Wilmer Place: two big wins!

Stokey Local has announced two big wins on the Wilmer Place development. Here are their headlines:-

“First an apology: it has been more than six months since our last update. However, we (or at least our very own ‘planning nerd’ Nick Perry and his team of volunteer experts) have not been idle.

We can report:-

  • An out of court settlement has provided us with the Financial Viability Assessments (and indicates that the planning committee were misinformed).
  • The developer Newmark Properties have sold the site and the new owner looks set to resell it in at least two parcels (which would preclude the original overdevelopment ever being realised).”

You can read the full report and background here.

Sainsbury’s Campaign to appeal

At a meeting to discuss what to do next after the High Court’s rejection of Stokey Local’s application for a Judicial Review for the Sainsbury’s/Wilmer Place Development attended by fifty people there was overwhelming support for continuing the campaign.

As reported by East London Lines, the meeting learned that vital information on how the Council Officers and the developers had arrived at an agreement over the proportion of social housing in the development had been withheld, not only from the general public, but also from Councillors and the Planning Committee.

The campaign aims to get these documents made public, and will shortly be canvassing support for funding raising options.

Find out more at Stokey Local.

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

 

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.

Finally
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!
 

 

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.

Finances

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.