Wilmer Place: Issues & Concerns with the Current Proposals

By now many of you will have seen the latest proposals to develop Wilmer Place, either at the recent exhibition or on the developer’s website.

While we have been pleased many of the points we raised last year have been taken on board, there are still some important issues and concerns we want to see addressed. These are:
  1. Ensuring the maximum provision of affordable housing;
  2. Offering the best possible employment opportunities for local people;
  3. Reducing the impact of the development on Abney Park and the Stoke Newington Conservation Area;
  4. Offering support for the tenants of Wilmer Place facing eviction as a result of the development;
  5. Providing support to local businesses that may be affected by the opening of a new Sainsbury’s store; and
  6. Regulating the access to Wilmer Place for delivery vehicles.
We will be working on these issues throughout the planning process to ensure it achieves the best possible outcome for the residents and businesses of Stoke Newington. We will be working on this with our colleagues in Stoke Newington Central ward who have posted the same information on their blog.

A formal planning application for the development is still expected towards the end of June. Below we have provided further information on each of the issues set out above.

1. Affordable Housing
You will be aware that the proposal is for a mixed residential and commercial development.

Whereas the size of the proposed Sainsbury’s store has been reduced from 24,000 square foot to 16,000 square foot, the overall bulk of the building has not changed. The additional space made available by having a smaller store will be used to provide more flats.

It is currently proposed that the development will consist of 68 flats (14x1, 33x2 & 21x3 beds) –an increase from 44 flats in the original plans. A critical issue that is yet to be resolved is the proportion of this that will be ‘affordable.’

For all developments comprising 10 residential units or more Hackney has a borough-wide target requiring 50% of all units to be ‘affordable’. This should include a mix of three-bedroom (or larger) family housing.

Like any development, the precise number of ‘affordable’ homes is subject to negotiation. These negotiations will take into account issues such as site characteristics, location and the overall scheme viability. They can also go beyond housing and consider other social contributions such as investment in youth facilities, public realm or transport.

In terms of what is meant by ‘affordable,’ the Coalition Government recently introduced an ‘Affordable Rent model’ that allows rents to be charged up to a maximum of 80% of the market price. This is important because 80% of market rent is considered to fall within the definition of affordable housing for planning purposes.

As market rents are particularly high in Hackney the Council recently published guidelines for affordability levels for different bedroom sizes, which you can see here. This also states that the mix of ‘affordable’ homes in new developments should be a minimim of 25% social rent and 75% affordable (40% of which should be ‘intermediate’ as defined on page 95 of the London Plan).

We will be calling for the highest number of ‘affordable’ homes as possible - and for as many of these as possible to be made available for social rent.

2. Local Employment Opportunities
Sainsbury’s has estimated that the proposed store would create up to 150 new jobs. However, it has not been clear whether this is the total number of individual jobs, or the total number of full time equivalent jobs.

If the development is approved, we want to see as many of these jobs as possible offered to local people. We also think that there is a valuable opportunity to provide local jobs during the construction phase.

The provision of local labour and construction is one of a number of ‘Planning Contributions’ (like affordable housing) that will be negotiated and agreed as part of the planning process.

We are pleased that Sainsbury’s has committed to a “local labour agreement” which is a written commitment between employers, investors or developers and Councils to recruit and train residents from a particular local area for some or all jobs.

We will be calling for this agreement to include a commitment for Sainsbury's to provide the maximum number of jobs as possible for local people.

3. Abney Park and the Stoke Newington Conservation Area
One of the main concerns we have had with the development from the start is its potential impact on Abney Park and the Stoke Newington Conversation Area.

The Stoke Newington Conservation Area was designated in 1983 and extends from the Clissold Park Conservation Area along Church Street and includes substantial parts of the High Street as well as the whole of Abney Park Cemetery. A map of the Conservation Area is available on page 83 of the Appraisal document.

The Stoke Newington Conservation Area Appraisal provides supporting information to a number of planning policies including Hackney’s Core Strategy Policy 25 on the Historic Environment (page 128 of the Council’s Core Strategy).

When determining whether a planning application complies with Policy 25, the Council will be guided by Sections 7.10 and 7.11 of the Appraisal.

Section 7.10 of the Appraisal concerns ‘New Development’ and states that “the opportunities for new development in the Conservation Area are very limited because of the intensely built-up nature of the townscape.” Where new development is to be carried out, it should follow a number of key principles, including:
  • Respecting the scale, massing and height of the surrounding historic properties
  • Reflecting the existing details and materials of the historic buildings in the surrounding area
Section 7.11 concerns ‘Setting and views into and out of the Conservation Area’ and highlights the importance of maintaining views from Stoke Newington Church Street and Stoke Newington High Street, as well as views out of Abney Park Cemetery.

It states that “views must be preserved by not allowing new development which is too dominant or obtrusive” and sets out a number of principles that should be followed, including:
  • Not encroaching on the setting of Abney Park Cemetery by careful attention to scale, bulk and siting
  • New development around Abney Park Cemetery must be carefully sited so as not to interrupt existing views and skylines
  • Respecting the scale and density of existing buildings
  • New development around Abney Park Cemetery should not generate noise or other disturbance to the Cemetery
  • Preserving the existing domestic character of the surrounding buildings
We will be calling for the Stoke Newington Conservation Area Appraisal to be considered in full as part of the planning process and for the impact on Abney Park to be minimised.

4. Support for the Existing Tenants of Wilmer Place
Wilmer Place has been earmarked for development for some time. As a result the existing properties on the site have always been leased on a short term basis. However, now that a planning application is imminent it seems little is being done to help the people who face losing their homes and places of work.

We will be calling on the developer and/or Sainsbury’s to offer support to help with the relocation of the existing tenants of Wilmer Place.

5. Support for Local Business
Hackney planning policy states that the Council should encourage a diverse range of developments within its major and district centres, including Stoke Newington. These developments are required to enhance the environmental quality of the area and to resist the loss of shops.

Stoke Newington is home to a successful and diverse independent retail and evening economy, which is complemented by more affordable provision on the High Street.

We know that there are a range of views about the impact the Sainsbury’s store could have on the local economy – both positive and negative.

We will be calling on Sainsbury’s to offer support for those local shops that could lose business as result of the development.

6. Vehicle Access to Wilmer Place
Sainsbury’s has committed to making fewer deliveries to the store than originally planned. Furthermore, the size of delivery vehicle will be limited to a maximum of 11 metres.

While both of these commitments are welcome, the reality is that Sainsbury’s and Newmark Properties can only regulate vehicle use on the part of the site that they own. Any restrictions on the use of Wilmer Place itself - as a through road to the delivery area - will have to be agreed by the Council and dealt with through the planning process.

We will be calling for these restrictions to be included as a condition of planning approval. We will also call for a condition that requires delivery vehicles to turn off their engines if and when they have to wait on Wilmer Place.

Next Steps
Once the application has been submitted there will be a 21 day consultation period during which residents can submit comments. Following consultation it is likely that the application will be referred to the Planning sub-Committee for determination. You can read more about Planning sub-Committee here.

We will be supporting residents throughout this process and will shortly post guidance on how to comment on the application most effectively. We will also email all of those that signed our petition last year, which successfully called for further public consultation on the proposals. If you would like to receive a copy of this, please click here

If you would like to discuss any aspect of the proposals, please email daniel.stevens@hackney.gov.uk.


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Published and promoted by Luke Akehurst for Hackney Labour Party on behalf of Edward Brown and Daniel Stevens, all at 52 Aden Grove, London, N16 9NJ.