Wapping residents fight against plans for Sainsbury’s Local on their high street

At a recent Council meeting Wapping locals objected to plans for a Sainsbury Local in their neighbourhood arguing that the competition could force local independent shops to close.

Wapping residents and businesses are fighting against plans to open a new Sainsbury’s in the neighbourhood because they fear its presence will ‘kill’ the surviving shops on the high street as they will struggle to compete.

The supermarket giant wants to open a Sainsbury’s Local on 70 Wapping Lane and has applied for a premises licence so it can sell booze from 7am to 11pm every day.

Speaking at a Tower Hamlets Council licensing sub-committee meeting on Tuesday night (February 28), a solicitor speaking on behalf of Sainsbury’s said they wish to be a part of Wapping’s ‘community spirit’.

They told the sub-committee: “There is a community spirit and a real good community feel to the area, [Wapping] has a greengrocers, a butchers, they have a post office, they have a really smart pub and cafés.

“It’s a very special area and we’re excited to become a part of that.”

However, some residents are concerned local shops won’t be able to compete with a Sainsbury’s Local as businesses are already struggling with rising rents with some being forced to close down.

Martin Milton, who lives behind Wapping Lane, said: “We [lost] four businesses across the other side of the street due to increased costs, Covid and a fire.

“There were five on one side of the street and now we only have four. Slowly, they are being boarded up and are not being re-let.”

Mr Milton added that there was already a number of shops selling booze within 250 yards of each other.

According to council documents, Wapping Lane has two off-licenses, a wine seller, a Best One shop with an alcohol license, two pubs, an old Pizza Express that has been transformed into another alcohol-related venue and a live music events space venue with its own alcohol licenses.

He added: “Just in this small section of 250 yards, we already have five businesses with alcohol licenses. I don’t see how we can justify [another] license premises [if] all five of them are within 250 yards.

“If the shops are forced to close down – the existing shops – that would increase anti-social behaviour because there is no movement and there would be a reduction in footfall on the lane.”

Another resident objected to the plans in a written statement to the council. Charlotte Webster said: “I’d like to object to the licence application at 70 Wapping Lane. Granting this licence will kill the other shops on Wapping Lane and elsewhere in Wapping. I think this will affect safety due to[ a] drop in pedestrian activity and also an increase in ASB [Anti Social Behaviour] as premises become empty.’

Brian Barker, who was speaking on behalf of the businesses affected in Wapping, told the meeting the area is already ‘saturated’ with alcohol licenses and worries a new store could kill. Mr Barker said: “More alcohol in the area isn’t great for the existing businesses. Our premises, costs and rents are increasing dramatically.

“I [know of] two premises alone that are right next to the proposal – we are talking of double, almost triple in rent alone this year which is part of the reasons why some of the other four businesses have had to close.

“And with Covid absolutely hitting and cost of living hitting as well, how can this committee justify adding a business to an area that is already absolutely saturated?”

In response to the objectors and concerns from residents submitted in council documents, the solicitor for Sainsbury’s said the local shops will survive ‘very well’ alongside a Sainsbury’s Local.

He said: “If it’s any reassurance, we do live side-by-side with specialist shops in lots of applications and we’re certain a good butchers and greengrocers which is what we have on Wapping Lane will survive very well alongside a Sainsbury’s Local.

“We wish to be a part of the [community spirit] and we believe and that we will benefit the local community… hopefully the presence of Sainsbury’s will encourage others to open [shops] as well and will breathe a bit of life back on Wapping Lane.”

After hearing from both the applicant’s solicitor and the objectors, the council’s sub-committee discussed the application in private and it was announced that a decision will be sent to all parties within five working days.

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