Meeting planned to fight ‘top led’ public planning forum

Hackney Council agrees to negotiate rent for community centre

Pic: Pixelhut

A meeting is to be held tomorrow (Tuesday) in opposition to a proposed ‘Stamford Hill neighbourhood forum’ which, if approved, will take over planning decisions in Stamford Hill, Stoke Newington, Clapton and Manor House.

The forum proposals were submitted to Hackney council in December by a committee made up of residents of Stamford Hill and chaired by Linda Kelly, Leabridge Conservative councillor. The secretary is former Conservative councillor for Northwold Isaac Leibowitz, who was jailed for six months in 2001 for committing electoral fraud.

The plans were formed in response to the introduction of the UK Localism Bill in 2011, which invites members of the community to establish ‘neighbourhood forums’ which can take on planning decisions on behalf of the neighbourhood.  The forum would cover New River, Springfields, Lordship and Cazenove wards: roughly the area between Springfield Park and Clissold Park.

A letter distributed to some households in Stamford Hill by those involved in the forum explained: “As is well known, the acute problematic housing needs within our neighbourhood have dramatically increased in recent years and the Hackney Council planning officials have not made our problems any easier by imposing their insensitive policies and practices.

“In desperation we have turned to HM Government for help and thankfully, they have now introduced the Localism Act which compels Council to take account of the need and request from the local neighbourhood”.

The letter was signed by Conservative councillors, Simche Steinburger, Bernard Aussenberg, Benzion Papier and Michael Levy; and Liberal Democrat councillors Ian David Sharer and Abraham Jackson.

“There is an opportunity to do good things here for the area at large”, councillor Kelly told Eastlondonlines, “We are hoping the neighbourhood will grow and develop for the benefit of all communities.”

But the plans have been criticised by other residents in Stamford Hill, who claim that the initiative is not representative of the community, and that planning decisions should remain with Hackney’s centralised planning authority to avoid unreasonable developments and increased tension within the community.

Jane Holgate, secretary of Hackney Planning Watch – an organisation set up 15 years ago to challenge controversial planning decisions in the area – said: “If this was a genuine, grassroots led attempt to deal with planning, and if it had the support and involvement of the people here, then we would support it. But this is a top-led initiative that threatens to cause major problems for people in Stamford Hill.”

Hackney Planning Watch began in 1998 in response to prior devolution of planning controls to neighbourhood committees. Under these committees, some residents of Stamford Hill  were able to build extensions that would have been outlawed as  ‘excessive’ development under local authority planning rules.

In some cases back extensions were built over entire garden areas, blocking in neighbouring gardens (picture here). Planning was recentralised in 2002.

An objection to the new scheme, published by Hackney Planning Watch, states that: “The proposal can be seen as an attempt to revive the Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Committee that operated in the area until 2002 and carried out widespread abuse of the planning system. Key members behind the current proposal were involved in this committee.”

The plans can be viewed here and the Council are accepting statements of support and opposition until they make their decision on February 4th. For more details on the opposition meeting, to be held at Oak Tree Community Centre, see here.

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