The new Planet Organic store will be a gift to the community and not a threat, its executives have claimed.

Planet Organic buying director Al Overton and head of store operations Ewa Socha exclusively sat down with the Gazette to respond to criticisms of its latest store, set to open on Broadway Market on December 14.

A petition was launched five months ago calling on Hackney Council to block the company from opening the store, saying it would put the street’s businesses, many of which are independent and family-run, under threat.

At present, the petition has 3,502 signatures.

Overton said: “If I’m honest I felt personally hurt and surprised [by the petition]. It’s not a reception that we’ve ever had before when we’ve opened sites. Every time we’ve opened a store it’s been seen as a gift to the community.

“We put a hell of a lot of work into the business, and I’m confident that when we do open, we’re going to offer a great experience to our customers. I’m hoping that we can make friends with other businesses on the street too.”

Ham & High: Planet Organic in BermondseyPlanet Organic in Bermondsey (Image: REDAGENCYLONDON.COM)

While the petition described the store as a “huge chain” looking to take over the community-focused street, Overton said that in his 19 years with the company, he has always viewed it as a small, London-based retailer.

Broadway Market will be the location of Planet Organic’s 14th store.

Socha, who is an east London resident, shops on Broadway Market every Saturday, and while many food stores there already sell organic produce, she feels a Planet Organic will bring something unique and special to the area.

Ham & High: Broadway Market will be the location of Planet Organic’s 14th storeBroadway Market will be the location of Planet Organic’s 14th store (Image: REDAGENCYLONDON.COM)

She said: “What we sell is a lifestyle. We encourage people to live well and eat better with everything from supplements to skincare to reusable coffee cups.

“Planet Organic is not just a place where you can get organic food but the whole set, and I think a lot of customers, particularly around Hackney, have the same kind of goals that I do, to make a difference with the way they live.”

Overton and Socha said that every time Planet Organic open a new shop, they set up initiatives and partnerships that allow them to collaborate with the local community, which will continue to be the case in Hackney.

The retailer will collect donations in-store for Hackney Foodbank and will sell aprons and tote bags produced by Made in Hackney, a community cookery school, with 100 per cent of profits going back to the charity.

Ham & High: The site on Broadway Market where the new Planet Organic will be based in HackneyThe site on Broadway Market where the new Planet Organic will be based in Hackney (Image: Charissa Cheong)

They are also sponsoring away kits for East London Ladies FC, providing half-time tea for football team Hackney Laces throughout the season, and will begin working with Hackney Council to provide internships, mentorships and apprenticeship schemes to children with learning disabilities from local schools.

Overton said there were a number of other plans in the works to support the community, including through their recruitment process.

He said: “I do understand the fear of competition, but there’s a huge mixture of businesses on Broadway Market, some are small and independent, and some are massive. It’s a vibrant community street.

“As a London-based retailer, we are very community-focused in how we act and where we recruit from.

"Ewa and I are both examples of people who started on the shop floor and have moved up the ranks.”

Planet Organic has also committed to a zero-food-waste pledge and has set up relationships with food distributors Olio and Too Good to Go in all its locations.

As a result, they said they provide around 8,000 meals to families per month, saving around three and a half kilos of food that would otherwise go to a landfill.

The Broadway Market Planet Organic will open on December 14, three weeks after its Hampstead store, which opened on November 23.

It will have an outdoor seating area, and like its other stores, it is committed to plastic-free packaging and will have a limited food menu.