Groups vying for planning power in North Hackney stopped in tracks by council

Both proposals put forward by conflicting groups to try and take control of planning in North Hackney have been rejected by the council, which concluded either option would exacerbate tensions within the community.

The Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Forum (SHNF) and the North Hackney Neighbourhood Forum (NHNF) wanted to take advantage of the coalition government’s Localism Act which has introduced neighbourhood forums as new statutory bodies with powers to influence change in their area.

Campaign group Hackney Planning Watch (HPW) submitted its bid for the NHNF in March as a counter-proposal to the SHNF’s application, which it believed would exacerbate pre-existing conflict over planning in the area.

However HPW urged its supporters to sign a petition opposing both proposals.

They have now branded the council’s decision to reject both proposals as a victory.

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The council’s report, which was rubber stamped at a cabinet meeting on Monday night, states: “It is evident that the publication of the two neighbourhood forum proposals has raised major tensions in the community.

“Designating a forum in these circumstances will not enhance community relations in the area and will not improve social cohesion.”

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But it concluded that there is a “compelling need” for some form of planning intervention in the Stamford Hill area.

Widespread concerns were expressed during the consultation regarding the shortage of school places and play facilities, the need for more housing sites and large housing extensions to accommodate the area’s expanding population.

The council has therefore recommended a neighbourhood area boundary is drawn around the centre of Stamford Hill to pick up on the issues.

Once the designated area has been publicised the council will invite forum applications for that area as required by the regulations.

But the report states it is “very unlikely” the two applicants will resolve their differences to work on a joint forum application, so has suggested working with both groups on an Area Action Plan (AAP) as a possible alternative.

While HPW is not in favour of establishing a neighbourhood area, they support the decision to move towards an AAP.

HPW secretary Jane Holgate said: “Under an AAP the council would continue to have democratic control over planning policy in the area, and would, perhaps for the first time, seek to develop an inclusive strategy for addressing the various needs in the area.”

Chair of SHNF, Cllr Linda Kelly, called the council’s offer “admirable”, but said it should be up to residents to decide how their area is developed.

“We have taken on board what the Council said about a designated area, altered our previous application to take on board all comments and have submitted a new application,” she said.

“We are open to any constructive, cohesive and progressive suggestions, from any

constituent who make a difference to their community.”

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