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Traders face another battle for survival as Sainsbury’s eyes Hampstead site

Supermarket chain aims to open store in former Gap Kids site in autumn

25 March, 2021 — By Harry Taylor

Top: Patrick Bourke and Paul Jenkins run a butchers and greengrocers in Hampstead

SAINSBURY’S is hoping to open a store in Hampstead – sparking memories of recent battles to stop supermarket giants from moving into the area.

The chain has submitted a licensing application to Camden Council, ahead of potentially opening a shop in the former Gap Kids site in Hampstead High Street.

It has applied to sell alcohol between 8am and 11pm six days a week, with reduced hours on Sundays. It is set to submit a planning application next month and hopes to open the store in the autumn.

Fierce campaigns have been fought in the past decade to stop big chains moving in, over fears of the impact they could have on independent stores.

The Co-op and Tesco both ended up withdrawing plans to move into Belsize Park, although Tesco bucked the trend and opened a store in Heath Street. It has faced complaints about delivery lorries blocking traffic in the road, however.

Paul Jenkins, who has run a nearby fruit and veg stall for 25 years, said he doubted it would be allowed to go ahead. “The residents won’t let it happen,” he said.“There are flats above it and they will have to deliver as well. I’m sure it’d affect us if it does open – like a lot of independent businesses we are vulnerable. Hopefully the local residents oppose it, which I think they will.”

Mr Jenkins added: “I’d hope people will stay loyal. We’ve been open every day during the pandemic and business has been all right.”

Patrick Bourke, who runs Meat Naturally on Hampstead High Street, was also positive. “The supermarkets don’t do a very good job with meat,” he said. “We’re open five days a week and particularly during the start of the pandemic, we were really busy. We’ll just have to deal with it if it comes in.”

Ward councillor Oliver Cooper, who is also the leader of the Conservatives, said: “Camden’s town centres have really struggled over the last year. While the enduring appeal of Hampstead to businesses is reassuring, there must be a level playing field between big and cherished local businesses, so they can thrive too.”

He added: “Residents have long suffered traffic jams due to the Tesco lorries on Heath Street. “This has been one of the most intractable issues locally, despite endless engagement by councillors. Camden must ensure that no repeat is allowed, or it will bring gridlock to Hampstead.

“Supermarkets make similar applications across the borough, and residents suffer similar impacts.

“Traffic from lorries has caused mayhem from Swain’s Lane to West End Lane, and off-licence sales cause anti-social behaviour from Bloomsbury to South End Green. It is therefore important that Camden does not just see this in isolation, but uses this opportunity to be clear to supermarkets what it expects of them.”

Alex Nicoll, from the Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum, said the neighbourhood plan broadly supported a greater mix of shops.

A Sainsbury’s spokes­person said: “We have spent a lot of time looking for the best store site for the local community and believe this unit will allow us to offer great value food-to-go and pantry staples on Hampstead High Street.”

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