This post is in response to an article published today on the Hackney Hive website, Who’s kidding who over Stoke Newingtons Sainsbury’s proposal
I’m involved in the Stokey Local campaign and I thought it was worth responding with a few thoughts about your article on Hackney Hive today. My feeling is that you are mischaracterising the views of the people involved: this campaign is not simply about Church Street and property prices.
We don’t pretend to speak for the whole community. As the strapline to the Stokey Local website says it is “A community response”, not “The community response”. We’ve only been in existence for a little over 3 weeks, so haven’t quite managed to talk to everyone in Stoke Newington about the development yet, but we’re working on it and we’re certainly keen to hear from as many people as possible.
Our response is just one of many that local residents will have had, but judging by the petition (which can be found in more than 30 shops on the High Street and Church Street as well as on this website), the feedback from shopkeepers and the reaction to the consultation, we align with a substantial section of the community.
We have pulled together a map of the shops within half a mile of the site that would, to a greater or lesser extent, be in competition with a new supermarket. From that map you can clearly see that the grocery retail heart of Stoke Newington is the High Street rather than Church Street. This is where the core of day-to-day Stoke Newington life is played out, and to suggest that we are only concerned about Church Street is quite wide of the mark.
New jobs are without a doubt hugely important at the moment, especially in Hackney, but it’s worth digging a bit deeper into the figure of “200 new jobs” that the developer and Sainsbury’s are claiming will be brought to the area. The nature of the UK planning system means that they are only required to declare how many jobs they will bring to the area, they don’t need to consider the impact on net jobs in the wider local economy.
Firstly this figure of 200 jobs does not represent full time equivalent jobs but is a mix of part time and full time jobs. At the consultation it was claimed that around 60% would be part time and 40% would be full time. We haven’t dug into that number yet to see if it stacks up with other supermarkets but we intend to do so, as the representatives of Sainsbury’s and the developer couldn’t manage to come up with a number of FTEs at the time.
Secondly there is the important question of whether the existing Sainsbury’s Local would remain open given that it is located just a few minutes stroll from the site. We don’t yet know how many people are employed there but if it were to close then that would make a substantial reduction in the number of net jobs that could be generated by the development.
Thirdly supermarkets employ far fewer people per unit of turnover than independents, and we feel that it is vitally important that the long term sustainability of the local economy and employment market should be taken into account by considering the effects on employment in the existing stores.
You may well be right that some shops will maintain a strong customer base even with the opening of the supermarket, but others won’t and shops will close. There is a high turnover of people in London and initially loyal customers will eventually drift away, to be replaced by newcomers who perhaps don’t feel such a strong attachment to the local stores. The effects won’t be seen immediately, but over time footfall will slowly slip away from the independents towards the supermarket. Shops will start to close down and the character of our neighbourhood will slowly but surely start to melt away.
You clearly value the independent shops that make up our community: “protecting small local independent businesses is paramount in any community, but I feel a few big names is a nice balance and will introduce much needed foot traffic to Church Street businesses”.
Our problem is that a supermarket of this size is completely out of kilter with the existing retail makeup of the local area and it is difficult to see how the proposed development is striking a “nice balance”.