Wilmer Place, 3rd April – An Opinion

On Wednesday, the 3rd April, the  Hackney Planning Committee will decide on the Sainsbury’s application for Wilmer Place.  The planning officer’s report recommends acceptance.

The developers have made last minute revisions, found a supportive officer, and gone to committee in the middle of a holiday period.  That is to be expected.

But this development will be a disaster for Stoke Newington and especially for Abney Park.

There are at least three stand alone arguments against it.

A supermarket will have a destructive effect on local independent shops.

The development is wrong for the conservation area and will have a damaging effect on Abney Park Cemetery

The ecological damage to the cemetery is unacceptable

  1. Hackney’s statutory planning policy, (Core Policy 25 of the UDP and the Stoke Newington Conservation Area Appraisal) does not just apply to the cemetery but to all the land adjoining it. The appraisal says that where this land is empty space it cannot now be built on, without compelling reason.
  2. This land is privately owned and privately enjoyed, (usually as back garden) but it bears the equivalent of a covenant not to build, for the benefit of the Cemetery and the public using it.As far as building on it goes – it’s the equivalent of public land.
  3. According to historical documents, the part of the Wilmer Place site adjoining the cemetery has never been built on – ever.
  4. If the Developers are allowed to build this block on this site, so as to damage the cemetery, they will be, in effect, stealing public land for private profit. And the planning committee will be colluding with the theft.
  5. In fact, building on this site as proposed will be particularly damaging to the cemetery
  6. The proposed building with a two storey boundary wall abutting the cemetery boundary and the storeys above with their shadowing effect in day and lighted windows in the afternon and evenings, will oppressively affect the cemetery and especially the most busy part, the path between the two entrances. The secluded and “rural” character as defined in the appraisal will be lost.
  7. Furthermore, the new wall built right up to the cemetery will have a devastating effect on a large area of the cemetery adjacent to it, both on the root structure and the canopy, and on the species which inhabit it and the current car park area which is conterminous with it. There are specialist reports available to the committee, on this.
  8. There is no compelling reason to build this development on this site because:

a. Any retail jobs created are likely to be taken from existing retail developments

b. The affordable housing proposed is minimal

c. Parking provision used for independent shops will be removed

d. Existing light industrial jobs will go

e. Building a large supermarket at this point is likely to have a deadening and destructive effect on current independent traders

    1. The whole of Church Street and the adjacent High Street is a conservation area and the character of this area, as stated in the appraisal, is based on a mix of predominantly single fronted, independent shops. Any argument on the need for regeneration of the High Street led by a large supermarket and associated multiples is not appropriate in this conservation area context. Conversely, the likely effect on local shops is a strong conservation reason to refuse the application.
    2. Finally, a conservation area is dependent on the community living in it. Without their support it will not prosper. The extraordinary opposition to this proposal in itself shows that this proposed development will be divisive and weaken community support for the conservation area. It is not only proper but necessary for the committee to consider this point.

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