Bill Oddie and Dame Janet Suzman lead backlash against plans for Sainsbury’s Local in South End Green
07:00 03 July 2014
Sainsbury’s is facing a massive community backlash after announcing shock plans to open a store on the edge of Hampstead Heath.
The supermarket giant has sparked uproar by proposing to turn four independent businesses in South End Road, South End Green, into one of its “local” shops.
Celebrity residents Bill Oddie and Dame Janet Suzman have thrown their weight behind a campaign which sprang up within hours of the news breaking on Friday.
Dozens turned out to express their hostility at a hastily-arranged protest in Saturday morning’s rain.
Broadcaster Mr Oddie, 72, who joined the demonstration, said the supermarket was “not needed, not necessary and not wanted” while actress Dame Janet, 75, branded the scheme “wicked and destructive”.
“I’m 100 per cent opposed,” said Mr Oddie, who lives in South End Green. “There’s only one reason, whatsoever, that Sainsbury’s are doing this – they think there’s money to be made out of it. It’s sacrilege.”
The area already has a Marks & Spencer supermarket, in Pond Street, which Mr Oddie said was “not so objectionable” because it replaced a derelict cinema.
Dame Janet railed against the “cloning of the high street” and issued a rallying call, saying: “We must resist this destructive commercial incursion into one of the last remaining villages with any character in all of London.”
Belsize Stationers, which has been in South End Road for 25 years; The Sweet Pea, a family-run florist, and a charity shop raising money for Relief Fund For Romania would all have to make way.
Polly’s Tea Rooms, where Mr Oddie breakfasts nearly every morning, would also have to move or close.
Pat Brothers, 73, manager of Polly’s for the past 18 years, said: “We want to stay, but it sounds like a done deal. I’ve been here so long and I love it. It’s terrible.”
The businesses are in talks with the landlord Dorrington, but Sainsbury’s confirmed it has already signed a deal for the leases.
Matthew Lewin, chairman of the Burgh House Trust and a former editor of the Ham&High, who helped to organise Saturday’s protest, said the loss of four independent businesses will harm South End Green’s “individual character”.
He called the proposal “absurd” and said it would make the area’s traffic and parking problems “intolerable”.
He added: “All we can hope is that Sainsbury’s hears our message loud and clear: ‘We don’t need you, we don’t want you, and we won’t use you!’”
Caroline Vickerstaff, Sainsbury’s regional acquisitions manager, said the company is “aware” of some concerns and hopes to work with the community “to discuss the design of the Sainsbury’s Local to ensure that it is in keeping with the local area and parade”.
She added: “We want to get the plans right and do believe that the shop can bring benefits to the parade and other traders, such as additional footfall.”
Garith Brown, from Dorrington, said: “We will continue to work with tenants over the coming weeks to understand their individual requirements.
“We have already started to discuss possible options with them, including relocation on the parade.”