Campaigners are urging politicians to rebuild trust over the redevelopment of a multi-million pound town centre site after its agreement with a developer lapsed.

Hackney Council bought the Morning Lane Tesco site for £60 million in 2017 and entered into an agreement with developer Hackney Walk – the firm behind the nearby Fashion Walk scheme. That lapsed this year and the developer had not put in a planning application for the site.

The council is looking for a new partner to build new homes to help meet demand in the borough, a supermarket and workspaces.

Campaigners from Morning Lane People’s Space (MOPS) are challenging the town hall to commit to ensuring at least half the homes are council housing which people can afford.

They brought a deputation to the council and called to see documents about the lapsed agreement with Hackney Walk.

Morning Lane People\s Space campaigners. Photo: Morning Lane Peoples Space

Morning Lane People\'s Space campaigners. Photo: Morning Lane People's Space

Cllr Clare Joseph (Labour, Victoria), who introduced the deputation, said:”We spent public money when we bought this site and I think it is important that the public have a say over what gets built.”

She said the MOPS surveys over the past two years show “people overwhelmingly want to see council housing and to keep the Tesco supermarket.”

She pointed out some councils are achieving 42 per cent council housing, including the old Holloway prison site. The former prison was sold by the Ministry of Justice to housing assocation Peabody.

MOPS said respondents they surveyed over the past two years want council homes and a large supermarket.

Morning Lane deputation Hackney full council October 2022. Heather Mendick addresses council, screenshot, free for use by partners of BBC news wire service

Morning Lane deputation Hackney full council October 2022. Heather Mendick addresses council, screenshot, free for use by partners of BBC news wire service

They also called on the council to provide details of the option agreement it drew up with Hackney Walk and any pre-application agreements for their proposals, which included a smaller supermarket than the current Tesco, 450 homes in  blocks up 19 storeys high and as little as 20 per cent social homes.

Adam Foreman told the council the agreement “seriously undermined trust with the council”.

He said: “Trust has been lost because the process lacked transparency” and a lack of consultation.

Heather Mendick told the full council meeting that campaigners wanted details of correspondence and any payments “which went through” between Hackney Walk and the council.

Public meeting over future of Morning Lane. Photo: Morning Lane Peoples Space

Public meeting over future of Morning Lane. Photo: Morning Lane People's Space

She said: “We think it’s a conditional fresh start, the falling through of the option agreement. It's conditional on what we’re saying. It’s conditional on openness, transparency, accountability. Without those things we do not think it’s an opportunity for a fresh start, we think it’s an opportunity to screw things up again.”

She added: “Obviously something went wrong, we don’t know what.”

MOPS challenged the council to provide the viability report for the site – so it could  scrutinise the 20 per cent target of low cost homes. They said it was important for the public to see “the basis” for the council’s claim that it is impossible to meet the 50 per cent target for council homes.

MOPS worked with planning masters students at UCL, whose studies said it was possible to ensure half the homes are available for social rent.

Adam Forman, Morning Lane Peoples Space. Photo: Morning Lane Peoples Space

Adam Forman, Morning Lane People's Space. Photo: Morning Lane People's Space

Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville said: “Any plans for the redevelopment of the Tesco Morning Lane site will always put the needs of the community first.”

He said there was a chance for a fresh start.on “developing a community-first approach”.

He disputed the deputation's core argument and said the scheme “was not poorly constructed, nor did it lack transparency. Indeed while it failed it it always sought to manage risk and protect the interest of the council and the community.”

He said the cost of building new council homes –  currently at £350,000 to £400,000 each – makes this difficult.

Mr Glanville said there was never a 20% target for minimum affordable housing for the scheme, but it was an old Mayor of London aim for the city, which has now risen. The council has a 50% target in its own planning policy.

It would cost £180m to build 450 council homes – and £90m to build 50% social, or council homes, he said and added there are no plans to sell the site.

“Together I believe we can develop an exciting vision for the site a fantastic opportunity and deliver a fantastic opportunity for our town centre and rebuild the trust.”

He  said there was no viability report as they will be developed by the council and developers.

He also ruled out providing commercially sensitive options agreements which could put the council on the back foot in any other negotiations and it could also run the risk of legal challenges.

He said there had been “extensive due diligence” before entering any agreements.

The Mayor pledged to prioritise ” genuinely affordable homes” and a supermarket, workspaces and to be “open, honest and transparent” over balancing the finances.

Commenting after the meeting Heather Mendick said it was “disappointing” that the Mayor rejected everything campaigners asked for.

She added: “It is deeply troubling that he is still talking about delivering so-called ‘genuinely affordable housing’ rather than social rent housing. ‘Genuinely affordable housing’ includes categories like shared ownership that are not affordable for most people in Hackney.”

Families on Hackney’s Council housing list face a nine year wait for a three-bedroom home and 13 years wait for a four-bedroom council home.

Ms Mendick said: “It is clear to us and to most of the residents with whom we have spoken that the Council must commit to finding the money needed to build social rent council homes on 55 Morning Lane.