, as I needed more evidence.  To keep his anonymity,  I will call him “Alan”.

Since then, I have heard tales of woe from other Hackney residents who all reside in the most affected wards in Upper Clapton, Stamford Hill and  Stoke Newington.

The one common denominator, is everyone’s wish  NOT to appear as anti-Semitic, as it is very clear this is how some members of the Ultra Orthodox Jewish community label their challengers.

A Stoke Newington resident who has lived and raised his three children in the area for 20  years, recently told me his wife and daughters were called “whores and sluts”.  He said:

“Our issues are just too numerous to mention.  We live at the top of Lordship Road, in the heart of the OJ community and  have had many run ins with our neighbours over the years on noise, fires and planning permissions.  The name calling tends to come when we personally confront them, particularly as the men gather as a gang  and suddenly all feel very brave”.

Continuing, he told me:  “We have complained to the Council now for over ten years with no action ever being taken.  My wife has asked to see our complaints file on several occasions but we are clearly being ignored.  There is a fine line between legitimate complaining and being accused of anti-semitism which is something I am sensitive to.  My wife, is much less sensitive to this issue.  Whilst we will always stand our ground, our feelings of injustice and discrimination grow by the day”.

Alan who lives in Upper Clapton wrote the following in January and has been in touch with  me recently;

In light of Hackney Council’s move to establish a neighbourhood forum in the north of the borough, I’d like to tell you my experience of how the council and the police have failed me and how anyone living in Hackney can be affected by this.

In 2004 new neighbours moved in next door and promptly began to demolish the house. They also began excavating a huge basement. Living through this was like having the Devil next door screaming his head off. The walls and foundation shook and cracks appeared, it was terrifying having your home – a place of safety and sanctuary – violated and damaged like this. The horror went on for almost 2 years.

There are various regulations that apply when this happens, covering the building to prevent pollution and dust from spreading, noise levels, working between 9 and 5 on weekdays, etc. These were all ignored.

But most distressing of all, they erected a monstrous extension over 10 feet tall that ran the length of my garden. It dominates it, obliterating the light from the setting sun.

Once a complaint was formally lodged it was dismissed twice before being upheld 2 years later. The process gives the neighbor every opportunity to waste as much time as possible, by continually submitting a retrospective planning application – which was refused on every occasion. Once it’s refused, the council give them months to comply and when they don’t, the circus just begins all over again with another application or a lawful development certificate.

The regulations give the developer/owner far too much leeway. The fines are measly and the process can take up to 10 years before there is a conclusion.

Then, the case officer left the council and my case was mysteriously dropped for a year, which I was not informed of because the planning department doesn’t see communicating as part of their responsibility. I made a complaint to the ombudsmen, but they could only address a complaint if it had taken place in the last 12 months. But by then the time had elapsed.

While this was happening someone who is related to the first neighbour bought the house on the other-side of my own and proceeded to do exactly the same thing as the first. Demolished the house, dug a huge basement, added an attic extension and a two storey extension at the back.

Things got even worse.

One case in point was on one afternoon a builder on the property of the second neighbour was hammering away at the side of my house damaging the wall. I tell to stop and he ignores me, so I phone the police. But they refuse to come around and do anything because it’s not a criminal matter, it’s a civil matter. So there’s a guy brazenly damaging my property and there is nothing I can legally do to stop him. There’s no protection.

Things took a more sinister turn, when the first neighbour threatened to force us out of our home and take it. A third neighbour who is connected to this gang of people, threatened to kill me and my family because I told his kids to stop playing on my wall.

I was also assaulted by another neighbour who has lived on the street for 15 years and I’ve known him throughout this time and I’ve had no problem whatsoever. One day, out of the blue he assaulted me without provocation. I informed the police, but to my knowledge he was never arrested or cautioned for this incident. He then sold his house to the same gang of people and moved out.


The camera pointing at Alan’s house

But by far the most damaging was when the first neighbour put up a camera at the front of his house pointing at my front door so it could film me on my property. This is a clear violation of my human rights. I managed to get the police to come around to check this after two months. They didn’t seem to think there was any kind of problem with.

I don’t have any evidence to suggest that the police are in collusion with this gang of people even though it would be very easy to come to that conclusion.

That camera has now been pointing at my front door for the last two years. The extension is still up. And it’s now 9 years later.

What my experience has taught me is that planning in Hackney needs more regulation, not less. It needs more funding and more checks and balances. The ombudsmen need more scope than 12 months to be able to effectively police a process that can take years. Damage to your property has to be a criminal matter not a civil one. And building without planning permission should be illegal. There should be no such thing as a retrospective planning application.

I believe that the state has a duty to protect its citizens. I base that belief on Max Weber’s definition of the State: as an entity that claims the monopoly on the legitimate use of force within defined territorial boundaries. I’d add Hobbes theory in Leviathan to argue that state legitimacy comes from the covenant between state and citizen in which the citizen acquiesces to state authority in return for the provision of security.

In the instance of planning regulations; the state has failed.



About Remi

Remi Hackney Hive founder, publisher and contributor. Hackneyite and all round Girl Friday who couldn't wait to leave Hackney and London behind her. After hitching her wagon in California, Texas, New Orleans, Louisiana for 18 years, with a brief spell in Mexico, the prodigal daughter returned to London, happy to put an unconventional and risqué past behind her. It sometimes feels like she’s still at war with herself. This often leads her into a whole lot of trouble, although it’s fair to blame it on some of her best qualities: intelligence, original thinking, willingness to take risks, skepticism, rebelliousness, independence, and creativity. But you know what, much of the trouble she gets into is because she can’t help pointing out that the emperor is naked. Remi still lives by her own rules, nobody else’s. She is owned by her two dogs Deffer(a Jack Russell ) Darcy (a Jack Russell/Pomeranian mix now deceased but can’t remove their names) and two Black cats she adopted December 2021, Desmond and Tutu. She is proprietor of London’s finest and long established pet sitting service. The big smoke is home for the moment, but she desperately yearns wide open spaces, where she hopes to call home in the near future.


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2 Responses to "Planning in Hackney Gone Wild: Two harassed residents speak out"

  1. Criminal damage is a crime. There is also the Protection from Harassment Act. Civil injunctions also exist.

    Nobody should have to put up with abuse.

    Comment by Kris on 01/06/2013 at 11:01 am

  2. Im currently working on developing a property on the edge of Stamford Hill. Weve done everything by the book, but the neighbours still insist on trying to get planning enforcements and various other technicalities to stop the work. Meanwhile, about 6 properties on the street were developed without permission and have enforcement notices on them, and at least a dozen more would if planning knew about them. The implications of the localism bill for the area, which has already been irreparably damaged by illegal building work, are absolutely disastrous. I also fully agree with those people who say that the Orthodox community are incredibly agressive to those not in their group. This will continue to worsen as the Orthodox community and the middle classes increasingly vie for the same space in Upper Clapton/ Stoke Newington.

    Comment by gav on 16/06/2013 at 6:15 pm

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