Campaigning to curb supermarket power

Islington, London

Islington Council has been working towards redevelopment of the Archway area, in the north of the borough. Campaign group the Better Archway Forum was formed in 2005 by residents concerned at the possible outcomes of redevelopment, and attempting to influence the redevelopment process.

In September 2007, thanks to the Forum's campaigning, Islington Council rewrote it's Statutory Development Plan which now specifically excludes any one dominant retailer. 

The redevelopment of Archway in North Islington was first mooted by then leader of the Council Steve Hitchins. Voters chose not to elect him in 2005, but by then consultants BDP had been given a £200,000 commission to come up with a scheme to match his vision. The original outline involved a 40,000 sq ft superstore, 450-500 residential units, a cinema, bus station, library, and leisure centre.

Campaign group the Better Archway Forum (www.betterarchway.info) created a specialist design group of local architects and designers. These ran community planning sessions, and using the ideas and results of that process came up with an alternative scheme. This alternative scheme delivered all of the regeneration benefits with no more than major refurbishment of the existing buildings, plus infill of the under-used car park behind them. They also met with BDP in an attempt to influence the scheme they were coming up with.

The Better Archway Forum scheme excluded anything other than a small supermarket. However, despite much lobbying, specialist advice and more, as of early 2007 Islington Council seemed firmly wedded to the idea of a large supermarket. It had even hidden plans for 160 car parking spaces in its confidential viability document, even though the SDP on which the public is consulted specifies more than once a car free development. (That fact was leaked by a councillor at a public meeting to discuss the SPD.)

Finally the lobbying paid off. Pointing to good and bad examples from elsewhere and not developing a confrontational relationship was very helpful. So was extensive knowledge on the ground. This made it possible for example to ask questions of would-be developers to which some community members already knew the answers. (It was fascinating to discover how often the would-be developers did not reply truthfully.)

Key new councillors had a number of meetings with key local residents and were convinced of the merits of progressive and organic regeneration ie not led by major retail and outside investment. Councillors then convinced their officers to rewrite the statutory development plan for the area and in September 2007 a document was adopted which specifically excludes any one dominant retail unit.

As a result the majority landowner swiftly sold on to an organisation with a track record in refurbishment rather than redevelopment. Plans by TfL for step free access to Archway station are now likely to delay further work until that is completed in 2012.  In the meanwhile the Better Archway Forum is undertaking a variety of measures to positively support small local retail in the area.

London
United Kingdom
51° 32' 32.478" N, 0° 6' 12.6432" W
London GB

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Islington, London

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