NORTHWOOD people are celebrating after plans to build a much opposed supermarket in place of 17 independent businesses have been put on hold.
Yesterday (Thursday), Transport for London’s director of commercial development, Graeme Craig, wrote to Nick Hurd, MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner agreeing to adjust proposals to build a Sainsbury’s on TfL-owned land in Station Approach.
The decision comes after 7,000 tenants and residents signed a petition against proposals to build a 47,000 sq ft store along with a car park and flats in place of successful family businesses and homes.
“I have heard the message from the local campaign, and I am adjusting our plans accordingly,” wrote Mr Craig.
“There are lessons for me here, and I am keen above all that any future development is led directly by TfL, in line with our emerging thinking elsewhere.”
He acknowledged the Save Our Northwood (SON) campaign, led by Tony Ellis, chairman of Northwood Residents’ Association (NRA), highlighted a real sense of community in the town.
Hundreds of people attended public meetings discussing ways of fighting the plans and more than £10,000 had been raised as a ‘fighting fund’.
“I would like to harness that spirit and come up with a new plan,” continued Mr Craig.
It is hoped this will accommodate some of the existing businesses, which would have been forced to close had the original plans gone ahead.
Mr Hurd says he is delighted that TfL has ‘heard the voice of Northwood’ and changed tack.
“That is testimony to the residents of Northwood who united to say no,” he said.
“The strength of the campaign helped me to get the attention of senior decision makers.
“We now need a proper conversation about what Northwood needs and we need to see the local shops treated fairly.”
Councillor Scott Seaman Digby, who has been central in the SON fight, said: “This is a great endorsement of how Northwood came together to stand up to a real threat to our community and local businesses.”
Mr Hurd, Mr Seaman-Digby, Mr Ellis and other community representatives will meet with Mr Craig next month to discuss other schemes that better meet Northwood’s long-term needs.
“I am absolutely delighted that TfL have withdrawn their plans,” said Mr Ellis.
“It is a major shift in TfL’s way of doing business.”
He says the change of heart was down to Mr Hurd’s major contribution and the pressure SON put on those ‘at the top’.
“Mr Hurd has worked tirelessly on our behalf lobbying people such as Boris Johnson, the chairman of TfL, ministers and the chief executive of Sainsbury’s,” he said.
He also noted the support of councillors Carol Melvin (Con) and Richard Lewis (Con).
However, he says TfL now have a lot of work to do to winning back confidence.
“Because of the appalling way they have treated residents and tenants in the past, they have to win our trust and we will remain sceptical about their intentions,” he said.
“The Save our Northwood campaign will continue to put pressure on TfL until the final scheme has been agreed and planning consent obtained.”
Farah Condor, owner of Senses wellbeing in Station Approach is also cautious about TfL's intentions.
“I think they're playing 'softly softly', the proof will be in the pudding,” she said.
“I do not think there should be any development at all - what we have here works.
“This latest letter is not very meaningful to me or the other business owners.
“TfL has never bothered to speak to the shopkeepers about it.
“Our future is still just as uncertain.”
The SON committee will plan a public meeting in the near future to obtain residents’ ideas for an alternative proposal.
All parties concerned have promised to keep townspeople up to date.