Local Politicians Write Open Letter to Developers and Sainsbury’s

MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, Diane Abbott, and local councillors from the wards closest to the proposed development have sent a strongly worded letter to the developers and Sainsbury’s, setting out their arguments as to why the proposal is unacceptable.

They have also issued a request for both the developer and Sainsbury’s to attend a public meeting before a planning application is submitted, to answer the concerns that the community has about the proposal.

The letter has been published in the Hackney Citizen (the article also provides some further context) and covered by the Hackney Gazette. It is copied below in full:

Open letter on the proposed development at Wilmer Place:

22 August 2011 

Dear Mr Cohen, 

RE: Proposed Development of Wilmer Place, Stoke Newington 

We write to raise serious concerns about the proposed development at Wilmer Place, Stoke Newington. 

We do not support the current plans for the site and are concerned that a deeply flawed consultation process has provided little opportunity for the views of local residents to be properly considered. 

We ask, therefore, that Newmark Properties and Sainsbury’s attend a public meeting in Stoke Newington to discuss the proposals in detail and that both companies commit to attending such a meeting before any planning application is submitted.

The following is summary of our key concerns with the proposed development: 

1. Hackney Council’s Core Strategy Policy 25 on the Historic Environment states that “all development should make a positive contribution to the character of Hackney’s historic and built environment.” We are at a loss to explain how demolishing part of an old terrace building on the High Street makes a positive contribution to Hackney’s built environment. 

2. The Core Strategy also states that the Council should encourage a diverse range of developments within its major and district centres, including Stoke Newington. These developments are required to enhance the environmental quality of the area and to resist the loss of shops. 

Stoke Newington is home to a successful and diverse independent retail and evening economy. Neither you nor Sainsbury’s appear to have assessed the impact a 24,000 square foot retail store will have on the local economy and whether it will lead to the loss of local shops in the area. 

3. You have repeatedly made reference to the 2005 ‘Hackney Retail and Leisure Study’ to justify the proposals on the grounds that the study identified land at Wilmer place as ‘suitable for retail and leisure uses.’ This is misleading and certainly not an accurate representation of Hackney Council policy. Council planning documents designate Wilmer Place as suitable for a range of uses – of which retail is only one. 

4. Wilmer Place is part of the Stoke Newington Conservation Area. The Stoke Newington Conservation Area Appraisal states that “the opportunities for new development in the Conservation Area are very limited because of the intensely built-up nature of the townscape.” 

Where new development is to be carried out, it should follow a number of key principles, including: respecting the scale, massing and height of the surrounding historic properties and reflecting the existing details and materials of the historic buildings in the surrounding area. 

The Appraisal also states that views from Stoke Newington Church Street, Stoke Newington High Street and out of Abney Park Cemetery “must be preserved by not allowing new development which is too dominant or obtrusive.” The proposals as they currently stand do not appear to respect these requirements. 

5. We are not clear on what proportion of the forty-four residential units will be affordable, and what proportion will be family-sized. 

6. The plans show an entrance to an underground car park on the High Street. This part of the High Street is very narrow, and the entrance is near to two junctions on a red route and bus stops. Access into Wilmer Place from Church Street for delivery vehicles is also very narrow and residents from Wilmer Place are understandably concerned about noise and disruption from delivery trucks, particularly as no detail has been provided on the timings of these.  

It is our understanding that you have not carried out an assessment of the transport implications of the development; including the impact that access into the site from both Church Street and the High Street will have on traffic and the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. 

The lack of detailed information about this and the other serious implications the development will have on biodiversity, conservation and the local economy is of considerable concern. We would expect a thorough assessment to be carried out in each of these areas and for the results to be published in full. 

Consultation on the proposals has also been characterised by the failure of Sainbury’s to engage with and understand the local community’s concerns about the development. This is despite a corporate responsibility policy that commits Sainsbury’s to being a “good neighbour” and to play “an active role in local communities.” 

Both Sainsbury’s and Newmark Properties should be properly accountable for the significant impact this development would have on residents and local businesses in Stoke Newington. We urge representatives from both companies to attend a public meeting at the earliest opportunity. 

Copies of this letter have been sent to J Sainsbury’s in order to highlight our concerns at the company’s failure to engage with the local community. 

We look forward to hearing from you. 

Yours sincerely, 

Diane Abbott MP 
Cllr Edward Brown, Lordship Ward 
Cllr Susan Fajana-Thomas, Stoke Newington Central Ward 
Cllr Rita Krishna, Stoke Newington Central Ward 
Cllr Wendy Mitchell, Clissold Ward 
Cllr Daniel Stevens, Lordship Ward 
Cllr Louisa Thomson, Stoke Newington Central Ward 

CC David Tyler, Chairman, J Sainsbury PLC 
Justin King, Chief Executive, J Sainsbury PLC 
Luke Jensen, Group Development Director, J Sainsbury PLC 
Roger Burnley, Retail and Logistics Director, J Sainsbury PLC 
Neil Sachdev, Property Director, J Sainsbury PLC 
Mark Rigby, Director of Corporate Affairs, J Sainsbury PLC 
Alun Hayes, Director Politics, Four Communications 


Via We Love Stoke Newington and LorshipN16.


  • Gail

    Ahem. I just spotted the following link elsewhere on this very website. Which side of their faces are the local councillors speaking out of?


    Sainsbury’s PR company in Hackney Council contract row
    Firm lobbying for controversial supermarket development hired to design new council website. Questions about Hackney councillors employed by company

    A couple of highlights from the article:

    “This is an Alice in Wonderland situation where the council is spending council tax payers’ money with Four Communications, which on the one hand is supposed to be promoting local businesses and on the other is promoting a development which, if it goes ahead, is likely to damage local businesses,” says Simon De Deney, Vice Chair of Hackney Liberal Democrats.
    The £14,320 contract to design a ‘Destination Hackney’ website to assist local firms involves extensive meetings with Hackney businesses, organised with help from council staff.

    “Concerns have also been raised about the very close connections between two serving Hackney councillors and Four Communications. Councillor Alan Laing, who until last year was the council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Regeneration, was taken on as a full time Account Director with the company in August 2010 and continues to work for the firm. Cllr Karen Alcock, who until recently was Deputy Mayor, also works for Four Communications and has been employed by the company since at least 2005. As councillor for Stoke Newington’s Clissold ward, Cllr Alcock is one of the elected representatives whose constituents are most directly affected by the Sainsbury’s development plan.”

    … Well at least she didn’t have the nerve to sign the Open letter!!

  • Dell

    Sainsbury, go find another area that actually needs shopping facilities ! Theres already a Morrisons just up the road should we want that sort of thing- no more! – supermarkets undermine local shopping. Church St is a family st, narrow, full of dwellings, small shops, pedestrians, schools – and can you imagine heavy lorries trying to turn into narrow Wilmer Place after farting their way up the road !?