A petition against the development of a Sainsbury’s supermarket has been launched as Stoke Newington’s independent retailers and local residents brace themselves for a confrontation with high street giants. East London Lines revealed on Tuesday, new plans to re-develop land at Wilmer Place off Church Street. The proposed development, which is currently at the pre-planning stage, will comprise a food store, up to 50 residential units including affordable housing and a replacement car park tucked behind behind Wholefoods market and up against the side of Abney Park cemetery.
The food store in question is likely to be a new branch of Sainsbury’s – it is rumoured they have already agreed a 20-year lease on the site with property investors Newmark Properties subject to planning permission.
The Developers contacted ELL with the following statement: “Newmark Properties is pleased to be bringing forward an exciting proposal for a mixed use redevelopment of 195-201 Stoke Newington High Street. The development will result in a major investment into the High Street incorporating a Sainsburys foodstore at ground floor, and high quality private and affordable residential apartments above.As a result, there will be 200 new jobs created, along with re-providing much needed parking for shoppers to the town centre which will benefit all local businesses.
If the development goes ahead as projected, numbers 193-197 Stoke Newington High Street will be demolished to facilitate the redevelopment. The Cyberplex building and at least one independent retailer will be lost in the process, while the existing car park will be replaced by a new, underground parking facility. Access to the supermarket would be off Stoke Newington High St.near the entrance to the cemetery.
Following a series of informal meetings with local groups, including the Abney Park Cemetery Trust and the Stoke Newington Business Association, a public consultation is anticipated for the beginning of July. A formal planning application will be submitted shortly thereafter.
The proposal is controversial given Stoke Newington’s reputation for small businesses, and the fact that the site lies within the Stoke Newington Conservation Area, which includes Grade II listed Abbey Park Cemetery. The planned building would tower above the main entrance to Abney Cemetery which is much used semi-wild green space in the centre of Stoke Newington. An initial plan submitted to the Hackney Planning Service on behalf of Newmark Properties deemed an Environmental Impact Assessment was “not considered to be required.”
“We value the views of local residents and would encourage as many people as possible to attend the exhibition, which we are planning to hold in the near future. The plans are still at an early stage and no application will be submitted to the council before we have undertaken a full consultation”
ELL spoke to local residents in Church Street. Deirdre Cartwright said the construction of a new supermarket would hurt local businesses and went against the area’s ethos:
“Stoke Newington is known for its independent shops and retailers. Even when Fresh & Wild opened up here, people weren’t incredibly keen because it was a small chain. I think Sainsbury’s, or any of the big supermarkets, tend to suck out the lifeblood from the small businesses. I think it would have a detrimental effect.”
She added that it was unnecessary given the close proximity of other supermarkets
“We’ve already got a Sainsbury’s and we’ve got a Tesco’s further down the High Street. We have supermarkets both ends.”
Annette Hayton, who also lives in Stoke Newington, agreed with Cartwright, adding that she found shopping at local stores to be better value:
“Do we really need another in Church Street, which is famous for its small shops? There is a great Turkish shop that sells good stuff much cheaper than Sainsbury’s.”
Johnny Rodriguez, who works at The Fisheries fishmonger nearby, pointed out that small businesses were already under pressure:
“Business is diminishing due to the recession. Having a ‘one stop shop’ here would just make it worse. We would struggle. We would probably have to cut down on staff and on the amount of fish we stock.”
Like Cartwright, he also felt Stoke Newington’s unique character would suffer: “It would spoil the community spirit. The success of Stoke Newington Church Street has started to spill over into the High Street and we don’t want a supermarket to jeopardize that. When I mention it to the customers, everyone is horrified.”
Benjamin Mathis, spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats said: “I don’t believe people in Stoke Newington want or need another supermarket, especially in a location where it will cause valuable old buildings to be demolished and create more traffic chaos. N16 has a rich local culture based on niche businesses, fresh ideas and sustainability. These are the types of enterprise the council should be encouraging, not letting developers turn Stoke Newington into another suburban clone town.”
Twitter comment so far suggest that Stokie residents are either unhappy about the proposal or – like “darling dog” and ryan_taylor – would prefer a Waitrose.
The major concern on Twitter was about the impact of traffic on the Stoke Newington one way system which is already jammed in rush hour.
By James Laird