Few will have missed the publication of the Government’s white paper ” Planning for the Future”. The consultation remains open until 29th October and anyone can have their say. It suggests sweeping reforms of the planning system that would, among other things, remove the right individuals have now to comment on specific planning applications. Consultation would be at the level of commenting on reformed Local Plans that will designate areas for “growth”, “renewal”, and “protection”. It would be much easier for a developer to secure planning permission for a development in a growth or renewal area than at present. Design codes would be set in the Local Plan. These are to be streamlined and will not have policy statements – just area designations and design codes.
The White Paper is significantly short on detail and filled with jargon and lots of waffle. It can be viewed (and downloaded) from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government web page (https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-future).
The Steering Group are preparing comments on it and we welcome comments from members of the Forum. The deadline for comments is 29th October: we would need to receive your comments by 26th October when the Steering Group will meet to approve our response.
Neighbourhood Plans are mentioned in the document but it is rather vague how they fit in and whether it would reduce their scope. It is possible that we would not be able to put forward sites for future development (“site designations”) and may have no influence on designating areas for growth, redevelopment and protection. It is all opaque! We have been urged not to pause plan preparation as implementing such changes is likely to be a very slow process despite the “this parliament” ambitions of the white paper.
Many other parties are commenting. The Woodland Trust see it as reducing protection for Ancient Woodlands and for trees in general (see https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/protecting-trees-and-woods/campaign-with-us/planning-protection-cuts/). Private Eye have pointed out that it makes no mention of designing accessible homes for disabled people. RIBA have concerns (https://www.architecture.com/knowledge-and-resources/knowledge-landing-page/planning-for-the-future-sustainability-policy-positions). The more comments the better!
A retail experience like no other opened its doors today in Finsbury Park – the product of Islington Council’s commitment to creating an economy that works with and for local people, building a better Islington in the face of the current global pandemic…. follow the link to the Islington BC website.
These are indeed “interesting times” : Covid 19 has made everything very difficult and often stressful. The Steering Group and Officers of the Neighbourhood Forum have been doing as much as they can online and are looking forward to the days when we can speak to residents properly.
The Steering Group managed a single proper meeting on 11th March before lockdown guidance and regulations came in. After that meetings have been via Skype or Zoom. We have had 3 virtual meetings and 4 subgroup meetings. Many of us have attended other virtual meetings related to the work of the Forum. The Forum has been represented at the Town Centre Management Group virtual meetings. We made a formal objection to an application for an “amusement arcade” in Fonthill Road. The application was refused although there may be an appeal. There is a supplemental planning application for the Andover Estate. Members of the Steering group felt that the some aspects could be improved in terms of energy efficiency and reduction of CO2 emissions.
The Steering Group can set up subgroups for specific tasks and can recruit other forum members to work on aspects of researching and generating the plan. We welcome volunteers!!
At the moment we have two Subgroups: Engagement and Planning. (Additionally we have a Communications and IT task force “COMS/IT that looks after the technical side of things, and a Planning subsubgroup on Transport.) These have proved an effective way of focusing on one stream of work at a time….
Clearly Planning must be informed by Engagement and vice versa. Planning is looking after the research necessary to creating our plan.
As the name suggests Engagement is concerned with engaging with those who have an interest in the neighbourhood area.
It is really important to find out what all of the communities that make up Finsbury Park and Stroud Green think about their localities and want to see in the future: the business and retail communities, those who rent, owner occupiers, those in the small and large estates as well as those who live in conservation areas. Neighbourhood planning is not a very sexy topic and it is hard to get people interested. Some of the problems in the area can be directly addressed in a neighbourhood plan but other matters are more peripheral and we may, together, perhaps be able to aspire, influence and encourage change.
Lockdown has not been fun but many have appreciated the reduction in traffic and traffic noise and the cleaner air. The vital importance of green spaces, large and small, has become very clear. We hope that a new way will evolve that will keep and enhance these benefits. A greater community spirit has developed spearheaded by the many mutual aid groups that sprang up quickly and that have done such excellent work. We hope this community spirit will continue and we are making contact with mutual aid groups.
We are stronger together – to make things happen, the Neighbourhood Forum needs more members! Suggestions for ways to recruit more people are always wanted. Your suggestions about ways we can engage with the communities in Finsbury Park and Stroud Green are needed: help us to think outside the box!