Parish council plan to give power back to London Fields people
PUBLISHED: 12:17 19 February 2013 | UPDATED: 12:17 19 February 2013
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The capital’s second parish council in 50 years could be created in London Fields – a move which supporters claim would allow local people protection against over-development in their neighbourhood.
Many residents living in the pocket around Broadway Market fear the area is becoming the next “uber-cool” destination, following in the footsteps of Hoxton and Shoreditch, introducing myriad problems like late night licensing applications in the residential area.
But for the last year a handful of residents have created a steering group to discuss the concept of a council tax precept funded Community Council for London Fields, which could give residents more autonomy over the issues they care about.
Parish councils were abolished in 1963 to make way for the Greater London Council, but new legislation introduced in 2008 means hyper-localism is once again possible in London.
The group is following the example the People’s Republic of Queen’s Park, which was given the go-ahead by 1,100 Westminster residents last May.
Tory London Assembly member and London Fields resident Andrew Boff is a key figure in drawing up the plans, and is excited about forging “new territory”.
“I think borough councils have proved they are okay at delivering services borough-wide, but they sometimes fall short when it comes towards local sensitivities,” he said.
He continued: “We have seen a lot of threats to London Fields – threats of over development on the East side, a cut for local services for young people in youth clubs, we’ve seen the council being heavy handed in its management of Broadway Market in the way it’s tried to administer the licences.
“I believe in localism, people should have more power over their own lives and communities should be empowered and not just consulted.”
For the last year the steering group’s discussion has mainly centred on the boundaries which would enclose the new entity.
“That’s always going to be the most difficult thing because you don’t want to leave anyone out but don’t want an area so big it ceases to be local,” said Mr Boff.
The consensus is for the area to stretch from Queensbridge Road to Mare Street in the east, and to include part of Hackney Road in the south reaching as far as a section of Wilton Way in the north.
The next step is for 10 per cent of the proposed population to sign a petition, which would be submitted to the council which has a year to respond.
The first elections for unpaid volunteers to sit on the parish council could take place next May.
The parish councillors would then choose their spending priorities and how much precept they would add to residents’ council tax bills.
Mr Boff added: “I think any other part of Hackney should look at setting up parishes as a way of empowering the goodwill that exists in most areas.”
A Hackney council spokeswoman said there had been no cuts to youth services.
“London Fields is an important, vibrant area of Hackney and we work closely with residents and traders to meet and support their needs,” she added.
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