Sainsbury’s development: what to do before December 11th!

This is the latest update from Stokey Local on the campaign to protect the Stoke Newington conservation area, the biodiversity of Abney Park and the local independent stores that make Stokey so special.

Please act now to help our campaign by:

  • Signing our petition
  • Writing to the Secretary of State supporting our campaign to have the latest planning application ‘called in’
  • Attending the planning committee on 11 December when the third planning application for Wilmer Place will be considered
  • Making a contribution to our funds (if you have not already done so)
  • Completing our survey if you are a tenant/resident of the current properties on Wilmer Place

This newsletter also introduces an exciting new photographic project and
Publicises ‘Xmas at Abney’ a fun community event on 14 December.


Hamdy from Hamdy’s Newsagent, 167 Stoke Newington High Street October 2013. Photo: Alastair Fyfe

Snapshot Stoke Newington is a new photographic project celebrating our local independent shops and the people who run them. Taken by professional photographers, the portraits aim to encourage people to shop locally. They will be exhibited locally and online soon. To nominate your favourite local shopkeeper for a portrait, e-mail Rachel on

It is approaching crunch time for the Sainsbury’s/Wilmer Place development. As you will know we have launched a judicial review of the Council’s decision to grant planning permission to the second application. The judicial review addresses procedural failings by the Council, in regards to the process by which they reached their decision. In response in what was potentially a ‘clever’ move, the developer submitted a third application, which is identical to the second.

The Third application will be considered by the Planning Committee on Wednesday 11 December, the meeting will start at 6.30pm at Hackney Town Hall, Mare Street. As the council has already approved an identical application, it is almost inevitable that they will approve this latest application. The developer hopes that the committee will feel obliged to approve an application that is identical to one it has already approved, but that this time the Council will manage to ‘tick all the boxes’ so that the third application is harder to challenge at judicial review.  That is their ‘cunning plan’.

However, they have a problem: the effect of this manoeuvre is that the Council’s decision will be made in the knowledge that they have approved an identical application (and are defending that decision at the High Court), despite the fact that they do not know whether the previous approval was in fact lawful. Should our judicial review of the previous approval succeed, then it will place considerable doubt on the lawfulness of any subsequent approval made on the basis of consistency with it.

On 11 December we want everyone who cares to attend the committee. This is in part to seek to ensure that the Council consider the latest application appropriately (rather than just rubber stamping the decision). However, given the Council’s track record, it is also intended to impress upon the Secretary of State that if the Council do approve the application, he should act urgently to call the matter in.

Getting press attention
To get this matter called in, we need to demonstrate that this issue is of ‘more than local significance’; one way to do that is to get lots of press coverage. On Wednesday 11 December, prior to the meeting we will have a ‘Stokey Claus’ outside the town hall alongside carol singers (with appropriate versions of traditional favourites: all together now: ‘Sainsbury’s is not coming to town’). Details to be finalised, but we are aiming to get regional TV to cover our concerns (so we will be gathering from about 6pm). Please put the date in your diary, get yourself a Santa hat (or reindeer costume), and let’s show the world that we are still speaking up for Stokey.

Stokey Claus will have gifts for the children, so feel free to bring them along to the carol singing event. However, given the acoustics of the Council Chamber, it can be very hard to follow what is going on. It is probably not fair to bring particularly young children into the meeting itself.

Wilmer Place tenants
We’ve sent a letter to all flats and businesses on the development site. If you are based at, or recently left Wilmer Place Industrial Estate or 193-201 High Street, can you please complete our confidential survey?  If you don’t have the link to the survey email”

The petition
Our petition to the relevant Secretary of State asking for the planning application to be ‘called in’ (i.e. taken by a trained planning inspector rather than the council committee) now has 5,655 signatures and if you have not signed it please do so now (and get your friends and neighbours to do the same).

Let’s show how much we care
The petition is fantastic, but it only takes a minute to sign, it takes a little longer, and shows more passion, if you write a letter. Can people therefore write directly to the National Casework Centre asking for the matter to be called in. Emails should be sent to with a subject quoting: ‘LB Hackney Land at Wilmer Place 2013/3186 & 3187’.

A set of suggested points are included in the bottom of this newsletter, but please only use this as a guide, it will have more effect if you write your letter in your own words, saying why you care, and why you think the Secretary of State should use their powers and then linking your concerns to the grounds outlined below.

Not the final whistle
While 11 December will be a very important date in our campaign, we are more than prepared for the Council to let us down, bow down to the bullying of the developer, and vote through this latest application. If they do, we expect to launch a second judicial review. So while a good turn out on Wednesday 11 is very important, if the decision does not go our way, it is in no way the ‘final whistle’.

Let’s celebrate!
The Sainsbury’s/Wilmer Place development has brought us together as a community, and it has meant that many people have rediscovered the beauty and tranquillity of Abney Park Cemetery. So while we are not going to let up in our campaign, we can certainly enjoy our community.

On 14th December between 10am and 3pm there will be a ‘Xmas at Abney’ event. There will be a 20-minute choral performance by Chorus of Dissent, a Santa and a variety of stalls and activities. More details to follow, but please put the date in your diary now.

Contributing to our fund
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our community fund. From this fund, we have commissioned a report into the developer’s affordability arguments (which they use to justify not meeting the council’s affordable housing requirements) and we may well have to launch a second judicial review. While our barrister is effectively giving his time at no cost to us, the solicitors have to be paid, as well as a variety of court costs.

We are not asking those who have already donated to give more money, but 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


You can help this campaign ‘go viral’ if you use either Facebook or Twitter. Just copy and paste the following into your timeline, or post on Twitter.

@stokeylocal act now to protect local stores and ecology of Abney Park Cemetery: please RT

Equally, you can simply forward this email to everyone you can think of. The more people who know about this campaign the stronger we will be.

Grounds for the Call-In
Please use the bullet points below to help illustrate your concerns in your email to the Secretary of State quoting “LB Hackney Land at Wilmer Place 2013/3186 & 3187”

Conflict with national policy:

  • The Local Planning Authority (LPA) relied solely on the loose National Planning Policy Framework and completely failed to consider the local issues.
  • The LPA failed to justify its case that there would not be “substantial harm” because the term is not clearly defined. Nor did the LPA appreciate or correctly interpret concerns made by English Heritage.

Development of more than local significance:

  • The development affects the setting and ecology of Abney Park Cemetery – a site of more than local importance. Abney Park Cemetery is a Statutory Grade II Listed Garden and top-tier Metropolitan Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC). It is one of London’s “Magnificent Seven” Cemeteries.
  • The development comes right up to the boundary of Abney Park and fills an undeveloped ‘buffer zone’ explicitly defined in local policy to protect the Park.
  • Significant architectural and urban design issues:
  • This is a highly significant development which requires the highest standard of assessment – beyond the usual expertise of the LPA.
  • It is the first development of this scale in the vicinity of Hackney’s most important ecological asset – Abney Park.
  • It is the largest ever insertion of a retail development into a Conservation Area in the borough.
  • The LPA has repeatedly demonstrated little understanding of the ecological and environmental sensitivity despite the Planning Sub-committee refusing an earlier iteration of the scheme on two environmental grounds.

Significant long-term impact on economic growth and meeting housing need:

  • The LPA failed to put the developer’s financial viability assessment into the public domain – whilst permitting a development that achieves only 17% affordable homes with zero social rent. The Local Plan policy target is 50% affordable units of which 60% should be social rent.
  • There has been no assessment of the current residential and commercial tenants of the site. There may well be a net reduction in affordable homes and a total removal of affordable workspaces.
  • Any employment gain would be marginal and “lower quality” employment. The current “higher quality” employment space would be obliterated, affecting the long-term economic growth opportunities of the local and wider area.
  • The application departs significantly from the local development plan and requires thorough public examination. However, any evidence to support the application has been seen only by officers with limited expertise and external surveyors working to a limited brief.

Substantial national controversy:

  • As they are not required to do so, processing an application identical to the one already denied, on the promise the applicant withdraws their appeal, suggests the LPA is motivated by the cost of defending the appeal.
  • Indeed, the Sub-committee admit the virtually identical second application was granted not on planning grounds but out of fear of appeal.
  • Processing an application identical to the first, with none of the critical factors addressed, must surely result in the same outcome. But, blinded by fear, the Planning Sub-committee cannot be expected to have an open mind on the matter.
  • The fact that the LPA are even processing an identical application raises issues of fairness and propriety.
  • The application is overwhelmingly unpopular and yet the LPA fails to consider the massive local objection.
  • The highly contentious scheme is way off local policy and undermines the purpose of local decision making.
  • By proceeding to determine this application, the LPA brings the planning system into disrepute.

A big thank you
As ever, a big thank you to everyone who has supported this campaign. We continue to grow in strength and influence and despite the fact that we are facing a determined developer we have overwhelming support from the community and refuse to be spectators to a wholly inappropriate development. This is a issue that we can win.

Get in touch
The fluid nature of the Stokey Local organisation is genuinely one of it’s strengths but as a result, attempts at keeping such a large and ever-evolving group informed and together have been a bit random. We are slowly trying to get more people involved in sharing responsibilities for this campaign; the following are a group of initial co-ordinators.

Press – Andrew:
Fundraising – Jane:
Membership list – John:
Snapshot – Rachel

Nick will of course continue to be our self confessed ‘planning nerd’ but given his focus on working with our lawyers, it is best that for the time being any planning questions are filtered through others.

If you would like to play a bigger role then drop an email to John:

Stokey Local


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