April 23 2014 Latest news:
by Syma Mohammed
Saturday, October 12, 2013
Campaigners are mounting a legal challenge against a supermarket giant’s bid to build a mega store in the heart of Stoke Newington.
Earlier this year Hackney Council approved revised plans by Newmark Properties to knock down existing homes and businesses and build a Sainsbury’s and 53 flats at the junction of Wilmer Place and Stoke Newington High Street – despite opposition from local residents and businesses.
The campaigners, spearheaded by group Stokey Local, believe that the council’s planning committee failed to follow application processes properly. They issued a bid for a judicial review at the High Court.
They say their grounds for the review are that the council failed to properly determine that an environmental impact assessment was necessary, it did not properly assess policy on heritage and the harm caused to the area, and it kept the financial viability statement on social housing unnecessarily secret.
The High Court is currently considering the application and, if approved, it would be heard in the next six months.
Following the group’s bid for a legal review, Newmark Properties has, at a cost of £39,000, submitted a new planning application in an attempt to speed up the process.
The twist in the two-year saga has bemused campaigners.
Stokey Local member Nick Perry said: “This shows that the application gives our legal argument for judicial review some credence but it doesn’t explore the reasons behind it.”
He said the revised application “should be considered by a higher authority with greater experience of these issues. We have no faith that the council has the expertise to assess this application fairly”.
Stokey Local is funding the judicial review through donations from opponents of the development.
They believe it will have a detrimental impact on Abney Park nature reserve and independent shops in the area.
The group managed to raise more than £10,000 in three weeks from 250 people after it made an appeal for funding.
Mr Perry said it showed the “strength of feeling” against the proposals.
Cllr Vincent Stops, chair of the planning committee, said: “The decision to grant permission for the revised plans was taken in line with planning regulations.
“Whilst members of the committee shared the concerns of residents, we would not have been able to reject plans based on public opinion alone.
“Had the plans been rejected, the council’s decision could easily have been overturned, allowing the developers to proceed with their original plans for the site.”
A spokesperson for Newmark Properties: “We strongly refute the reasons cited for a judicial review and that is why we have sought to contest them.
“Whilst we respect the legal process, we have submitted an identical planning application to expedite the matter.
“This will give LB Hackney an opportunity to address the concerns raised by Nick Perry on the application process, which is what is being challenged, not the decision itself.
“Therefore this approach will avoid the costs and delays of the judiciary process which should be welcomed by all parties.”
n. Campaigners are asking people to sign a petition to the Secretary of State asking him to use his powers to “call in” the latest application and have it decided by the planning inspectorate rather than Hackney council. To sign the petition, visit http://chn.ge/1hn9xHg.