Tonight, the Planning Committee of Hackney Borough Council approved (by a 4:1 majority) plans to build a massive Sainsbury's Supermarket in a crammed plot between Stoke Newington Church Street and Abney Cemetary (a notable and historic nature reserve). This vote came in the face of massive local opposition, growing ever stronger in the face of repeated re-attempts by the developers, Newmark Properties, to bulldoze their way through local wishes. A selection of their ghastly developments can be seen on their web site at http://www.newmarkpi.com/.
Church Street is one of London's few remaining "village high streets" almost entirely given over to small independent local traders. It is one of the loveliest communities in London, and those who live near it and use it are passionately committed to keeping it that way. Last year I wrote my own pictorial "hymn of praise" to its multiple attractions, which can be found at http://storify.com/johnsloboda/supporting-stoke-newington-church-street.
A moving video of the last stages of the campaign can be found at http://vimeo.com/71331151 . This a real tribute to the broad support of ordinary people for the campaign, whose website at http://stokeylocal.org.uk/ tells the story of the long fight.
The chair of the Planning Committee is Labour Councillor Vincent Stops. His contact details are given at http://mginternet.hackney.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=152
Below is the letter I wrote to him tonight. I expect he and his colleagues will receive many similar letters. The campaign is not over - but sadly it will have to move to a less comfortable phase for those determined to continue to fight.
Wednesday 31st July 2013
Dear Councilor Stops,
I am one of the thousands of local residents who have been telling Hackney Council that we don't want a Sainsburys on Wilmer Place, ever since the idea was first mooted.
I don't know a single person in Stoke Newington who is anything other than passionately opposed to this.
You cannot imagine that the vote of your committee is going to suddenly make that opposition vanish.
Your committee's decision tonight was a travesty of democracy, and reminds me of the worst behaviour of New Labour while in power.
Tony Blair took Britain to war in Iraq against massive public opposition, and it was, eventually, the end of his political career, and the main reason why Labour no longer governs the country.
I predict that tonight's decision will be the beginning of the end of the Labour Party's far too long stranglehold on Hackney's politics. Many, if not most, of the people I know locally who oppose the development are Labour supporters. You will have strained their loyalty to breaking point.
(PS - although I am 20 yards outside the borough boundary, just into Islington, Church Street is the street I identify with and shop on, and will fight to the end of my days to keep it the preserve of small independent local traders, and the very special place that the likes of Sainsburys and Newmark Properties will never understand)