There was anger and dismay at Hackney Town Hall last night as the council’s planning sub-committee approved a development at Wilmer Place in Stoke Newington, which objectors say will destroy wildlife and harm local businesses.
Shouts of “shame on you” rang out from the packed council chamber as the sub-committee voted four to one in favour of Newmark Properties’ revised plans for a mixed-use retail and residential development close to Abney Park Cemetery, a version of which they had voted against in May.
The new development will comprise a 1,486 sq m retail unit and 53 new homes and will involve the demolition of an existing building on the site.
Contention was focused on the development’s proximity to Abney Park cemetery and a strip of land that campaigners say is home to many species of wildlife. There are also fears that another supermarket in the area will put local shop-owners out of business. One objector, Kathryn Townsend, Tweeted: “Nothing against Sainsbury’s per se, but we don’t need a 46th supermarket in a two mile radius!”
The result is a blow for local campaigners and community groups, including Hackney Planning Watch and Stokey Local, both of which are against the development which they say differs little from the previous plans. Objectors, some dressed in bee costumes which they also wore at last Saturday’s bug parade filled the council chamber and held aloft placards saying: “Spot the difference” and “Just say no”.
Nick Perry of Stokey Local said the council’s decision was “a little bizarre”, adding: “We joked that this was a game of spot the difference [between the previous proposal and the new one]. That wasn’t rhetoric. The difference is marginal.
“The benefits this development will provide for the local community are bordering on non-existent. We accept that development will cause some damage, but the pros of this development do not outweigh those cons.”
However, the developer insisted the scheme would bring benefits to the area. A spokesperson for Newmark Properties said: “The revised scheme will bring enhancements to the ecology and biodiversity of the site, confirmed by independent ecology consultants for the council. The scheme has been redesigned and excludes a grass strip from the development footprint, which would be given over to the cemetery.
“The revised scheme also includes more family sized units. It is estimated the scheme could bring in £6.3m in business rates, £1m in council tax over 25 years, £600,000 of contributions to improve the town centre and enhance Abney Park Cemetery, as well as 200 jobs targeted for Hackney’s unemployed young people and the long-term unemployed.”
However, many local people have reacted angrily. Wendy Mitchell tweeted: “Don’t understand [this] decision. Same scheme rejected a few months ago, very convincing objections by Hackney’s Labour councillors and others.”
There were many more angry reactions on Twitter last night:
— Charlie Phillips (@charliechar) July 31, 2013
RT @rajni_shah: Very sad after strong and clear opposition from residents Hackney Council voted 4:1 FOR Sainsburys on Wilmer Place. Cowards.
— Abney Park (@AbneyParkN16) July 31, 2013
At times, anger threatened to spill over into violence as one man approached the council bench to remonstrate with the sub-committee’s chair Councillor Vincent Stops, who voted in favour of the development; outside, Simon Allford of the scheme’s architect AHMM was pushed and had his tie pulled by another irate objector.
Last night Stokey Local Tweeted: ‘To all of you, our supporters and the organisers and other groups. A big thanks you. You were awesome and we’re not done yet.”