The decision to demolish and redevelop the Hoxton Street Iceland has once again been taken, in the face of protests from thousands of petitioners, a local councillor and the store’s staff.
The Town Hall granted planning permission for an identical application back in 2019, which would see the community lose a low-cost supermarket during construction, after which new retailer Lidl would move into a development hosting 25 private rented flats.
With key application documents for the plans rendered inaccessible by the council cyber attack, a planning committee hearing last night heard an identical application.
This time around there were claims from Iceland that a deal between developer Blair Estates and Lidl had been done ‘off-market’, and arguments that if Iceland had been allowed to bid, more affordable housing would have been possible.
Hackney resident and Hoxton Street store manager Evan Shahriar said: “Most of my staff live in Hackney and are desperate to save the store. I join over 2,300 other Hackney residents in voicing my opposition to proposals which would remove the store which we know is so highly valued by the local community.
“I have been working for Iceland for over four years and I have not worked in a store like Hoxton, where colleagues are so friendly and have a great relationship with the local community.”
Iceland employee Paige Sullivan, who also lives in Hackney, added: “We have been here for over 25 years, and the store would be greatly missed by local customers, many of whom are elderly or vulnerable and who rely on us as a healthy, affordable, and friendly service.”
Iceland commissioned its own viability consultants to show that the proposal is able to deliver more affordable housing while remaining viable, and argued that current assumptions contain excessive build costs and design fees which have not been robustly challenged by the council.
Of the 25 new homes to be built, 36 per cent are classed as ‘affordable’ at London Living Rent (LLR), despite Town Hall policy requiring residential build-to-rent developments to contain 50 per cent.
Town Hall planning officers said the build costs for the scheme had been independently reviewed, while design fees seemed reasonable.
Planning officer Barry Coughlan added: “In terms of claims about one occupier providing more rent than another, when it comes to commercial matters, that is not a material planning consideration in this case. We have to assess the application put in front of us.”
Local councillor Steve Race, who ran a campaign to raise awareness of the development when the application was first made three years ago, pointed out that both the supermarket and the Hoxton Street Market residents rely on could be unavailable for up to two years.
He added: “It does not seem like a great deal for local people.”
Race also warned of potential for “significant congestion” as a result of the construction.
His colleague Cllr Katie Hanson, while noting that “Lidl vs Iceland” would not be a matter for the planning committee to resolve, attempted to ensure that the period in which the supermarket is closed “be as short as possible”.
A Blair Estates representative argued that 36 per cent was the “maximum reasonable amount” of affordable housing for rent in the form of London Living Rent units, adding that a reassessment is built into the model of the scheme in order to potentially increase the amount if this became viable.
They added: “The principal objector to this application is still the existing leasehold tenant Iceland. Iceland is clearly wanting to protect its commercial interests. However, matters of commercial competition are not material planning considerations.”
They went on: “There is a petition maintaining support for Iceland as a local community asset, however it is unclear how the petition was generated, or whether the respondents who are presumed Iceland customers were made aware of the fact that the new retailer will be Lidl.”