Abney Park & Judicial Review

A couple of quick news items:

Abney Park
Abney Park had a success FUN-draising afternoon, organized by the Abney Park User Group (APUG), Abney Park Trust and Stokey Local. All of the proceeds – over £700 on the day – went to the Stokey Local Fund

The Abney Park Users Group hold regular meetings and are always looking for volunteers to help the Trust with some litter-picking or tidying up and horticulture. Email abneyparkusergroup@live.com for more details.

Judicial Review over Wilmer Place Development

The main Judicial Review hearing for the Wilmer Place/Sainsbury’s Development is listed for 14-16 October 2014. If the case is heard in full, we’d expect to hear the Court’s decision around six weeks later.

In the meantime Stokey Local Have been in court on preliminary and procedural matters. Most recently last Friday 19 September in the Court of Appeal to ask to see the secret viability documents that the developer used to say he could only afford to build 9 “affordable” homes (2 of which are “social rent”) out of the 53 he’s building. Hackney Policy, like many councils seeks 50% affordable homes but only 17% are on offer because otherwise, the developer claims, the scheme would be unviable. It a trick that is routinely repeated across the country. And because the documents are self-certified as confidential, we don’t get to scrutinise them.

You can read Nick Perry’s blog post on our day in Court on the Stokey Local website. And for more on what’s wrong with the system of viability read Olly Wainwright’s excellent piece in The Guardian

Sadly, the Court of Appeal didn’t give the campaigners permission to see those documents ahead of the JR. The campaign have to pay some of the costs of the other sides in mounting that Appeal, but they will be relatively modest (and certainly no more than £5,000) as we didn’t go ahead with a full hearing. The appeal was still useful though. It raised some important points and brought some interesting legal arguments forward which will be useful at the Judicial Review.

Stokey Local is also entirely a volunteer run organisation; if you’d like to help out do get in touch. They also need donations. They say:

With almost £17,000 raised already we’ve done very well as a campaign. But even though our team of barristers are working at no cost to us, we need to raise at least £4,000 more to cover a portion of the other sides’ costs if we lose, as well as our incidental court and administrative costs to date.

If you haven’t already donated to the fund or know of others who might want to contribute to our campaign, donations can be made direct in to our bank account (details below). You can email them at info@stokeylocal.org.uk to let them know if you make a direct donation.

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


All About Abney The Battle for Wilmer Place Sat 6th September

Saturday 6th September there’s a fun day fundraising event on Saturday 6th September in Abney Park Cemetery from 2-5pm. This is a collaboration between The Abney Park User Group, Abney Park Trust and Stokey Local. Please put the date in your diary and come along if you can. Do encourage your friends, neighbours and social networks to do so as well.

All About Abney

There will be guided walks kicking off at 2pm and 4pm near the main entrance gates on Stoke Newington High Street. Abney’s John Baldock will show you just some of the many treasures of the Park and explain how its future management is being considered by the Council. Arboriculturist and ecologist Russell Miller will show you some of the species that live on the site and explain the effects of the proposed Wilmer Pace development on the park’s rich ecology. Nick Perry of the Hackney Society and Bernard Bourdillon of the Trust will explain how the five storeys of supermarket and housing will negatively impact the built heritage and seclusion of the Cemetery and Stoke Newington Conservation Area.Between 3-4pm we’ll have music and entertainment on a stage near the Stoke Newington High Street entrance.

Throughout the afternoon there will be a host of family-friendly activities including: art workshops, craft demonstrations, a forest school and theatre. Fancy dress is most welcome, so why not dust off the great costumes we saw at the Bug Parade and Zombie March – or surprise us with something totally new.

It should be a fun and informative afternoon for everyone. We’ll have information stalls and a coffee shop (with a proportion of proceeds to the Stokey Local Community Fund) running throughout.

This is an opportunity to find out about the work the Trust does managing Abney Park for us all as a woodland cemetery, a nature reserve, heritage asset and public park. The Abney Park User Group (APUG) represents the interests of all the park’s users and will also be there, helping organise the day and telling people about the sorts of vital volunteer activities they organise in the Park. We’ll also have a Stokey Local stall to give a focus to the fundraising, and offering the chance to donate what you can afford on the day (especially if you have not had a chance before) or pledge a donation by bank transfer.

We’re specifically targeting this event at those who don’t know about the campaign or how the development will affect Abney; and to highlight the hidden treasures of Abney and the many activities and events that go in the Park for the benefit of Londoners far and wide.

Our friends and supporters at St Paul’s Church, on the High St and Evering Rd, are having a grand re-opening of the West Hackney Recreation Ground and Churchyard from noon till 3:30 on the same day. They’ll have a picnic (bring some food to share or buy some at the adjacent Farmers’ Market), music and free workshops. So why not make a day of it, and visit the market and West Rec before coming to Abney for our event? For more details, visit stpaulswesthackney.org.

Aside from the fun on the day, there is a serious point to all of this. Donations and any profits from the day are being donated directly to the Stokey Local Community Fund. The fund’s objective is to back the two Judicial Reviews and legal appeals that Nick Perry is pursuing with Stokey Local’s support. These challenge the granting of two identical planning permissions by Hackney Council which are due to be heard in at the Royal Courts of Justice on 14-16 October 2014. Over 400 people have already donated to the fund and raised an impressive £16,800. We still need to raise up to another £4,000 to cover possible further legal and professional costs. Our expert barristers are kindly working at no cost to the campaign, but if we lose we’ll have to pay our opponents’ legal costs (currently capped at £15,000) plus our own solicitors fee and incidental costs.

We are also looking for volunteers to help the day run smoothly, both before and on Saturday 6th September itself. There is a range of things you can do to get involved and help support the day:

  • Talk to your neighbours and friends, encourage everyone to come along.
  • Download and print off the poster (designed by Abney woodworker, Joseph Bloor) and put it up in a window or on a door and give copies to local shops and businesses.
  • Download and email the flyer to your friends and social network. Or download the print version of the flyer for printing out on paper.
  • Distribute the latest Campaign leaflet and flyers in your area. With a lot of people away on holiday at the moment, it would be a great help if you could spare an hour or two for this.
  • Help distribute flyers on the day at Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market at St Paul’s West Hackney, and along the High Street and Church Street.
  • Help with arrangements on the day – setting up (late morning) and/or marshalling 1.30-5pm (high-viz jacket provided)
If you would like to help, please e-mail you name and contact number to allaboutabney@stokeylocal.org.uk, together with your address for leaflets, posters and flyers (so we can put you in touch with the right area co-ordinator for your ward).We look forward to seeing you on the day and hope you have a great time with your friends, family and neighbours. And all in a good cause!

Spread the word

We will keep you updated about the Stokey Local Campaign, but in the meantime, feel free to share this newsletter with friends, family, neighbours etc, and share it on Facebook/Twitter etc.

If you didn’t receive this message directly via email, then you can sign up here to receive regular updates

Stoke Local AGM & Leaflets 26th July ’14

New from Stokey Local:

Stokey Local are holding a meeting at on Saturday 26 July, 4pm at the Methodist Church, 106 Stoke Newington High Street (next door to the Sainsbury’s Local store) and have a new leaflet to distribute.

This meeting will serve several functions: an update on progress, an organising meeting, an opportunity to review our fundraising and it will also be the first formal AGM of the ‘Stokey Local Community Fund’. Once the business of the meeting is out of the way, it will also provide an opportunity for an informal get together

Perhaps most importantly, it will be an opportunity to organise the distribution of a campaign newsletter (pictured below). We need volunteers to help distribute this A4 newsletter as we still need to raise additional funds for the legal costs (mindful that if we do not win, then we will have to pay a contribution to the Council, and developer’s legal costs, as well as other court and professional costs). We also want to be genuinely representative of the whole community, and not just the ‘vocal pressure group’ as characterised by some of our critics.

The leaflets will be available to collect at our meeting this Saturday 26 July at 4pm at the Methodist Church, 106 Stoke Newington High Street (next door to the Sainsbury local store).

 We need volunteers both to deliver the A4 newsletter, and to co-ordinate the delivery in different parts of the area (to avoid leafleting the same street twice). If you can help, please sign up here. We are looking for as many people as possible to take about 250 copies each, which should take about an hour to distribute door to door. With enough volunteers we can get the area covered, which will raise the profile of this campaign once again, and ensure we are ready for the court battle in October.

The meeting will also be the formal AGM of the Stokey Local Community Fund (which is entirely focused on raising funds for the legal challenge and is constituted separately from the campaign group)

We established our fighting fund last year and appointed a number of respected local people to act as Trustees.

The primary object of the fund is:

  • To indemnify such complainants, respondents and defendants as it agrees in matters challenging development in Wilmer Place, N16.

Since then more than 300 people have donated money. To ensure accountability, we are holding a brief AGM, where a set of accounts will be available and where we will elect Trustees for the coming year.

Spread the word
We will keep you updated, but in the meantime, feel free to share this newsletter with friends, family, neighbours etc, and share it on Facebook/Twitter etc.

If you are not already on our direct email list, then you can sign up here to receive regular updates:

As always: thank you Stokey!


Just when you though it was safe….Neighbourhood Forum back on agenda

Last year, the Council rejected two competing applications for a neighbourhood forum in the Stamford Hill area.We opposed both forums at the time as we believe that planning is too controversial and divisive an issue in this part of Hackney, and that there is no community consensus about what planning policy should look like in this area.

unnamed In December 2013 we heard that former Conservative Councillor Linda Kelly was once again seeking to exploit community tensions over planning by resubmitting her application to have the Council devolve planning to a ‘forum’ that she has established. Jonathan Freedland has previously written about his concerns about the impact on community relations if a neighbourhood forum is granted.

In response to the Kelly bid, some members of the community have submitted an alternative proposed forum which stresses the need for any changes to be made by consensus. So there are now two competing applications: Hackney Planning Watch opposes both. 

The Council has now begun consultation on this second application. All the documents, for both applications, can be seen here. The latest application is at the top (under ‘application documents’), and the one from Linda Kelly’s group is at the bottom (under ‘previous application documents’).

We will be most effective if we write individual letters/emails, we are therefore urging our supporters to write to the Council, ldf@hackney.gov.uk  with the title: ‘Central Stamford Hill neighbourhood forum’ and ask the council to reject both proposals.

We are also asking you to complete our petition.

Let people know
With just a few weeks until the Council consultation closes we need to alert our community to the divisive threat that one or other of these forums is granted power to write planning policies for the area. If you are willing to help us distribute a leaflet across the area, please email planningwatch@btinternet.com

Can you also please forward this email on to friends and neighbours. Please ask them to sign the petition.

Sign up to our newsletters
If you would like to join Hackney Planning Watch’s email list, please sign up here.

Please sign our petition and ensure that inappropriate over-development is not given a free reign in the area.

Many thanks for your support

Planning Watch

Sainsbury’s Wilmer Place Judicial Review 2!

Stokey Local have announced that last Monday 19th May 2014, at the Royal Courts of Justice, the first hearing took place relating to the judicial review of the Council’s decision to grant planning permission for the Sainsbury’s/Wilmer Place development.

Stokey Local goes on to say that originally, this was intended as a full hearing of the judicial review of the Council’s first decision to grant planning permission in August (JR1). However, after a number of legal arguments it was decided that it was best to use the time to address a range of procedural issues – including whether there is a case to answer on challenging the second decision (JR2) and if so, whether both cases should be heard together).

The case has been taken forward by Nick Perry, but he has the support of the community at large in seeking to prevent a development which actually reduces the number of “affordable” housing units on site, damages the biodiversity of Abney Park Cemetery and will undermine the viability of many of independent stores on the High Street and Church Street.

Thanks to the sterling efforts of our team of barristers (who are working on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis) we have been granted permission to proceed with the judicial review of the second planning permission (you may recall that the developer sought to outmanoeuvre JR1, by getting the Council to grant planning permission for a second identical application).

The permission judgment basically says that on all of the points we raised about the second planning permission, we have an ‘arguable’ point. It doesn’t mean we will necessarily win – the full court hearing will decide that – just that there is a case to be answered. That we have permission on all the points is very, very good news.

Given this decision, it is highly unlikely that the developer will now try the same trick of seeking a further grant of planning permission for the same development. The two Judicial Reviews will now be heard together and the lawyers will have to submit a revised set of court documents for the combined cases in the next few weeks. Then there will be one hearing on both Judicial Reviews, lasting two or three days, these are expected to take place 14, 15 and 16 October.

As Russell, our expert on biodiversity observed, it ‘means the site is safe for at least another summer (which the bees and other insects will appreciate)’. Of course, if we actually win the case, the site will be protected for a considerably longer period (although the developer could still submit a further application).

Procedural point on disclosure

We also asked the court to order the publication of the full financial viability statement ahead of the Judicial Review. This document was the developer’s justification for there being so few affordable units in their proposal. The Council accepted their arguments but refused to put the statement or its own analysis into the public domain; arguing that publication would jeopardise the developer’s ‘commercial confidentiality’. Our point is that if we don’t see it, we cannot effectively challenge it.

After lengthy reasoning and consideration, the court refused our request for disclosure on this point. In effect the judge ruled that this is a matter for the full hearing, rather than a preliminary stage. So our failure to win that point doesn’t necessarily affect the prospects of the Judicial Review. It just means we don’t have any specific ammunition on the validity or otherwise of the original viability statement. Our legal team (which includes the leading expert on information rights) are considering the possibility of appealing this point.

Separately the Council have undertaken an internal review and have concluded they were right not to release the info. We will be pressing the point formally with the Information Commissioner’s Office, as there are a number of cases that contradict this assertion.

The full judgment on the disclosure and permission on JR2 is available here. And the draft court order that is the output of all this is here.


We originally launched a financial appeal to support Nick’s efforts based on running one JR. While our barristers are working at no cost to our side (on a no-win, no-fee, basis), we still have to pay our solicitor’s fees and any costs for expert reports. The granting of permission to proceed with JR2, effectively means that we need to raise an additional £5,000 to ensure that if we lose (which is a possibility) then we will have sufficient funds to cover any award of costs against Nick.
Consequently, we now need to raise some more money. We are not at this stage asking those who have already donated to give more, rather we are encouraging those who have yet to make a donation to do so.

Many people have given £50, but every little helps, and it is only the widespread support of the community that has allowed us to get this far, and we now have a real chance to overturn the decision at Wilmer Place.

So if you have not donated yet, please consider making a donation now.

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

Council elections

Stokey Local is not a party political group, we have enjoyed widespread support from across the political spectrum, but it is good to see that some of our allies have done particularly well in the recent elections. In Stoke Newington ward, Louisa Thompson, and Susan Fajana-Thomas (both Labour), two great advocates of our campaign were returned. Meanwhile Barry Buitekant (Labour) and Ian Sharer (Lib Dem) who consistently voted to oppose planning permission in the Planning Committee are also both back on the Council. The Green Party, which has been consistently supportive, also received substantial support (although no councillors) coming in second in numerous.


Review and next steps

At the moment, much of the action is taking place in terms of legal arguments about planning procedure, but over the next few weeks we will set up a meeting where we can consider what further steps we can take to unite the community and put pressure on the Council to adopt a better approach to planning in our area.

Now the elections are out of the way, we can consider lobbying the new faces in the Town Hall to get the planning department to be braver and think differently about how the Council can challenge developers.

Thanks for sticking with the campaign. Much still to do, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there are a few tricks and turns on the part of the developer and Council, before the substantive hearing of the Judicial Reviews.

Election Candidates Meetings

Hackney Unites is organising a series of public meetings where the community can put questions to the candidates.

Why not get along to one of these events and ask your questions (whether it is about planning, or any other matter).

Tonight, (Friday) at St John at Hackney Church, Lower Clapton Road, E5 0PD from 6:30pm to 8:30pm, where the focus will be on housing issues.

Next Wednesday 14 May, at St Michael & All Angels, Corner of Fontayne Road and Northwold Road, N16 7ED from 7pm to 9pm, with a particular focus on Cazenove Ward.

Next Thursday 15 May is the Mayoral Question Time from 6:30pm to 8:30pm in the Council Chamber of Hackney Town Hall, Mare Street. If you wish to participate in this meeting you will need to pre-register given the high level of interest, if your name is not on the list then you will not be able to get in.

News Round Up – Second Judicial Review for Wilmer Place

It’s ‘game on’ for the second Judicial Review!

Last Friday, 14 March, Nick Perry’s legal team served a ‘pre-action protocol’ letter on the Council. This gives the Council legal notice of the intention to serve a new Judicial Review on their second attempt to grant planning permission for the Wilmer Place Sainsbury’s development.

Congratulations and many thanks to the legal team for all their work, and of course to Nick, for all the hard work. See Stokey Local for more details.

What happens now?

Well the Council could, in theory, ‘consent’ to the challenge, but this is not likely. We are asking that the first and second Judicial Reviews be joined together and heard together. If this happens, then we should know in May whether the planning decision was lawful or not. It is obviously in everyone’s interest to know one way or the other, whether the decision was legitimate, so the Council may agree to joining the two cases. If they do not, then the first Judicial Review (JR1) will be heard in May. Stokey Local is relatively confident that they will be successful, but it will all depend on how the judge views the issues on the day. If JR1 is lost, then the developer has planning permission and JR2 becomes irrelevant. If however, JR1 wins, then the first decision is null and void, and all will hinge on JR2. Unless the two cases are joined, it is likely to take another six months before JR2 gets to a hearing.

If we win JR1 and JR2, then the developer is back to square one and will need to make a fresh planning application. They may of course choose to submit a further identical application and hope that the Council can ‘go through the motions’ of giving it appropriate consideration. However, by then we will have had a series of elections and we may find that the composition of the planning committee has changed. Equally, this time, we may be able to persuade our local MP to support a ‘call in’. So potentially it will be a long campaign; there may even be a JR3!


The people of Dalston are organising to maximise the benefit for the community of the redevelopment of Kingsland Shopping centre (no one is actually against the redevelopment, but they want to see real benefits for the community, and the preservation of the Eastern Curve Garden). There is a petition that you may wish to sign, and which you can help publicise.

Last week a decision at Planning Sub-committee to demolish the last historic vestiges of Dalston Lane Terrace, and rebuild them in a modern ‘heritage likeness’, was passed on the casting vote of the Chair. It has been a hugely unpopular decision in the borough and the campaign to Save Dalston Lane is facing many of the same, difficult decisions as Stokey Local right now. If you want to stay in touch with the issue, two groups are leading the charge: @SaveDaltsonLane on Twitter, and OPEN Dalston.

Hackney Unites are seeking to organise a range of ‘hustings’ meetings in the run up to the Council elections in May.  This will be an opportunity for the community to put questions to the candidates. It might be an idea to do this in Stoke Newington? For more details see here.

For more info, or to volunteer, to help, you can contact La Toyah onlmcallister.jones@gmail.com