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Sainsbury's protesters turn out in force as supermarket makes FOURTH bid to open in Blackstock Road police station site

PUBLISHED: 13:28 05 March 2019

People protesting outside the Old Highbury Vale Police Station against Sainsbury's fourth attempt to open a store there. Picture: Shanei Stephenson-Harris

People protesting outside the Old Highbury Vale Police Station against Sainsbury's fourth attempt to open a store there. Picture: Shanei Stephenson-Harris

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More than 200 neighbours gathered on Sunday to protest Sainsbury's fourth attempt to open a shop in Blackstock Road.

Cllr Sue Lukes (Lab, Highbury East) protesting outside the old Highbury Vale Police Station, in Blackstock Road. Sainsbury's is making its fourth attempt to purchase this site for a new store. Picture: Shanei Stephenson-HarrisCllr Sue Lukes (Lab, Highbury East) protesting outside the old Highbury Vale Police Station, in Blackstock Road. Sainsbury's is making its fourth attempt to purchase this site for a new store. Picture: Shanei Stephenson-Harris

Despite miserable weather, protesters arrived with banners and placards outside the old Highbury Vale Police station – the proposed site of the new store. They included local business owners, residents and councillors.

One of the event’s organisers, Janice Acquah, said: “We’ve been campaigning about this since 2014.

“Sainsbury’s seems absolutely determined to open the store, even though there’s one just down the road and there are six within a mile radius – we do not need another one.

“We have fantastic local shops and as you can see from the community turnout today, it’s not wanted. Sainsbury’s is persisting because of corporate reasons. It feels like bullying of our local community.”

People protesting outside the Old Highbury Vale Police Station, in Blackstock Road, against Sainsbury's fourth attempt to open a store there. Picture: Shanei Stephenson-HarrisPeople protesting outside the Old Highbury Vale Police Station, in Blackstock Road, against Sainsbury's fourth attempt to open a store there. Picture: Shanei Stephenson-Harris

The supermarket chain has already submitted multiple applications for planning permission. Each time campaigners have appealed and the applications have been rejected – by both the council and the Planning Inspectorate. Sainsbury’s, which does not appear to have taken the hint, is now asking the latter quash its latest rejection by the former.

Most of the concerns are about the impact another Sainsbury’s would have on independent businesses nearby.

Rosie Phibbs, co-owner of Seasons and Blossoms greengrocer’s, said: “Blackstock Road and Highbury Park have those rarest of things – successful shops and small businesses that make the high street vibrant and alive. A new Sainsbury’s will severely damage that and it’s not right.”

Another resident, Joanna, who has lived in the area for 27 years, added: “Sainsbury’s just colonise an area. We love the variety of the local shops here. We have relationships with all the shop owners. We have a wonderful community here and the shops are part of that.”

Actress Janice Acquah protesting outside the old Highbury Vale Police Station, in Blackstock Road. Sainsbury's is making its fourth attempt to purchase this site for a new store. Picture: Shanei Stephenson-HarrisActress Janice Acquah protesting outside the old Highbury Vale Police Station, in Blackstock Road. Sainsbury's is making its fourth attempt to purchase this site for a new store. Picture: Shanei Stephenson-Harris

The campaigners have strong support from the local council. Cllr Caroline Russell (Highbury East, Green) said: “It is really disgraceful that Sainsbury’s keep coming back, but the community is amazing – the way that everyone has just come together.

“As soon as we heard they were appealing again, there was so much energy, so many people trying to pull something together and actually make sure that Sainsbury’s are shown the door.

“We have an incredible group of local shops that have a range of vegetables and groceries – a far wider range than Sainsbury’s!”

Some are also concerned about the increase in local pollution levels.

“This is a street that has over the legal limits of pollution most days of the year.” said Janice. “We don’t need any more vehicles. There will be lorries that come to deliver and extra customer traffic. We don’t want any more pollution. This is an area where there are local nurseries. There’s a local children’s play centre. There are primary schools.”

Cllr Sue Lukes (Highbury East, Lab) said: “It’s an outrage that Sainsbury’s is abusing its position as a very wealthy company that keeps coming back.

“The council could be spending money on other very useful things, instead of which we have to defend this appeal. We’ve made it very clear – it’s not what we want for the area. We’ll keep opposing it every time, as long as we need to.

“We hope all our children learned a good lesson today – to stand up to bullies. And that is what Sainsbury’s are.”

Sainsbury’s did not respond to the Gazette’s last request for comment.

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