Controversial neighbourhood forum bids thrown out again by Hackney Council

An extended home in Lingwood Road, Stamford Hill

An extended home in Lingwood Road, Stamford Hill - Credit: Archant

Attempts by two rival community groups to take control of neighbourhood planning powers in Stamford Hill have been stopped in their tracks for a second time by a Hackney Council amid concerns they could both be detrimental to community cohesion.

The vying proposals from the Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Forum (SHNF) and the North Hackney Neighbourhood Forum (NHNF) in the north of the borough were rebutted by councillors in July 2013, following an intense battle between local campaigners, when the council decreed they would create “major tensions in the community”.

Neighbourhood forums are statutory bodies created by the coalition government’s Localism Act, giving communities new powers to influence planning decisions in their own area through a neighbourhood plan.

The SHNF - spanning four council wards, Springfield, Cazenove, New River and Lordship – was submitted in January 2013 by Conservative and Lib Dem councillors.

But lobby group Hackney Planning Watch (HPW) accused them of trying to take advantage of planning pressures in the north of the borough for political gain, and went on to submit its rival application.

They urged people to sign a petition opposing both proposals including their own which they said would exacerbate pre-existing conflict over planning.

In January the SHNF submitted another application for a smaller area they dubbed the Central Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Forum, prompting a rival bid from the Stamford Hill (Community) Neighbourhood Forum.

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Both applications were rejected last Monday night at a cabinet meeting, because neither had support of the wider community and would lead to tensions.

A report said: It is clear that the complexity of the area in terms of social and cultural mix has proven a significant challenge for the local community in their aspiration to deliver a socially cohesive neighbourhood plan.

“The tide of opposition to both groups’ submitted proposals would indicate that the deep-seated divisions within the community in this part of Hackney on planning issues remain unresolved.”

The report recommended the council should push ahead with creating an area action plan (AAP) for the area instead to bring together the two groups.

HPW was established by local residents 15 years ago when Hackney Council devolved planning decisions to neighbourhood committees – much like the proposed neighbourhood forums.

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 HPW took out a judicial review against the council over one extreme incident of malpractice, planning was re-centralised.