The government’s Localism Act was meant to bring communities together and empower them. However, in the north of Hackney two rival utterly incompatible bids (Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Forum, and the North Hackney Neighbourhood Forum) are competing to establish a 'Neighbourhood' Forum.
We believe that devolving planning powers to either of these proposed forum would exacerbate pre-existing conflict over planning. Put simply, the issues of planning are too divisive in this area for a neighbourhood forum to work.
Planning issues have always been controversial in the north of Hackney. In the late 1990s the Council devolved planning to a Neighbourhood Planning Committee, which all too frequently granted planning permission to developments that were in conflict with the authority's planning policy.
A judicial review launched by Planning Watch of one particularly notorious decision saw the planning approval rescinded and the discredited planning committee was subsequently dissolved.
The area consists in large part of Victorian terraced streets, however, over the years there have been many inappropriate extensions, including occasions when the overall scale of a property has been doubled.
In 2012, a group of current and former opposition councillors sought to establish a Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Forum with the express objective of removing planning restrictions on domestic extensions. This group have been accused of cynically seeking to exploit the ethnic and religious differences in the area to build an electoral ‘power base’.
In response to the SHNF, an alternative North Hackney Neighbourhood Forum (which looks to build consensus) has been put forward. Hackney Planning Watch has consulted with our supporters and we have formed the overwhelming view that planning is simply too divisive an issue in this part of the borough for a forum to work. Indeed we believe that it would lead to conflict. More infomation can be found at our website: http://hackneyplanningwatch.wordpress.com/
We are therefore petitioning the council and the relevant minister urging them not to grant a Neighbourhood Forum in this area.