Alarm bells ringing over application for new Hackney planning body on back of Localism Act
PUBLISHED: 10:08 14 January 2013 | UPDATED: 10:35 14 January 2013
An application to create a new planning body in Stamford Hill to take advantage of new legislation is ringing alarm bells for many local residents, who fear a return to the “bad old days” of a planning free-for-all.
Hackney Council is considering an application for the Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Forum which will include four council wards, Springfield, Cazenove, New River and Lordship, stretching from Green Lanes across to the Lea Valley.
The coalition government has created neighbourhood forums as new statutory bodies through the Localism Act, giving them powers to influence change in their area.
Forums will produce Neighbourhood Plans, setting out planning policies which will be taken into account by councils when assessing planning applications.
Jane Holgate, secetary of Hackney Planning Watch said: “This is going back to the bad old days of the Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Committee, which was responsible for planning proposals being agreed without thought about the blight on the environment.
“Effectively they want to go back to creating an are of exception, in order that larger houses can be built, infills of back gardens, paving of front gardens - all the things we’ve moved against because we understand the environment we live in can only hold so much property, we need green spaces,” she added.
Hackney Planning Watch was established by local residents in 1998 when Hackney Council had devolved planning decisions to neighbourhood committees.
The area saw many extreme developments which are not now permissible, like high loft conversions and home extensions which could take up entire gardens.
Not long after Hackney Planning Watch took out a judicial review against the council over one extreme incident of malpractice, planning was re-centralised.
“It seems this is being led by ex and current councillors who have their own agenda,” said Ms Holgate.
“They already have a role to speak in the council arena. This is not being led by the community at all.”
Tony Harms, secretary of the Stoke Newington Conservation Area Advisory committee also belives it is an “alarming proposal”.
“The purpose of the legislation was to set up bodies which could revitalise communities and where a fairly uniform, usually rural, community could set its own rules without being bound by its wider authority,” he said.
“However in a diverse urban situation, a small group of well organised people with the backing of any one section of the community can impose their views on a very wide area,” he added.
But Cllr Linda Kelly, Chair of SHNF denied the proposal is alarming.
“The large area proposed and the committee makeup, is to ensure the widest community representation from all different sections of the community, as is clearly evident from the current participation and could not be dominated by one particular community,” she said.
“The purpose of this proposal is not at all about, land infill or garden paving - it is to seek local solutions for local needs and to promote and enhance community cohesion and inclusiveness.”
She continued: “The constitution of our forum guarantees that by making sure that everybody is encouraged to participate, the committee makeup is based upon a number of themes and remains fully accountable to all the people of the neighbourhood.”
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