Stokey Local’s formal response to the 2013 Application

Here’s the formal response Stokey Local’s made to the revised application lodged by Newmark Properties in May 2013. We made this response on behalf of the groups and individuals that support Stokey Local.

The officer will be incorporating it and summaries of other responses in the report he is currently writing, which is anticipated to go before the Planning Sub Committee on Wed 31 July 2013 6:30pm, Town Hall, Mare Street. MEmbers of the public are welcome to observe and we encourage you to do so.

Thursday 18 July 2013

Re: 2013/1583 Land at Wilmer Place 193-201 Stoke Newington High Street N16 0LH
2013/1584 related Conservation Area consent 


Stokey Local objects to applications 2013/1583-4 for the reasons previously submitted in our response to the previous application (“Objection by the Stokey Local campaign to applications 2012/2228–9 14 Sep 2012”). That response and this forward stand as our formal response.

Changes to the revised 2012 scheme

The applicant has, perhaps understandably, limited the revisions to the refused scheme to the headline matters cited in the Planning Sub-Committee’s refusal. Turley’s covering letter bristles with bravado as they make it plain the applicant does not accept the Sub-Committee’s decision but will grudgingly make token changes to address the reasons for refusal.

  1. The revisions made to to the northern elevation and the north eastern corner of the scheme are slight to the point of being barely noticeable. The CGI views in the D&A are reminiscent of a spot-the-difference competition. Tweaks to the balconies only reduce potential overlooking of the A12, but can’t conceivably have a less negative impact on the setting of the CA and the gates as cited in reason 1. The proposition is as ludicrous as the change is modest.

  2. On the matter of adverse impact to natural habitats and the biodiversity of Abney Park Nature Reserve (reason 2), we are utterly unconvinced that the modest reduction in mass by shaving a small sliver of the structure back on the western elevation and pulling back of the boundary wall will have a sufficiently negligible adverse impact. We rely on the expert evidence of Russell Miller on this matter and support his expert submission. We note that further species have been identified on site in recent months and this is indicative of the risk of seeking to gamble with the ecology of a scientifically and historically important site that has never had the benefit of a comprehensive ecological study. Whilst the lack of such a study is not a planning matter, the scientific importance of the site is not in dispute and as such any development that (common sense says) will affect the site in any way must be resisted without strong, independent, evidence that clearly explains the likely impact and how important that might be in scientific terms. The borough’s Biodiversity Action Plan has neo-SPG status and any ambiguities or apparent disagreements in expert evidence must be resolved so this key policy document can be properly applied. Russell Miller is the site’s expert and, as the developer’s own experts acknowledge, knows more about the tangible on-site ecology across a full season (and longer) than any external expert could reveal on the basis of short term study or sampling alone.

  3. We had no position on the mix of accommodation unit sizes in the refused proposal and similarly take no view on the revised mix, set to address reason 3. Although family sized units are always welcome in the north of the borough. In adjusting the mix our original objections to the poor provision of affordable units remain.

Further reasons for refusal

It is vital to understand that the Sub-Committee process is, by design, time-limited and lacks full judicial rigour. It is quasi-judicial only insofar as it makes judgements. It does not follow an adversarial process or seek natural justice. There is no cross-examination and the matters raised are entirely in the gift of the chair.

Importantly, it therefore cannot arrive at an exhaustive list of reasons for refusal. Many matters were discussed and left unresolved on the grounds either that they could not be answered, were not sufficiently important or simply time did not allow. Many other matters were not discussed. Crucially the Sub-Committee did not make any judgment on what aspects of the refused scheme were acceptable.

Therefore officers and the Sub-Committee are at liberty to revisit aspects unchanged from the previous scheme and cite them as reasons for refusal of this scheme. We hold our previous concerns, and they still offer many valid reasons for refusal. Some very serious, some less so, but together very much balanced against the negligible public benefits of the proposed development.

Summary of outstanding objections

We list here the key areas of concern of the current scheme which pick up on the fuller reasons given in our previous submission and suggest these as a non-exhaustive list of matters to be comprehensively addressed in your report and/or by committee.

Impact on Abney Park Nature Reserve

Abney Park is an asset for all the people of Hackney, and it’s visitors

  • As density of city life increases these spaces become more important for rest and recreation and for mental health.

  • The south east corner of the Park – the path between the two entrances and the Chapel – is the most used (by a significant margin) and most affected by this development.

  • The unique air of seclusion, privacy and peace is important and any new development should be kept as far as possible from the boundary (Conservation Area Appraisal). If that hampers this scale of development then the site must secure a more modest form of development.

  • Once the Nature Reserve is damaged or gone it will never come back. “As heritage assets are irreplaceable any harm or loss should require clear and convincing justification” National Planning Policy Framework para 132. There is no such justification.

  • The development includes a two storey blank wall right up against the boundary in some places – 1.32m away in others. And a further three storeys set back 5m. This is plainly overbearing and intrusive.

  • The building will overshadow much of the cemetery in the vicinity including the area inside the gates used for picnics. This has a far more catastrophic effect on ecology than overshadowing has on, say, residential amenity.

  • The modest scheme changes are not sufficient to ameliorate the significant negative impact to the biodiversity of the woodland area inside the Nature Reserve. The importance of protecting the cemetery and its biodiversity is prominent in the planning brief (and recent Site Allocations LP) for this site but appears to have been ignored.

  • The UN’s Millennium Ecosystems Assessment recognized that local planning and policy must take an Ecosystems Approach to planning decisions to be sustainable. The Ecosystem Services provided by the Nature Reserve and Woodland edge are unquestionably rich, unique and vitally important within Hackney and possibly London. This development gambles with a sensitive resource that isn’t fully understood and flies in the face of extant policy that recognised the deficiency in knowledge and is designed to protect it in the meantime.

Impact on the Conservation Area and Town & District Centres

  • All of the Stoke Newington Town Centre is a Conservation Area and has a historic and diverse character based on small independent shops, many of which are specialist offerings. The conventional arguments about regeneration based on large retailers do not apply.

  • Core Strategy Policy 25 states any new development should make a positive contribution to the character of Hackney’s historic and built environment.

  • The new frontage along the High Street will amalgamate five units and is out of keeping with the Georgian/Early Victorian terrace and surroundings

  • The development dominates the listed Cemetery gates and damages the view from the North to an even greater extent than the bland, yet much smaller extant industrial shed.

  • Studies show competition from large supermarkets is particularly damaging to small shops and to High Streets generally. Here the “residential scale” specialist shops define both the Conservation Area and the Town and District Centre proposition.

  • English Heritage “remain of the view that the substantial scale of the proposed new building means that the harm we have previously set out cannot be completely mitigated.” And although they identify modest public benefit in replacing the industrial shed, this proposal is clearly too massive.


  • Delivery lorries will have to negotiate narrow Church Street, the one way system and pedestrian heavy Wilmer Place.

  • Tolerances in delivery vehicle movements are tiny. Minor blockages with have a massive impact on vehicle movements further upstream.

  • There will be a substantial reduction in public parking provision in Wilmer Place which will have a perceived and actual effect on local shops and businesses.

  • There will inevitable be an increase in traffic and parking pressure on Church Street and the High Street as people are drawn to a supermarket with no parking provision. There will be an increase in ‘swoop and shop’ behaviour in both streets. The inspector does not believe such illegal behaviour is a ‘matter for enforcement’.

  • Supermarket shoppers will push small shops’ customers out of the Red route parking bays south on the High Street

  • The flats will be car-free, but experience has shown that residents will need and have cars and this will impact local streets.


  • The supermarket will create jobs but driving out small shops is likely to destroy many

  • A large number of jobs (possibly 70) currently exist (or have recently existed) in the live-works units and other businesses on the site. These are better quality (B1) jobs than low-grade (A1) supermarket jobs, or transient construction jobs.

  • A full assessment of the employment on the fully occupied site was never undertaken. Current occupiers are reluctant to engage openly with unofficial surveys for fear of negative reprisal from managing agents or the landlords.


  • There should be 50% affordable housing in every development (Core Strategy). Provision in this development is only 17%. No change from refused plan.

  • There is still NO social housing.

  • There are still only two family units at “affordable” rent.

  • If the ‘three dragons’ assessment continue to find revised schemes with fewer units viable, it suggests the margins are too broad and that futher in-roads in to social and affordable housing could be made and still pass the tests. The valuation of the land is based to a large extent on what was paid for it. And the price paid was based on an erroneous assumption of what form of development would be acceptable.

  • 53 high cost (albeit high quality) flats make no meaningful impact on the borough’s housing targets and cripple the affordable and social housing targets by locking out further development of affordable housing on the site for 25-50 years.

Public Benefit – Retail

It is necessary for the applicant to demonstrate significant public benefits that outweigh the harm and negative impact otherwise caused. The claimed benefits are non-existent. Jobs are discussed above. Claimed benefits around regeneration and shopping choice are bogus.

  • Stoke Newington has a unique character and it’s success relies on this. It must not become a “clone town”.

  • Trading conditions are demonstrably OK. non-trading shops are fairly thinly spread and in most cases are closed for refurbishment or held by landlords in anticipation of development. Very few are genuinely seeking a tenant – and no more than would be expected at any given time. Whilst a flagship store or unique proposition might provide security, yet another supermarket cannot do this.

  • The District and Town Centre is not “losing out” to other town centres through lack of another supermarket. The centres do not compete with Stamford Hill or Dalston centres, and risk doing so if the specialist retail character is compromised.

  • Supermarket chains have a detrimental effect on the domestic food supply chain compared to independent shops

  • A “top-up shop” supermarket without a car park, in an area already teeming with similar and more convenient stores cannot conceivably boost local shopping through “linked trips”. This is not a “destination” shop.

  • Sainsbury’s already has a 3-unit “Local” store in the town centre, as has Iceland. There is a large Tesco Metro a short distance to the south, and very many independent 24h mini markets. There is enough top-up “supermarket style” provision and competition for anyone who is limited to walking or public transport.

  • There are 15 chain supermarkets within 1 mile of the site; 45 within 2 miles. Many are larger and have car parks and include 7 Sainsbury’s stores.

  • The site would be the closest superstore (of it’s size or larger) to a tiny area of Stoke Newington, mostly occupied by Abney Park and other commercial premises. If independent mini-markets and smaller top-up stores are included the catchment reduces to a handful of commercial premises adjacent and on the opposite side of the road only.

  • This compromise store with it’s reduced footprint and no-car park is of marginal value to Sainsbury’s (or any other large chain) and there is a real risk of the store failing leaving an unlettable 5-unit A1 store and significant urban blight that sets the High Street back 15 years.

Support of other submissions

Stokey Local has seen and fully supports the submissions made both previously and for these applications made by:

  • Abney Park Trust

  • Abney Park User Group

  • Russell Miller Arboriculture

  • Stoke Newington Conservation Areas Advisory Committee

These submissions, the previous submissions and the submission of Stokey Local have (in part or whole) the collective support of the following amenity groups:


The Stokey Local response to the previous scheme is available here and was forwarded with this response.