News / 28 April, 2015

Sainsbury’s backs out of Wilmer Place in shock twist to supermarket saga

Dramatic week for Stokey Local as Sainsbury’s exits Newmark Properties scheme and court battle draws to a close

Protestors unite on a 'Bug Parade' against another Sainsbury's store in Stoke Newington: Photograph: Eleonore de Bonneval

People power: Protestors on a ‘Bug Parade’ against Sainsbury’s in Stoke Newington: Photograph: Eleonore de Bonneval

Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s has pulled out of plans to build a large store in Stoke Newington in a surprise twist to a long campaign against the Wilmer Place development.

Members of the Stokey Local campaign group realised the long-running battle against Sainsbury’s had been won after spotting that the supermarket’s name had been removed from the Wilmer Place lease.

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson confirmed the exit, saying: “We assume the developer will continue with their plans for a housing and retail scheme, once the latest legal challenge has been resolved.

“In the meantime, we will be focusing our attention on our Sainsbury’s Local, which remains extremely popular with our customers.”

The confirmation made it a rollercoaster week for the campaigners, who were left “downhearted” after failing to win the legal battle against the Town Hall and its granting of planning permission to the developer Newmark Properties.

In one final “cruel blow” for the campaigners’ case, a judge decided last week that an appeal against a previous High Court judgement would be unlikely to succeed.

Stokey Local’s Nick Perry said: “For some supporters this was only ever about Sainsbury’s, but for most of us it was about so much more. Nonetheless the exit of Sainsbury’s, who signed a lease long before the plans were made public, marks a turning point.

“It sends a strong message to all large retailers – you can’t cynically put stores anywhere you want just to grab market share and ignore the harm it causes.”

Another Stokey Local member, Andrew Harrison, said that although the campaign might have suffered a “disheartening loss” in the High Court, it has managed to win another way.

“The legal fight has gone down to the wire. But it seems that by sheer tenacity and by sticking to it, we may have achieved what we set out to do,” he said.

‘Misleading’ report

Stokey Local had hoped that extra evidence which arose from their complaint to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO)  – the body which regulates requests made under Freedom of Information (FoI) and Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) – might help persuade the judge to grant an appeal.

In communications with the ICO, seen by the Hackney Citizen, Hackney Council admitted that an Officer’s Report given at a planning sub-committee meeting for Newmark’s second application was “misleading”.

The Officer’s Report said there had been an independent report commissioned to justify a low-level of affordable housing, when in fact no such report existed.

But to the disappointment of the campaigners, last week the judge ruled there was still no realistic prospect of the High Court decision being overturned.

Zombies Stoke Newington Tim Sullivan

The ‘dead’ rise from Abney Park Cemetery to protest against the Sainsbury’s store. Photograph: Tim Sullivan

Perry said: “It’s hard not to come away from a long, and at times exhausting, legal battle where we’ve faced bad decision after bad decision and everything stacked against us, and not feel incredibly disheartened.

“But the truth is, this is still a victory for people power and a huge show of strength from a community angry at a council that apparently defends developers’ greed over the people’s needs.”

A Hackney Council spokesperson said: “Sufficient information was provided to the Planning Sub-Committee to consider the level of affordable housing proposed in the planning applications.

“The High Court and the Court of Appeal have subsequently concluded that the Council did nothing wrong in processing the applications, particularly in relation to the availability of information”

Questions remain over which retailer, if any, will fill Sainsbury’s shoes. Harrison said an ideal replacement would be an affordable housing scheme built by developers “sympathetic to Abney Park”.

“We can’t quite believe it’s game over. Shops opposite the Jolly Butchers have been cleared, signs have gone up so something is happening. If it is not Sainsbury’s, what’s it going to be?,” he said.

Newmark Properties have not responded the Hackney Citizen’s requests for comment.


/ 28 April, 2015
  • Adnum1001

    That is such good news. We really didn’t need another Sainsbury’s. Let hope the retail space will be taken on by Waitrose to compete with Wholefoods.

  • Penny Crick

    Stokey Local and Nick Perry are to be warmly congratulated for this magnificent work and tenacity in going through this whole process, and uncovering the weasel words that were a shocking part of it. Hackney council may have done “nothing wrong in processing the applications” but we have grounds for asking if they did anything right when it comes to considering the need for affordable housing and meeting the real needs of local businesses and residents.

  • Councillor Abraham Jacobson

    We do not need a snooty Waitrose to cater for the champagne socialists.

    What we are in desperate need is for shops for local traders who physically are working in the shop,

    Many of our so called local shops are owned by the same person who pays the staff pittance.

  • TheGreatSmellOf Brute

    “[S]nooty Waitrose to cater for the champagne socialists.”?! Well, roll out the cliches!

    I think you’ll find that Waitrose Essentials goods are as inexpensive as many other supermarket brands, if not more so. What’s more, all Waitrose staff are partners in the John Lewis Partnership (its called that for a reason).

    It’s very telling that a sucessful campaign against a major supermarket chain should take place in such a white, middle class enclave of Hackney…

  • Khaleda Choudhury

    With everybody slowly leaving and the car park now closed lets hope the development goes ahead, the flats get built so the space is used. Who cares if the shops remain empty – no-one uses this part of the High Street anyway. Everyone goes up the other end!


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