A four-year legal battle to prevent the construction of a supermarket in Stoke Newington came to an end last Tuesday, when the High Court allowed developers of a five-storey building to go ahead with their plan.
But the campaigners are taking heart that they managed to keep one big tenant out. Sainsbury’s has pulled out of Wilmer Place, off Stoke Newington’s Church Street.
The supermarket chain was originally part of the mixed development by real estate developer Newmark on the site of a car park, and features a supermarket and 53 homes.
The loss of the latest appeal appears to be the end of a legal saga which kept both courts and councils busy.
Nick Perry, one of the campaign’s leaders, marked the council process as “categorised by double-dealing, secrecy, defensiveness and capitulation to the financial power of the developers”.
After Newmark announced its planned development, residents banded together to start the Stokey Local campaign which raised nearly £34,000, and went to the highest levels of the judiciary to defeat the development.
In addition to fears that the development would threaten the neighbourhood’s village atmosphere and its green grocers, butchers, fishmongers and bakeries, there were claims that the plan did not include enough affordable housing.
The construction site would also have blocked the high street and the finished building would pose a threat to the nearby cemetery and its wildlife, said the campaigners.
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 subsequently concluded that the council did nothing wrong in processing the applications.”
The campaign made Sainsbury’s scale back its original plans and ultimately abandon them. 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.”
Perry wrote on his blog: “It might be the end of the road for our legal challenge but we’ve learned and achieved a great deal by going through this process. We are better armed for the next battle and able to help other communities, because our fight is being repeated across London.”
Hamdy Shahein, well-known owner of news agent Hamdy’s News near the controversial real estate, said: “Of course it is good news that Sainsbury’s is not coming.”
The local hero and campaign supporter sees long-established businesses like his shop as being threatened by the plans and thinks that it would be “not any good to the neighbourhood”.
Muhammad Afzal, who works in an off-licence shop behind Wilmer Place, agrees. “Small businesses would have to shut down if it was built,” he said.
“There is already a Sainbury’s Local here, also Morrisons and Tesco.”
Emma Weeks, who has lived in Stoke Newington for five years, believes the supermarket would replace affordable homes, small businesses and workshops. “My main concern is the gentrification,” she said.
Not everybody is happy about the supermarket’s change of heart.
“I want a Sainsbury’s because I can get supplies faster,” said Taner Yanar, who runs a fast-food restaurant on the high street. He now goes to Stamford Hill to get cheap ingredients. “It is only the business owners who do not want a supermarket. The people need it.”
A car wash and several small shops now occupy the lot. What will happen to them remains uncertain. Other companies interested in the space may also be scared off by the residents’ strong reaction.
“Maybe a large, independent DIY?” suggested Hamdy Shahein.
Newmark did not respond to Eastlondonlines’ query on what will replace Sainsbury’s in the plans. Updates to follow.
Additional reporting by Muna Fadhil.