Council Rubber Stamp Sainsbury’s Wilmer Place

Last night as we feared the Council’s Planning Committee, in a rubber stamping exercise, voted to approve the third planning application by the developer for the Sainsbury/Wilmer Place development. This is a highly contentions development, the largest development in a conservation area anywhere in Hackney, it will affect the character of the area (threatening the survival of the local independent stores), will impose on the listed park gates of Abney Park cemetery, will lead to serious concerns about lorries entering Wilmer Place opposite the school, and will (in the developers words) adversely affect the ecology of Abney Park Cemetery, it will also lead to a net loss of affordable housing.

There are now only two ways in which we can stop this development going ahead.

The first, and the most effective, is to persuade the Secretary of State to ‘call in’ the application. The second is to launch another judicial review.

Call in
A call in is when the Secretary of State refers the issue to the planning inspector rather than allowing the council to confirm their decision. If called in the application is then heard as a local public enquiry, providing us with the opportunity to cross-examine the council and developer’s ‘experts’ and giving us proper time to put our case.

You can help make this happen by:

  1. forwarding this email to as many of your friends and neighbours as you can and asking them to sign our petition. It does not matter if they do not live in Hackney, indeed, we need to demonstrate that this issue is of more than local importance, so people from the other end of the country petitioning the Secretary of State is a bonus. If you use facebook or Twitter, you can help by tweeting/posting something along the following lines:

    Hackney rubber stamps Sainsbury/Wilmer Place development: help us get this application called in: Please RT

  2. Writing a individual letter (sent via email) to the Secretary of State: This will only be effective if you write your own letter, but you can use the bullet points below to structure your letter.

    To be effective, this must be done immediately

    Please also let us know that you have done this.

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 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 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

Other issues
The most important and urgent thing that you can do at the moment it to: circulate the petition and write directly to the Secretary of state. Once you have done that, you might want to do one of the following.

Diane Abbott
This campaign has had support from across the political spectrum, from Labour Councillors (in particular Danny Stevens and Louisa Thompson) from Liberal Democrat and Green Greater London Authority Members (thank you again). But Diane Abbott, while stating she is opposed to the development, has failed to support our campaign to have the development called in. You can tweet to Diane: @hackneyabbott asking her specifically to add her voice to the demand for a call in, or you can email her office: Please be scrupulously polite, while indicating the strength of feeling by the community on her lack of practical support.

It has been suggested that we should complain to the Architects Registration Board (ARB) as the Architect may b in breach of their professional rules of conduct.
Standard 5
– Consider the wider impact of your work
Whilst your primary responsibility is to your clients, you should take into account the environmental impact of your professional activities.

ARB is the professional registration body that covers architects. The RIBA is a different organisation.

Complaints are unlikely to lead to any particular sanction, but they might mean that in future the architects think about the wider impacts of their actions.

The online complaint form is here
Architects Details
Name: Simon Allford
Registration Number: 055093K
Company: Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Address: 5-23 Old Street, London, EC1V 9HL

Judicial Review
We are very fortunate in that within our community we have leading barristers who are prepared to ‘put a little back’ into their community. The latest addition to our ‘legal team’ is a leading QC from Matrix Chambers, prepared to work at no cost to our campaign.

We already have a judicial review lodged of the first approval and if the Secretary of State fails to call in the application, then they will be pouring over the details of the latest decision looking for the potential for a legal challenge.

While the barristers are working at no cost to us, it does not mean that the process of judicial review is not expensive. We will still have to pay for expert reports, and our solicitors fees. We also have to have funds because if we lose we will be required by the court to pay a contribution towards the Council’s legal costs. This is why we have a campaign fund and we would not be able to progress any challenge without the continued support of the community. At the moment, we are not asking for any of our supporters who have already donated to dig further into their pockets, but we are asking those of our supporters who have not yet made a donation, to please consider doing so.

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

Don’t forget
Abney Park is hosting a winter fun day from 10am to 3pm on Saturday 14 December.  We are looking for supporters to help with a stall at this event (and one at the farmers market at the same time), so volunteers please.

A big thank you.
As ever, a big thank-you to everyone who has supported this campaign



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