Financial Viability Assessments

Financial Viability Assessments

 

Because the amount of “affordable” housing proposed by the developer – just 9 units out of 53 (17%) – fell below the borough-wide target of 50%, a series of Financial Viability Assessments (FVAs) were submitted for each of the planning applications. These purport to show the scheme would not be viable if the developer were to provide more “affordable” homes than it was offering. Some of these FVAs were reviewed by Jones Lang LaSalle on behalf of Hackney Council to see if they were reasonable.

There was a long legal battle to see these documents – which not even the Planning Sub-committee were allowed to see. This ended in victory in December 2015, two days before the case to see the documents was due to be heard by a Judge and two experts at the First Tier Tribunal (Information Right).

The viability documents:

  1. Jun 2012 GL Hearn FVA  (first planning application) [disclosed Jan 2016]
  2. Nov 2012 JLL report (to assess the Jun 2012 FVA)
  3. Feb 2013 GL Hearn FVA  (revised first planning application) [disclosed May 2016]
  4. Mar 2013 JLL update report (to assess the Feb 2012 FVA)
  5. May 2013 GL Hearn FVA  (second planning application)
  6. No JLL update was commissioned to assess the May 2013 FVA
  7. Sep 2013 GL Hearn FVA  (third planning application)
  8. Nov 2013 JLL update report (to assess the Sep 2013 FVA)

Timeline of the battle for the viability information

2012

June 2012: Newmark (the developer) lodges it’s first planning application with a Financial Viability Appraisal (FVA)

August 2012: The Council refuse to disclose the FVA saying it is “confidential”.

November 2012: Hackney receives an independent assessment of the FVA from Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).

2013

February 2013: Newmark scales down its scheme and submits a revised FVA [not yet disclosed].

March 2013: Hackney receives an update to JLL’s earlier assessment.

April 2013: Hackney refuses Newmark’s planning application.

May 2013: Newmark submits a second planning application with small changes, along with a new FVA.

July 2013: Officers tell the Planning sub-committee that it has had the latest FVA independently assessed*. The committee agreed to grant planning permission.

September 2013: A Judicial Review is launched to challenge the granting of planning permission. One of the “grounds” is the failure to make the viability reports available to the public. Within days, Newmark submits and identical planning permission with what is described as an “updated”** FVA to that in May. It is hoped by the Council and Newmark that this application will overcome all of the grounds of the Judicial Review bar the ground relating to the viability reports.

October 2013: A formal request is made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) and Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) regime to see the FVA and JLL reports for the May and September planning applications. Hackney refuses, but the developer provides a copy of the FVA with all the financial figures redacted.

November 2013: Hackney receives an updated assessment on the latest FVA from JLL.

December 2013: Hackney’s Planning Sub-committee agrees to approve the identical third application having been told the financial viability information has been “reviewed three times”. Permission is granted by the High Court to pursue the Judicial Review.

2014

March 2014: A second Judicial Review is launched to challenge the third, identical application, again citing the failure to disclose the viability information.

April 2014: An application is made to the High Court to see the viability reports.

May 2013: The High Court refuses the application to see the viability reports but orders that both Judicial Reviews can be joined and heard together.

August 2014: A parallel complaint is made to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) over the Council’s failure to disclose the viability reports under the EIR regime.

September 2014: The Court of Appeal refuses an application to see the viability reports as, it says, they are not needed to argue the point in the JR, that they ought to have been disclosed.

October 2014: The High Court dismisses both Judicial Reviews and the planning permissions stand. **During court proceedings it emerges that the redacted FVA supplied in October 2013 is the wrong FVA but that in redacted form it would look the same as the correct FVA as the “updated” figures would be redacted. *Meanwhile the Council reveals to the ICO in private that the May 2013 FVA had not, in fact, been reviewed by JLL. It acknowledged the Officer’s Report to the Planning Sub-committee and show in Court was “misleading”.

November 2014: An appeal against the JR decision is launched.

December 2015: As a result of lack of co-operation on the part of the Council, the ICO issued an Information Notice compelling the Council to provide certain information so it can conduct its investigation.

2015

January 2015: Sainsbury’s withdraws from Newmark’s development plan.

February 2015: The ICO reveals what the Council had confirmed to it in October – that the May 2013 FVA had not been reviewed by JLL.

April 2015: The Council reveals three items from the redacted FVA but the ICO rules that the rest of the information does not have to be disclosed. The Court of Appeal refuses permission for the JR appeal to continue.

May 2015: The ICO decision is appealed to the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights), with a half day hearing scheduled for September 2015.

June 2015: In response to a separate EIR request, the Council releases the November 2013 JLL report but with all important figures redacted.

September 2015: The case before the Tribunal becomes more complex as it draws in an expert witness and the Council. The ICO concedes the earlier JLL reports ought to have been disclosed (in redacted form). The hearing is rescheduled for two days in December 2015.

October 2015: Newmark (the developer) sells the Wilmer Place site in its entirety to Reichmann Properties for £15.1m.

November 2015: The Council releases redacted versions of the first two JLL reports and redacted versions of the May 2013 and September 2013 FVAs. **The Council reveals that the May 2013 and “updated” September 2013 FVAs are, in fact, identical. The developer claims it corrected this by sending a further FVA in October 2013 with updated figures but the Council has no record of having received it.

December 2015: Two days before the scheduled hearing, and 26 months after the formal request, the Council releases all three JLL reports and the last two FVAs. We ask for the earlier FVAs for the refused application of 2012/13 to complete the picture

2016

January 2016: Hackney disclose the first FVA from June 2012, but claim they have no record of a revised FVA for the ‘reduced’ scheme submitted in February/March 2013.

March 2016: A local estate agent begins marketing and taking reservations fees for The Cotton Exchange – a development of 33 homes comprising conversion of many of the offices and light industrial units in the old shoe factory. Works are underway to reclad the factory, and convert the interiors. Advertised sales prices range from £705-£1072 per square foot (average £868 per sq ft). None are “affordable”.

May 2016: The February 2013 FVA is discolsed finally completing the set of FVAs.

 

 

 

You win some, you lose some.

Nick Perry, the claimant in the legal battle, reports from the Court of Appeal.

See our home page or latest newsletter  for a potted summary of the latest news and info on an upcoming public meeting – 7pm Mon 11 May 2015, St Paul’s West Hackney.

No Thanks!We reached the end of a particularly hard-fought battle last Tuesday (21 April 2015) when we failed to get permission in the Court of Appeal to pursue my challenge to the planning permissions for Wilmer Place.

In a brief 45-minute hearing, The Chancellor of the High Court, Sir Terence Etherton, sitting as a Lord Justice of Appeal, commended our lead barrister Philip Coppel QC for his detailed written submissions and clear oral presentation of new evidence. However, Sir Terence then proceeded to dictate a judgment in which, despite finding some errors in the earlier High Court judgment and merit in our new evidence, he refused permission for us to appeal. In his view we had “no realistic prospect” of convincing three lord justices to overturn the earlier decision.

It was a cruel blow. The faces of my more learned colleagues said it all – thunderous anger.

The legal professionals who guided me through 20 months of legal challenges, really believed this permission stage was solid. In fact they thought the whole appeal had a 70% chance of success, and that was before “the revelation”.

Revelations

Separately to the court battle, I’d been pursuing a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The ICO regulates requests made under rights in the Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR). It is under the latter that I’d sought access to the secret financial viability assessments (FVA) that Newmark Properties had submitted to the Council with their planning applications. These FVAs allegedly justify the poor provision of so-called “affordable” homes – just 9 out of 53 (17%) – despite a borough-wide target of 50%. It’s a common ploy and perfectly legal for a developer to claim their development would be “unviable” if they were forced to include so many affordable homes, provided they can “prove” it through the magic of FVAs. I call it the “viability con” and it’s an insidious threat to the social diversity of London. No sooner had the Government introduced the viability “get-out”, than chartered surveyors created an entire industry dedicated to reducing developers’ commitments to affordable housing and other community benefits.

Councils are ill-prepared and badly resourced to challenge developers. And to ensure the game is totally slanted towards the developer the reports are submitted in confidence so no one, not even the councillors who make the decision, gets to see these reports, apart from certain council officers. Each of the three times Wilmer Place was put to the Planning Sub-committee, councillors were told that the developer’s own FVA had been scrutinised by officers and reviewed by independent surveyors, Jones Lang Lasalle, on behalf of the Council. And each time they had concluded that 17% was the most that the developer could afford. This independent, expert assurance is surely one of the reasons councillors don’t press to see the reports for themselves, despite having multiple rights in law to do so.

Only, it turns out out that on one of those three occasions, it was a lie. There was no such independent report.

Royal Courts of Justice - Carey Street Entrance

I didn’t find this out until February of this year – over a year and a half after the event. Since then I’d lodged our first judicial review (JR), a third identical planning application was granted permission, I’d requested the viability reports and the independent assessments and been refused, gone unsuccessfully to the Court of Appeal to seek disclosure of the reports, launched a second judicial review (JR), had both judicial reviews dismissed by the High Court and launched an appeal against that decision. And at no stage in any of those detailed proceedings did the Council correct their assertion that the independent report existed.

It is just about plausible that officers made a genuine mistake when they misled councillors during the second application – despite the fact that I and supportive local councillors made quite a big fuss about the affordable housing. But in my view it is unconscionable to think that officers did not realise their mistake during any of the subsequent planning meetings or court proceedings. The Planning Sub-committee, the High Court and the (earlier) Court of Appeal all used the existence of this independent assessment, in some part, to justify their decisions. All took it on trust that the report existed and supported the developer’s claim.

Fortunately, the ICO takes a different approach. When a complaint is made to them, the Commissioner asks the local authority for the disputed documents so he can decide for himself if they should have been disclosed. The FOI/EIR process is a slow one, and councils can delay it with little penalty. In fact in the (now very many) cases where the ICO and Information Tribunal have demanded disclosure of FVAs, it has typically been two years since the related planning applications were granted and so of little practical use, save to bring the harsh realities of the viability con into sharp relief.

Hackney had delayed this case so much that the ICO issued a formal Information Notice in December of 2014. These rarely issued edicts impose sanctions should the local authority fail to provide the ICO with the information it demands.

By February the case officer asserted the Commissioner would not be reviewing the second independent assessment as part of my complaint, because Hackney had confessed that it did not exist! Astonished, I asked to see the correspondence. It was dated 27 October 2014 and read:

I confirm that you have been provided with all assessments/statements/reports relevant to Mr Perry’s request and that no further viability assessments were submitted or reports commissioned by the Council to consider such assessments between May and August 2013 specifically in relation to planning application 2013/1583.

It is understandable that Mr Perry believes that there is a report commissioned by the Council to assess the May 2013 financial viability assessment as this was stated in the report that went to the planning sub-committee meeting regarding planning applications 2013/1583 and 2013/1584.

However, that part of the report was misleading as the Council’s planning department have confirmed that an assessment of the May 2013 financial viability assessment was not undertaken by external consultants until November 2013. 

In that last sentence lies a whole other “mistake” that came to light during the judicial review hearings. The details are less thrilling but suffice to say that when the developer begrudgingly supplied me with a redacted FVA for the third application, it supplied a redacted FVA for the second application instead! But as the redactions covered up every useful number in the report, it was impossible to tell. (If you want to see how useless a redacted FVA is, take a look at me flicking through a redacted FVA for the Bishopsgate Goodsyard scheme.)

A few weeks ago the ICO reached its final judgment and against the precedents set in similar cases in recent months, denied us any further access to the secret FVA. That’s a fight that will continue. However in doing so it rounded on the Council’s behaviour, noting the five months it took to conduct an internal review (instead of the 40 days allowed by law) and criticised Hackney’s poor co-operation – which on reflection was probably an attempt to avoid having to make its confession:

97. The Commissioner considers the council’s overall co-operation and quality of responses has been less than satisfactory throughout the Commissioner’s investigation. This had led to the matter being prolonged unnecessarily and hindered the Commissioner from being in a position to make a decision. An information notice had to be served on the council for the Commissioner to acquire a copy of all the withheld information falling within the scope of the request and it was only after the complainant questioned the council’s interpretation of what information it believed it held that further recorded information was identified.

You might imagine that a council that enjoys parading its delivery of affordable homes as being amongst the best in London would respond with alacrity to requests that might lead to delivery of more affordable housing. But there is none of it. The ICO investigation, like the court proceedings, were marked by a culture of secrecy, obfuscation, defensiveness, digging-in and capitulation with the developer. It was quite content to mislead its own Planning Sub-committee, the Courts and the public.

There was no such delay in the Council submitting its claim for costs this week. Within three days of the Court of Appeal dismissing our claim, the Council submitted its bill for £14,166 and demanded that it be paid within 14 days. We paid within two hours. Meanwhile two further FOI/EIR requests remain unanswered more than eight weeks after they were made – over twice the statutory limit.

The development has been reduced in scale at the back only, and the perimeter has been set back a modest amount.

Killer blow?

The legal team saw the revelation that we had uncovered as a potential killer blow in an already promising appeal case.

But the Council sought to minimise the importance of the lie it had perpetuated. It argued that the second application was only a “few weeks” after the one that had been refused so the earlier appraisal remained valid.  It also claimed the difference between the two schemes was “minimal”. You may recall, we characterised the differences as a “spot the difference competition” at the time. Yet months earlier the Council had told the High Court that there were “significant differences between them”. It cynically changed its tune in the Court of Appeal to cover its mistake.

But what ultimately swayed the Lord Justice of Appeal was the third application, identical to the second, which the Council had no obligation to consider and in normal circumstances would reject out of hand. Its sole purpose was to try and sidestep our claims in the first judicial review and render the challenge sterile. In light of the revelations it’s not hard to see why the Council capitulated in allowing the third application to be made.

That third application, the judge said, did have an independent assessment so the earlier “mistake” was corrected. The judge no more knows if that third independent assessment really exists than we do. Given that the second one turned out to be an illusion, you’d think the Court might be a little more circumspect when taking the Council’s word for it.

To adapt an Ian Hislop quote, “If that’s justice, then I’m a Taste The Difference banana.”

What Now?

Our superb barristers – Philip Coppel QC, Alex Goodman (the Clissold resident who first offered his legal expertise) and Richard Clarke, together put many, many hours of work into this case at no cost. They stood to recover a portion of their usual fees if we won. But we didn’t, and so their valuable work will go unrewarded. Our expert solicitors Richard Buxton and Carolyn Beckwith were working for us at a significantly reduced rate, and we saved a considerable amount by me preparing and filing many of the substantial court documents myself. As a result, we should end up with a small amount in the bank for the next turn in what is sure to be a continuing saga.

It might be the end of the road for our legal challenge but we’ve learned and achieved a great deal by going through this process. We are better armed for the next battle and able to help other communities, because our fight is being repeated across London.

Two years ago, when the planning officer told me that the viability documents were secret, I took it on trust. It’s only when the learned lawyers got involved that I realised it wasn’t quite so clear cut and I discovered campaigns such as the 35% Campaign (Better Elephant), Mount Pleasant Association, Earl’s Court, and the Battle for Waterloo (The Shell Centre). Those other groups plus a whole bunch of others from across London are in the early stages of forming a campaign network called Reclaim London. It will campaign on many of the issues that are common to us all – the viability con, public participation in planning, rights of appeal, heritage and environmental damage.

For a small portion of our early Stokey Local supporters this was solely about yet another Sainsbury’s; but for most of us this became about a whole lot more. We’ve become an alliance of different people with different concerns and different motives but one common aim: to see a different proposal for the land at Wilmer Place. I’ve personally made a lot of great friends during this fight and been continually impressed by the staying power and continued tenacity of our local community. We got ourselves organized and raised nearly £34,000 – and crucially had a considerable amount of fun doing it. It’s been truly inspirational at times – it’s those moments that make the huge effort worthwhile.

We’ve given the wildlife of Abney another couple of seasons of seclusion and light to grow. We given the businesses and residents on the site a little bit of time to find new homes (though it was sadly too late for some businesses).

A technical knockout?

But perhaps most surprising of all, given our latest loss in Court, we might yet get our wish.

Enough time has passed for Sainsbury’s to consider its role in this development and amid some poor financial results has today confirmed to the Hackney Citizen that they are no longer involved in the project. Sainsbury’s gave up the lease they’ve held since March 2011 in January of this year. Yet, when pressed back in the new year, Sainsbury’s press office had been unhelpfully vague, intimating that it might re-acquire the site or a new lease if the legal challenge went Newmark’s way. That now seems unlikely. And one might optimistically speculate that Sainsbury’s has negotiated a moratorium on any competitor taking up the site. In any case we’ve made our opinions known and it would be a brave retailer who takes on the site knowing the PR that might accompany its arrival.

There are heavy hints (in the ICO’s decision particularly) that Newmark are looking to sell the site with planning permission, to another developer. Land Registry records show it bought the site for £6m, with a loan from Investec Bank, in April 2010. In its official financial accounts for 2013, Newmark valued the property at £7.5m and after planning permission was granted that value rose to £14.75m before the scheme was even built. That’s a cool £8.75m in four years, in spite of a long and expensive legal battle. If Newmark can realise just a fraction of that, they’ll have done OK.

Let’s hope that who or whatever comes next pays respect to what went before and engages the community early and earnestly. As developers go, there are more rapacious ones than Greg Cohen of Newmark. We’re still on polite smiling terms. He is a professional developer who wanted to build a high quality mixed use scheme and didn’t reckon on the local sensitivities. We wanted him to build it somewhere else. And we may just have made him do that.

I’m sure he’ll be thinking the same as me right now: you win some, you lose some.

Nick Perry, 28 April 2015

 

Three days of horsehair wigs — The Judicial Reviews

Three days of horsehair wigs — The Judicial Reviews

On Tuesday 14, Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 October 2014 I had my day(s) in court. It was the legal team’s chance to make the case that Hackney’s two grants of planning permission for identical schemes were legally flawed.

Court 2 - Royal Courts of Justice

We assembled in Court 2 of the Royal Courts of Justice. On one side of the room, stage right, I sat with my solicitor, as the formal “claimant” in our case, and in front were our three highly experienced barristers.

Hackney Council’s in-house solicitor, the planning officer and representatives of developer Newmark sat on the other side, behind their three barristers (two “juniors” for the Council and a QC for Newmark). Behind them, on two benches, Stokey Local supporters, law pupils, interested parties and the odd tourist came and went throughout proceedings.

In these enlightened times, the public still cannot record or take photographs in court but is encouraged to use social media. So I tweeted throughout the case under the @stokeylocal feed (and occasionally, and perhaps irreverently, on my own account).

At the start and end of each day, clerks for the barristers wheeled massive trolleys with copies of the court papers and reference documents that were cited during the case. I’d brought one copy of each of the court “bundles” to date — around 50kg of paper organised in eleven lever arch files — in what can best be described as a shopping trolley, acquired from Ridley Rd. And that excluded the 90 “tabs” of historic legal cases the barristers had submitted to support their respective cases.

We were sitting under the auspices of the new “Planning Court” which puts Judicial Reviews (JRs) of planning matters before High Court Judges with planning experience. In our case Mrs Justice Patterson, a relatively new High Court Judge but a very experienced planning lawyer. This is something of a double edged sword. On the one hand the judge will understand the planning regime and its issues and won’t need to grapple with an unfamiliar area of law. But on the other, it might be harder to persuade her that aspects of the well-established planning system are at fault. Aspects of our case — particularly those about bogus confidentiality — relied on arguments not heard in planning cases very often. That doesn’t mean they are wrong or doomed to failure, just rarely challenged in planning JRs.

We had on our side one of the leading authorities on the issue. Mr Philip Coppel QC. He (literally) wrote “the book” on Information Rights and was leading (presenting) our entire case. It was no surprise that Mr Coppel spent the whole of the first day in Court arguing on his specialism — it is the basis of one of the most important “grounds” of our claim. He submitted that the Council was wrong to keep the various viability reports, secret. It’s become common practice to do so in planning, but it has no legal basis, as Mr Coppel said: “Private communications have no part in the planning system. The fact that it has become so, is no answer.” Councillors on the Planning Sub-committee — the very people who made the decision — weren’t even allowed to see the report and they were the ones making the decision.

Royal Courts of Justice - The Strand - Photo by Nick PerryThese reports are crucial, because they present the developer’s justification for providing only 17% affordable housing when Hackney Council’s target, enshrined in policy, is 50%. The law allows the developer to miss the target if they can prove that to do so would render the scheme “unviable”. That is to say, give them less than 20% profit. The reports comprised those of the developer and those of an independent outside consultant. The latter might have been highly critical of the former or it may not have exhaustively tested it, and it’s not uncommon for that to be the case. Dave Hill wrote about a similar case at Earl’s Court last week for The Guardian. If there were anomalies, neither we nor the councillors who voted to approve the scheme knew about them. And we said that it is wrong in law.

On day two, Mr Coppel covered our other grounds more swiftly. They were more familiar territory for the Court and easier to argue. They included the submission that the Council had made a poorly-justified decision not to require the developer to submit a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment.

We also complained that we were not allowed to see the draft “section 106 agreement” whilst it was being finalised. The “section 106 agreement” is a formal agreement between the developer and Hackney Council which stipulates certain conditions and financial contributions that must be made to compensate for aspects of a planning application that would otherwise be unacceptable. If we’d have seen the draft, we might have been able to argue that the mechanism for reviewing the level of affordable homes ought to have been triggered if 12 months elapse before the site is cleared, and if 12 months elapsed before a trench is dug. The latter is common ploy by developers to signify the “start of development” and to stop any time-sensitive review mechanisms from being triggered.

Heritage figured strongly too. Mr Coppel submitted that Hackney Council had failed to properly apply national, regional and local policy. He also argued that the Planning Sub-committee were mis-directed by officers when they sat in December 2013 to consider the identical application that was supposed to undermine our first JR.

With our arguments set out, Hackney Council’s barrister, Mr William Upton with his colleague Emmaline Lambert alongside presented the defence, largely through reciting case law. Judges rely heavily on case law but it can be very hard for a lay observer to penetrate the weight and relevance of the cases cited. Mr Upton also cited guidance from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) which recommends all viability appraisals are submitted confidentially. But guidance — especially that laid down by an industry whose purpose is to protect its members’ interests — is not the law, and we say, runs contrary to it.

Leaving the Royal Courts of Justice - The Strand - Photo by Nick PerryMr Upton also said the proper route for determining if information held by a council ought to be released to the public is via the regime set out in the Freedom of Information Act, and the Environmental Information Regulations. But that process — which involves complaining to the Information Commissioner’s Office — can take two years. A large planning decision should be taken in thirteen weeks. By way of a defence, Mr Upton observed that “Parliament has not chosen to marry the planning and the environmental information regimes”

On the final day, Mr Upton wrapped up for Hackney Council before Mr Reuben Taylor QC for the developer, Newmark Properties, put forward his arguments in support of the Council’s defence. His style was more dramatic, and perhaps more engaging for the lay observer. His arguments weren’t always the same as those put forward by the Council. He submitted that the viability documents should remain secret because the public and councillors would “be swamped by masses of information that they wouldn’t understand”. He also parroted an oft-heard threat of developers — that planners need to be soft on the demands they make of developers otherwise they won’t build anything at all.

Mr Taylor’s case was relatively brief, and was followed by an opportunity for our QC, Mr Coppel, to rebut and wrap up proceedings, which he did with aplomb and flair.

Feathers were ruffled when he pointed out to the Court that the redacted viability statement that we had been allowed to see wasn’t the right version. The other side of the court quietly erupted in confusion as files were checked and notes passed before they confirmed we had been given the older report, but that the correct one was identical apart from the redacted figures. Rather neatly proving the pointlessness of it in the first place.

With three days of pleadings by lawyers in horsehair wigs and black gowns all over, the clerks appeared for the last time to wheel away the documents. I packed my lever arch files in to my Dalston shopping trolley and wheeled it out of the back entrance of the Courts, on to the relative quiet of Carey Street. I thanked my lawyers with bottles of wine, conscious of the fact they make a poor substitute for fees, but they were received with warm thanks, and I repaired with stalwart supporter Sean, to the local Weatherspoon’s.

Royal Courts of Justice - Carey Street Entrance - Photo by Nick Perry

Mrs Justice Patterson had an expert poker face. It’s was not easy to tell where she was heading. It will take her a while to consider the points raised, along with all the case law, and write up a thorough judgement. We don’t expect her judgment for another six weeks or more.

As the last Stokey Local email outlined, there are three possible outcomes:

We win — Mrs Justice Patterson finds that the Council made mistakes in its process and quashes both planning decisions. Our barristers and solicitors will be able to recover some costs from the other side and crucially Newmark won’t have its planning permission. What Newmark, Sainsbury’s and the Council do next will depend on the judgment, but it seems likely there will be yet another planning decision to be made and we’ll probably need to get some expert advice to rebut the viability claims in particular.

We lose — If the Court dismisses our claims in their entirety, Newmark will have two permissions and can start building straight away. I’ll be faced with a pretty large legal bill of around £22,000, and although an appeal might be possible it would expose me to a further £10,000.

A pyrrhic victory — The Court might agree on one or more of the legal arguments but say that had the Council not made those mistakes, the outcome would have been the same so at least one of the planning permissions will stand and Newmark will be able to begin building. Quite what happens to costs in that case is up to the Court.

All outcomes are all up for grabs at this point. It’s now just a waiting game — we’ll just have to wait and see and hope for an early Christmas present.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me and the campaign — including those fighting other, similar campaigns across London and those who turned up in Court last week to show their support.

My personal thanks to each and every person and business who has contributed to the Stokey Local Community Fund. I’m at arms’ length from the Fund, but crucially it has been set up to fund this fight and prevent me going to prison for non-payment of costs should we lose! The fund still needs at least £5,000 to cover a shortfall should we lose, so please continue to give generously!

Special thanks must go to our highly professional and experienced legal team. Philip Coppel QC led the case at trial and has been providing his peerless expertise throughout its preparation. His junior barrister colleague Richard Clarke has been invaluable in preparing the case and in Court — thanks Richard. Above all, thanks to Alex Goodman, a local resident, and planning barrister, who first took on this case and persuaded Richard and Philip to work with him on it at no cost to me or the campaign. These charming people have a vast amount of time spent on this case which we first anticipated as one Judicial Review — not two, joined together along with a trial in the Court of Appeal!

Also key to the management of the legal case have been my solicitors, Richard Buxton and Carolyn Beckwith. They came highly recommended by those in the know and are experts in this field of Environmental and Public Law. Crucially, their fees are very modest, and designed to be affordable to community groups. Carolyn’s guidance to me as I prepared huge bundles of planning documents and visited Court and other solicitors to lodge claims and serve papers, has been particularly helpful.

I hope that in a few weeks you’ll be able to join me and raise a glass to them, and to all of our supporters at a victory party. Or if not, a commiserative get together.

Stay tuned.

Nick

22 Oct 2014

Our day in the Court of Appeal

The Royal Courts of Justice

On Friday (19 September 2014) our team of lawyers and I were in a rather unassuming room in the otherwise splendid Gothic Revival Royal Courts of Justice just off Aldgate. In Court 76, three very senior and experienced Lord Justices sat in their modest, rather refined, Court of Appeal apparel to pass judgement on a niche point of our legal case.

In short, we didn’t win in the Court of Appeal on Friday. But our Judicial Review (JR) continues regardless. If I, as a layman, were to read anything into the hard questioning the learned judges gave our barristers, I’d say they thought we had a strong and interesting point to make come the JR-proper, in October.

It’s was not vital to our case against Hackney, Newmark and Sainsbury’s that we won this particular argument in the Court of Appeal, but it would have helped us make our point later on. And it could even have had significant and positive implications for the entire affordable housing sector.

One of the key complaints of our campaign against the development of the 53 homes above a 4,100m2 Sainsbury’s is that the acknowledged harm to the seclusion and ecology of Abney Park, to the heritage setting of it’s listed gates and to the wider Stoke Newington Conservation Area, has almost no public benefit to offset it.

The proposed homes are certainly high-spec. Perhaps a canny decision by the developer in this awkwardly skewed, middle class part of an otherwise quite diverse borough. Of all the areas of Hackney, Stoke Newington is surely amongst the least affordable. The lack of tube has done little to temper house prices in the area and there are few pockets of land that we can reasonably expect to offer anything meaningful in the near future, to those key workers in dire need of affordable homes.

Part of successive government’s solutions to the housing crisis was to make private developers build a proportion of “affordable” homes with each large development they build. It’s down to each local authority to set the specific targets but here in Hackney we have a fairly typical target of 50%. That is to say, in each development of ten or more homes, at least half should be “affordable”. And of those, 60% should be for rent and a quarter of those for rent should be “social”.

The term “affordable” is a misnomer. It’s defined as 80% of market value – whether that be rent or outright purchase. In London, 80% of a hyper-inflated market could hardly be considered “affordable” to most people; let alone those key workers who qualify for “affordable” homes. It’s an issue that’s being played out nationally and there are plenty of campaigners working hard to get that definition changed.

Notwithstanding that, over the last few years, local authorities have seen ever decreasing numbers of affordable homes being delivered or proposed. A couple of years ago, 35% seemed fairly typical for new planning consents in Hackney. In the last year it’s been even lower. 0% is far from rare, with 15-20% being typical. As each site gets built with zero or maybe 15% affordable homes, that’s a development opportunity locked in at the unsustainably low rate for the lifetime of the building – 50, 75, maybe 100 years or more. We simply don’t have the land in urban areas to sustain that skewed mix of tenures.

In Newmark’s case, the figure is 17%. Just nine of the 53 flats at Wilmer Place will be “affordable”; of those nine, four flats are for “affordable” rent, two large flats will be offered at a social rent and the other three will be offered on a shared ownership basis.

The reason this developer, like most of the others, got permission for something that fails to deliver 50% – contrary to Council policy –  is that, in response to the downturn, the Government allowed developers to negotiate if they could demonstrate that they wouldn’t make enough profit; or in other words, that it wouldn’t be commercially “viable”. The Government were told that without this point of negotiation, developers would just stop building houses altogether.

The developers have to do more than just say they wouldn’t make enough profit. They must make a solid case. Normally that’s in the form of a “viability assessment” – a set of documents that use various figures and often a complex mathematical model – to say that in order to make an acceptable profit (the industry seems to have settled on 20%), they can only budget to build a given number of affordable homes. That “given number” might well be zero if the figures in the assessment support it.

No sooner had the Government allowed developers to negotiate on viability, than a branch of the valuation and surveying industry popped up offering to minimise developers commitments to affordable housing and “planning gain”. Like so many professional services, you get what you pay for. The smarter surveyors can do all sorts of modelling and tweaking to ensure the “guesstimates” they produce favour the developer and not the affordable housing requirements of the local authority.

This technique would be less of an egregious abuse of the system if it were open to scrutiny. But by convention, it isn’t. The industry advises itself to submit all viability claims separate to the planning application documents and to assert that they are private and confidential. As a result, the only people to see these documents are the planning officers and the Council’s own surveyors. For larger schemes the documents might also go out to another firm of surveyors within the industry, for scrutiny. But none of these documents are released to the public. In fact they aren’t even released to members of the Council’s own Planning Sub-committee.

There is no solid legal basis for this secrecy. It’s just convention dictated by the developers. And they get away with it because they claim that if they had to submit them to public scrutiny, they would lose some commercial advantage and would not come forward with development schemes. The same threat that got them the concession on viability in the first place. With the vast power and legal might of the development industry being brought to bear on them, local authorities are disinclined to challenge the claim. They’d rather some (very profitable) development went ahead with little or no affordable housing that risk the developers carrying out their threats of stopping developing or taking them to court or an expensive planning inquiry.

“There’s less money in the system.” “There are no grants.” “Land values have skyrocketed.” are oft-heard retorts by local government chiefs and councillors,  brow-beaten by the hideous complexity of the issue. They are largely buying the industry’s fibs because they haven’t done the research that proves otherwise. There never were grants to meet the policy targets of the local authorities – they were only ever given for “additionality” – affordable homes above target levels. And the reason land prices have sky-rocketed, is precisely because planners have not defended their policies and developers routinely achieve the ludicrously inflated “hope values” they paid for the land.

The only people left to argue are the general public and communities affected. And in truth they have very limited legal avenues.

Buzz off Sainsbury's
A “large” planning matter ought to be determined by a Local Planning Authority within 13 weeks and public consultations are typically just 21 calendar days. This is shorter, even, that the statutory 20 working days (26-29 calendar days) a council has to respond to a Freedom of Information request to see the viability information.

Even in the case of complex planning applications such as Wilmer Place, the additional 40 days a local authority has to to conduct an internal review when it refuses an FOI request, plus a further 20 which the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) might give the authority (and did in our case), gives a local authority 80 working days (4 months), to exhaust all avenues before the ICO will even begin to consider a complaint on its merits. This timescale is plainly at odds with the planning regime where the Government’s desire is to expedite planning decisions and their appeals in much shorter timescales.

In those rare cases where the community have pursued a claim with the ICO to see viability documents, they have typically taken two years to resolve, by which time, disclosure is academic, the planning decisions having been granted 18 months earlier. Completists might like to see the outcomes at Heygate (Elephant & Castle), Earl’s Court, Walthamstow Stadium, Oaklands College, St Alban’s, or Lakota Building, Bristol.

In each of those cases the ICO or the High Court, has conceded that key information ought to have been in the public domain at the outset and have ordered it’s disclosure. There have been specific exemptions for certain trade secrets but release of the bulk of the information – and all the important figures – has been ordered.

We find ourself in that very scenario. The Council is digging in it’s heels. Off the record, individual officers of the Council aren’t entirely unsympathetic, but as a corporate body they feel bound to support the development industry’s claim that it’s information is confidential. When much, if not all of it, is publicly available or derived from “text book” valuations.

The “Viability Con” is really dull and technically complex when you get down to the nitty gritty of valuation reports. But it’s crucial that councils and the Government tackle this. It’s hard to express the scandal in a way that is easy enough to digest such that it will have some political bite. But The Guardain’s Olly Wainwright had a good go last week. It’s a long piece but lays out the issue as clearly as it ever has been in the mainstream press. I had a good go at pressing my points in response. Radio 4’s Face the Facts had a stab at the issue at the start of this year after The Bureau of Investigative Journalism did some excellent research over a year ago.

It was an exquisitely rare delight to see Camden and Islington councils tear apart Royal Mail’s plans to redevelop Mount Pleasant. Their report was made public and although redacted had copious commentary that rubbished Royal Mail’s claim that only 12% affordable housing would be viable. As Royal Mail stopped co-operating, the councils’ third-party surveyors did the maths from scratch and discover that providing 50% affordable homes would still be profitable. Most likely even more when finally built and sold. But with the application slated to be called in by the Mayor of London, it remains to be seen whether any good will come of it.

As it stands, today, we’ve yet to see the viability reports for Wilmer Place. The Court of Appeal wouldn’t order disclosure. The ICO is considering our claim but is unlikely to come to a decision before our JR in October. So we’ll be arguing in the High Court that, amongst other things, we haven’t seen the viability info, but we should have seen it. If the High Court agrees, it won’t necessarily lead to disclosure. They might simply quosh the planning permission and set us back at the start of the same old path of having to ask the Council for the info all over again. And whilst they resist disclosure and grant yet another planning permission, they’ll do so hoping we’ll give up our legal challenges.

I hope it doesn’t come to that. In the face of a defeat against our Judicial Review, the Council should be able to use the ruling against them as a reason to be tougher on developers. In fact it is already looking at the issue in it’s member-led Scrutiny Commission on Living in Hackney.

It needs a strong will and a strong case to fight the might of the development industry. Let’s hope this JR goes a considerable way to doing that.

Challenging the December 2013 Decision

On 11 December 2013, Hackney’s Planning Sub-committee recommended granting of an application that was literally identical (save for some paperwork) to the one it granted in July. It did this because we challenged the July application in the High Court, through the Judicial Review process.

After the December meeting we asked our supporters to write to the Secretary of State to ask him to “call-in” the decision, but despite a wealth of support, felt he was unable to intervene. In fact very few applications are called-in each year, so it was, perhaps, no surprise.

With the earlier application waiting to be heard in Court, the applicant and Council were premature in dealing with the December recommendation – after all they had not yet heard the Court’s view on our challenge so were likely to make similar mistakes to those it made in the earlier granting of permission.

On my instruction, our fabulous legal team (who are working at no cost to the campaign) have been poring over the evidence generated by the December recommendation to gather grounds to challenge it, too. And on Friday 14 March they sent a formal letter to Hackney detailing why we think the decision on the latest application was unfair, perverse, irrational and wrong. We await a response from Hackney and the applicant, at which point we will consider asking the High Court to overturn the latest decision too. We must formally do this by 28 March 2014. So stay tuned.

Call-in widely supported

In recent months we’ve been asking you and people further afield to write to the Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Eric Pickles MP, to ask him to call-in a third application for a large supermarket and 54 homes on the site at Wilmer Place, hard by Abney Park cemetery.

That’s because the Secretary of State has wide discretion to call-in an application. That is to say he can intervene on planning applications before they are formally granted by the Local Planning Authority, and instead deal with them himself.

In practice this means his team at the National Planning Casework Unit (NPCU) in Birmingham, review cases brought to them and make a recommendation to the Secretary of State on whether the case meets certain criteria for call-in

The NPCU normally considers call-in immediately after a Local Planning Authority has made a recommendation to grant planning permission, but before it has formalised this by issuing a Decision Notice. In this case, Hackney made it’s recommendation at the Planning Sub-committee meeting on the evening of 11 December 2013.  The morning after, knowing we had already raised concerns about this application, The Secretary of State issued an Article 25 Direction to Hackney to stop them issuing a Decision Notice, whilst the NPCU considers call-in.

That’s where we are now. The NPCU are wading through our letters, the planning application itself, and the associated paperwork to see if the application ought to be called-in. We expect them to make a decision at the end of January 2014.

Call-in is quite rare, and although, in law, there is wide discretion to call in applications, in practice the NPCU looks for mainly matters of national importance. In May 2012, Parliament discussed this point:

Chris Heaton-Harris: What criteria he uses when calling in or recovering planning applications; and if he will make a statement:
The Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Greg Clark): The Government believe that planning decisions should be taken in, and by, local communities, and so use their call-in powers sparingly. Essentially, the powers are used when matters are of national significance.

The Planning Inspectorate’s Good Practice Advice Note of March 2013 outlines some criteria for call-in, known as The Caborn Principles:

  • development that may conflict with national policies on important matters;
  • development that could have significant effects beyond its immediate locality;
  • development that raises significant architectural and urban design issues;
  • development where the interests of national security are involved, or the interest of foreign Governments;
  • development where there is substantial regional or national controversy.

In writing to the Secretary of State and NPCU we have asked people to concentrate on demonstrating the application meets some of these criteria.

There is often initial reluctance amongst politicians to support call-in as it is seen as giving up local powers. Indeed the Secretary of State agrees and it is why he is reluctant to call-in applications. However, in practice, if he agrees to call-in an application, the Planning Inspectorate appoints an inspector – a chartered town planner; not a politician or civil servant – with experience of the local area, to conduct a public inquiry, within the local area. Most likely at Hackney Town Hall, in this case. Although the Secretary of State does not have to agree with the Inspector’s recommendation, in practice he does.

So, to all intents and purposes, the process of call-in does not take the decision away from the local community. Rather it empowers the local community to get more directly involved by holding a local inquiry where evidence is presented openly and evaluated by a professional local inspector, against local and national policy. Indeed it’s exactly the same inquiry process as would occur if Hackney had refused the application and the applicant had decided to appeal. It’s just, as objectors, we have no route to appeal a decision, only to ask for it to be called-in, and hope the Secretary of State agrees.

As a campaign group we want an inquiry, because the process is more transparent. At a public inquiry we can ask questions and crucially, we can cross examine those giving evidence. We can vocalise our objections on all the matters we wish to raise and influence the decision process first hand, instead of having to rely on a 5 minute speech and hope for some helpful questions from Sub-committee members. Whilst inspectors are sometimes prone to making strange decisions, we will have had our “time in court” – a chance to present our full case. The Inspector will address our points directly. They are at liberty to make modifications to the application and impose conditions which change it – for instance,if they are minded to refuse the scheme proposed but grant a more modest scheme. Or they might refuse the scheme but make specific points about what would or would not be acceptable – which gives the Local Planning Authority and the applicant a clear idea of what might be acceptable in the next iteration of the scheme.

We can achieve an inquiry either by Hackney refusing a planning application, and the applicant appealing, or by Hackney recommending granting of an application and then us convincing the Secretary of State to call-in the proposal before a Decision Notice is issued.

In previous successful requests for call-in – particularly on heritage and environmental grounds – a large amount of public support across the political and geographical spectrum has been a crucial factor in persuading the Secretary of State. And rightly so; it demonstrates “greater than local” significance, and controversy.

Although members of the Planning Sub-committee are not whipped – indeed they must make decisions without political influence or loyalty – Hackney Council is almost entirely a Labour authority; and the Secretary of State will be acutely aware of this. It is significant that the Hackney Labour party supports the Stokey Local campaign. Indeed the support of two local Labour ward councillors has been unswerving and highly visible. Similarly the Hackney Liberal Democrats, whose Councillors are in one of the two bordering wards, have supported Stokey Local from the outset. That the Planning Sub-committee can come to an opposing decision is, one might argue, a testament to their political independence.

So it has been crucial to demonstrate wide political support from further afield. Key members of all four parties represented at the Greater London Assembly have written, in their own words, to the Secretary of State to ask him to call-in this application. And to them, we are grateful. You can read their letters below.

There is still time to get other political and expert ‘big hitters’ to write to the Secretary of State before they come to a conclusion at the end of the month. If you have any personal connection with  MPs of any persuasion from anywhere in England (the planning regime is different in the devolved assemblies), or with well known ecological, historical, architectural, retail experts or commentators, do please bend their ear and persuade them to support us by writing personal letters. We can guide them on the key procedural points and key factors of the scheme if needs be. Our consolidated call-in letter is available below:

If you have written, or are one of the almost 6,500 people who signed the call-in petition, thanks for your support. Whatever the outcome of the request to call-in the third application, there will be plenty more work to do defending the earlier Judicial Review (which we recently gained permission from the High Court to progress) and either instigating a second Judicial Review, or more hopefully, assembling a case for public inquiry. So stay tuned and keep spreading the word – there are a large number of local residents who are unaware of these challenges we make and that they are still able to help us to defeat the applications as they stand.

Nick Perry
Stokey Local “planning nerd”

Judicial Review Papers Served

Stokey: we are amazing

Just five weeks ago, after we had recovered from witnessing the council approving the Sainsbury/Wilmer place development, we set ourselves the task of raising £5,000 from the community to launch a judicial review of that decision.

We have now received donations from over 100 people totaling in excess of £5,000 (but we still need to raise another £5,000). The majority of these donations have been of £50 or less, with dozens of small donations (£5 to £10) being of equal importance in demonstrating that we are a community united and determined to stop this development.

Judicial review served

Today, Nick Perry visited the High Court in the Strand and delivered the application for judicial review. We have already done what people thought we were not capable of. We have come together as a strong, united community and organised to raise the money necessary to start legal action to defend Abney Park Cemetery, the conservation area and the independent shops and unique culture of Stoke Newington. Well done us.

However, it is not over yet

We need to raise a further £5,000. We know lots of people have been awaiting the bank account details to be able to make transfers by telephone or postal banking: we still need £5,000. Our target is to find a further 100 people to make donations of £50, however, every little helps, and if you cannot afford £50, please feel free to send a smaller donation.

You can make donations through online or telephone banking:

Account name: Stokey Local Community Fund
Sort code: 08-60-01
Account number: 20316473

Let’s spread the word

We need to inform our community that the fight is still on and we have ordered 10,000 leaflets (see below). Many thanks to Hackney Planning Watch for funding these. Last time we needed to leaflet the area, we had over 60 volunteers delivering leaflets in their part of town. We are speaking up for Stokey, lets make sure we speak for the whole of Stokey.

If you can assist in delivering this next set of leaflets, please register here.

Appeal against the rejection of the first application

In April the Council voted to reject the first application by the developer, the developer lodged an appeal and then submitted their second ‘revised’ application. Several councillors on the planning committee indicated that they had voted to approve the second application because the developer had given an undertaking that if it was approved they would withdraw their appeal against the original refusal. The councillors’ view was that approving the second application (with its minor revisions) was a ‘least worst’ scenario. It may shock and even anger some people, but it will not surprise anyone to learn that the developer has not withdrawn their appeal.

The appeal will now be heard by a planning inspector, we don’t yet have a date. However, we are exploring the opportunities offered to us by this process. Suffice to say we will be seeking to engage with the appeal process (just in case the Council chooses not to defend its original decision very strongly). In fact an inspector’s inquiry could be a good thing, as it will decide the planning issues (as opposed to the procedural issues) and the inspector will most certainly prescribe the limits of any future development, something that the judicial review cannot do on its own.

What next?

It is going to be a hectic few days and then we will have to wait for the court to respond. In the meantime, we are planning to:

  • leaflet the whole of Stoke Newington
  • hold a meeting to inform and discuss next steps (Details to follow).
  • explore with interested parties the idea of a ‘stokey’ or ‘Hackney’ pound
  • organise some form of social event (suggestions welcome)
  • organise a twitter storm (where we get lots of people tweeting about the issue at the same time, which grabs people’s attention). If you are on twitter please follow @stokeylocal and regularly retweet some of the tweets.

What have we done?

Two years ago, when this development was first announced there were few who would believe that we could come together as a community to do what we have done: the petitioning, the zombie parade, the bug parade, the network of people prepared to distribute 10,000 leaflets, the meetings we have organised, the relationships we have built, the wide political support from the Greens, the Lib Dems and the local Labour councillors, the numbers who turned out at the council meetings, and now serving, not just talking about but actually serving, notice of judicial review.

Whatever else we think about Sainsbury’s we can say this they certainly showed us what we are capable of as a community. Did you not hear us? ‘Stokey said no’.

Stokey still says no

The battle is on!

But time is running out to stop Sainsbury’s plan to build a supermarket in the heart of Stoke Newington.

 

We can stop this!

The wonderful, energetic, creative and UNITED Stoke Newington residents and small shop owners are determined to stop this!

 

WE ARE APPLYING FOR A JUDICIAL REVIEW!

 

BUT we need funds to take on the supermarket giant.

 

In 3 weeks we have raised over

£5,000

but we still need another £5000 to fund the legal challange

We can reach this with 100 donations of £50.

Please give what you can

SEND A CHEQUE

to Stokey Local Community Fund,
c/o Jane Holgate, 30 Bergholt Crescent, London N16 5JE

OR DIRECT MONEY TRANSFER

Account name: Stokey Local Community Fund
Sort code: 08-60-01
Account number: 20316473

sticker.gif

This development will

• damage the ecology of Abney Park

• endanger local children

• clog our streets with cars & trucks

• threaten local shops

• damage a conservation area

Please help us keep local children, local shops and Abney Park safe from this threat.

#StokeyLocal

PLEASE ALSO FORWARD THIS EMAIL ON

stokeylocal.org.uk

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.

» Read more

Join the Stokey Local Bug Parade on Sat 27 Jul 12:30pm

 

Have you seen the fantastic banners we have displayed outside Abney Park, on the High Street (above Hamdy’s news) and outside St Paul’s Church? With less than three weeks to the planning meeting, it looks as if Stokey is gearing itself up for a showdown over the Sainsbury’s/Wilmer Place development. Already we have our campaign poster up in many shops in the area. If you want one for your front window, to display in a community venue, or if you can help with asking shop keepers to display them, then please collect them from Hamdy’s newsagent, 167 Stoke Newington High St.

The on-line petition is now approaching 2,500 signatures so please do help to promote it by using email, blogs, facebook and twitter to circulate the link to friends, work-colleagues, neighbours etc.  The petition is at: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/hackney-council-please-say-no-to-the-renewed-sainsbury-wilmer-place-development

We are also receiving growing numbers of the paper copy of the petition, (to use at street stalls, farmers markets etc) a version can be downloaded here:https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B5Ciptiv7GggTzBRaXBCaEhrdWc/edit?usp=sharing

Leaflets
Our campaign leaflets will not now be with us until next week (the sympathetic designer is doing them for free,  but won’t now get them to us until the weekend, and then they need to be printed). It looks like we will have the printed leaflets with us by next Wednesday or Thursday, which will mean we will need to work hard to get them through doors in time. If you have already registered to help distribute them door-to-door distribution thank you very much and we will be in touch. If you would like to add your name to our small army of distributors (if everyone can deliver just 300 leaflets door to door, we can get the whole area covered) please can register by visiting here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/stokeylocal

The Bug Parade
We will be staging the ‘bug parade’ on Saturday 27 July 12:30 pm (meet at the entrance to Abney Park on Stamford Hill. Please give some thought to your costume, some ideas below, but most importantly please make sure you attend, and bring people with you, we need to show that there is an ever growing community opposition to this proposal. This is not a ‘protest march’, it is a ‘bug parade’ a fun way to show how we feel and to galvanise support while celebrating the uniqueness of Stokey (which after all is what we are trying to preserve)

Abney Park are organising a costume making fun day on Saturday 20th
Abney Park Costume Making Day
Classroom, Abney Park, Stoke Newington High St
20 July 10am-6pm
Drop-in
FREE
Email kirsten@abneypark.org for more info!

Sainsbury’s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility?
To date we have not had a response from Sainsbury to our request to meet with their director of Coprorate Social Responsibility, but we remain hopeful that we will receive a response.

Sign up
If you would like to join our mailing list, please visit: http://eepurl.com/mqRA9 and sign up.

Finally
Please, speak to people about this issue, forward this email onto friends, post about it on facebook, tweet about it, and ensure that everyone knows about this campaign.

Thank you to everyone for your support.

Below are just a few suggestions for costumes!

New petition launched

We have launched a new on-line petition calling on the Council to reject the renewed Sainsbury/WIlmer Place over-development. Help us say ‘NO’, by signing the petition and then urging others to do the same: click here to go to the petition.

Our target for the petition must be 6,000 (to show that opposition is growing rather than receding) Please tweet, facebook, email and speak to friends and neighbours about signing the petition.

Don’t forget our campaign planning meeting on Wednesday

We have a campaign planning meeting on Wednesday 26 June, at 6.30 – 8pm, at the Methodist Church 106, Stoke Newington High Street, N16 (next door to the existing Sainsbury’s Local). Please come along and let us know your views about how we can alert our community to this planning application and publicise the opposition. Read here for more info, and if you can attend, please register here.

Finally

Please do tweet, facebook, email and speak to people about this getting invoved in this campaign and registering their objections via the on-line petition.

Please sign up to our email alerts by clicking here.

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