Hackney refuses rival neighbourhood plans for a second time

Out-Law News | 01 Dec 2014 | 5:09 pm | 1 min. read

Hackney Council has rejected, for a second time, rival bids from two community groups seeking to be given the opportunity to bring forward a neighbourhood plan for an area of North London.

An area covering the North Hackney wards of Stamford Hill West, Woodberry Down, Cazenove and Springfield was designated as the Central Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Area (3-page / 114 KB PDF) in July 2013. Designation is the first step towards the development of a neighbourhood plan setting out where the local community wants development to take place.

Two community groups calling themselves the Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Forum (SHNF) and the North Hackney Neighbourhood Forum applied to the Council last year to become the recognised neighbourhood forum for the area. A successful bid from either group would have allowed them to draw up a neighbourhood plan, which would need to taken into consideration in the Council's planning decisions.

The Council rejected both 2013 applications, noting that there was both considerable support and opposition to each group's proposals and that designating either would "not improve social cohesion". Following a meeting of the Council's cabinet last week, a second application from the SHNF and an application from a group calling itself the Stamford Hill (Community) Neighbourhood Forum have now also been rejected.

In a statement detailing its decision, the Council said: "The submitted forums as proposed are not considered acceptable on two grounds: firstly, neither group includes a representative spread of the whole community, as evidenced by the many responses to the publication of both forum applications. Secondly, the Council considers that the designation of either of the two submitted forums would not enhance community relations and could be detrimental to community cohesion in the local area."

A report (12-page / 283 KB PDF) prepared for the cabinet meeting said that the 2013 applications had "brought to the surface major tensions in the community in relation to planning issues".  Recommending that the new applications also be rejected, the report said: "The two groups appear not to have been able to resolve their differences and come forward with a joint forum application. 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 report said that the Council was in the process of gathering evidence to help inform a proposed area action plan (AAP) for the area. It was hoped that an AAP "would have the benefit of bringing together the two groups and formulating a vision and plan for the area led by the Council, which unites rather than divides the community", the report said.