Morning Lane campaigners’ Tesco consultation engages 10 times more people than the developer’s one

Campaigners from MOPS - Morning Lane Peoples Space Campaign ask how locals would like to see the Tesco site developed in...

Campaigners from MOPS - Morning Lane Peoples Space Campaign ask how locals would like to see the Tesco site developed in the future. Pictured outside the Tesco supermarket at 55 Morning Lane. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Picture: Polly Hancock

Campaigners hope the results of their survey on Morning Lane Tesco site – which engaged 10 times as many people as the developer’s own consultation - might be used to inform future planning decisions on the site’s future.

Tesco in Morning Lane, Hackney. Picture: Archant

Tesco in Morning Lane, Hackney. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

The Morning Lane People’s Space (MOPS) group spent every Saturday and Sunday in September and October standing outside the Hackney Central superstore, asking passers-by what they would and would not like to see there instead.

Hackney Council bought the land for £60m in 2017 and handed the right to develop the land on a 999-year lease to a shell company called Hackney Walk Ltd.

The deal has guaranteed just 20 per cent “affordable housing”, which campaigners complain falls far short of the council’s own target of 50pc, which should include 60pc for social rent.

MOPS members weren’t impressed with a survey carried out by the PR company London Communications Ltd on behalf of Dukeminster, the guarantor and funder for the development - which obtained just 130 responses.

They set out to organise more meaningful consultation at the grassroots level themselves, and spoke to 650 people outside the shop, and got another 734 responses online.

An online meeting was held last weekend to share a detailed analysis of the results.

READ MORE: ‘Who rakes in the cash?: Wall of silence from Hackney Council on who profits from secretive Tesco land deal

Housing and gentrification emerged as people’s main concerns about the proposed development.

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Presenting the results, Heather Mendick from MOPS said 72 people had said they didn’t want to see more flats or houses on the site.

“That’s weird in a way as a lot of people think housing is the top issue in Hackney, but I think you can explain it because the respondents often associated housing with displacement and exclusion,” she said.

“For example a working class British Muslim woman said she didn’t want to see housing because they don’t “give us housing so there’s no point”.

“Other people talked about social cleansing, and how they thought the flats were designed to attract “outsiders who were seeking a particular lifestyle”, using adjectives like artisan, hipster, posh and yuppie, and designed for “a new community moving into the area rather than one who has lived here for years”.

“Overall people rejected this polarisation and one person said they “wanted things that would benefit everyone”.”

In general there was “a trend against exclusive and expensive commerce owned by corporations” - but Tesco seemed to be an exception and was described as a “community resource”.

After housing, retaining the superstore was the second most frequent response to what people would like to see on the site, with 26pc wanting to keep Tesco as it is, or to make it even bigger - rather than smaller as the current plans propose.

People expressed a worry about where they would shop if it goes, and one person called it “a saviour” for lots of families.

Although the original plan for the site, outlined in a 2017 council report when the project was signed off, was for another fashion hub to extend the Hackney Walk retail mall from next door, six pc of people explicitly identified fashion retail as a commerce that’s “exclusive, expensive and not for Hackney”.

Lots of respondents to the survey mentioned the “failed fashion hub” and described it as a “waste of space, unaffordable and inaccessible” and often used it as a metaphor for “what they don’t want to see on the Tesco site”.

Housing commentator Ayo Mansaray who spoke at the meeting said: “The report is a timely intervention and a nuanced piece of work.

“It’s about what sort of place we want Hackney to be in 10 or 15 years.

“It has the diverse voice of people in Hackney, and of course it shows there is no agreement in terms of what people want for the development.

“It’s not about being anti-change but how that change unfolds, and there are increasing people who feel marginalised who don’t see themselves as represented or part of the change.”

The council and the developer are bound by the options agreement for five years, which gives the developer the chance to put through a planning application by 2022.

Mayor Phil Glanville said: “What’s really really clear is there’s a rich stream of information here, and the council and the developer and the community need to take the information and think about where we go next.

“While they’ve [the developer] had some early discussions with planners, one of the reasons there isn’t anything much to show is they haven’t been able to square off the options agreement with planning policy.

“The main challenge for them is to do that before the options agreement expires.”

He added: “When we were sat here in February there was a clear expectation, especially of the nascent campaign at the time, that they [the developer] needed to have more conversations with the community.

“They still need to do that.

“I’m impatient for that to happen and I’m not going to wait for that to happen, and we will open elements of our Hackney Central conversation, including around this site, next year - whether or not the developer is moving forward with a planning application, because there’s a huge amount of change and uncertainty and it’s not sensible to wait for them to come forward with just one element of that change.”

No one from Hackney Walk or Dukeminster attended the online meeting, but in a statement, a spokesperson for Hackney Walk Ltd said: “We are aware that there is significant interest in the site locally and we have received a lot of feedback on the proposals.

“We are reviewing this as we continue to look at the proposals for the site.

“Unfortunately we are not able to say more than this at the current time but we will when we can provide further information”.