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.
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.