Hackney council has received a new proposal for a Central Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Forum, despite past concerns about tension within the community.
The last proposal for a Stamford Hill Planning Forum was rejected in July because the council argued it created “clear tensions within the community in North Hackney” and was not inclusive enough.
The new proposal, led by the Linda Kelly, the Conservative’s mayoral candidate for next May, has been rewritten to address previous criticisms of exclusivity from the council.
The proposal for the forum said: “As a result of the council refusal of our earlier application, further effort was made to make the forum structure more representative to ensure more community cohesion.”
The new proposal covers a smaller area than the last proposal and only includes the Central Stamford Hill area, which stretches from New River to Springfield ward. Unlike the previous application, it excludes the middle-class area of Stoke Newington, which was in opposition to the former application.
Hackney Planning Watch are opposed to the Stamford Hill Forum and campaigned against the previous application. Jane Holgate, the secretary of Hackney Planning Watch, said: “Our position still stands. We are still opposed to all neighbourhood forums.”
She added: “The majority of local residents prefer planning to remain in the hands of Local Authorities and not to be decided by a group of unelected individuals.”
Councillor Simche Steinberger, Conservative member for Springfield Ward, who has been heavily involved in putting together the proposal, disagrees: “A lot of local people feel they are left out of planning and we aim to cater for the local people.”
All the same, Hackney Planning Watch remain wary of the Stamford Hill Forum and devolved planning: “Whilst it might work in other, perhaps more rural areas where there is a unanimous perspective on planning, Stamford Hill, is a much more diverse community with a diverse range of aims and objectives and therefore decisions must be taken by elected representatives.”
There is a long history of planning disputes in Stamford Hill particularly regarding applications for residential extensions.
The ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Stamford Hill is growing at a rate of five per cent a year and there is growing demand for housing extensions to accommodate large families.
Steinberger said: “As Hackney council has closed its door on big families, we have made sure to listen to the demands of large families and as long as a loft extension is built nicely, I don’t see the problem with them.”
Nevertheless, Housing Planning Watch remains opposed to house extensions and Holgate says she is: “concerned about the overdevelopment of residential buildings in Stamford Hill.”
Hackney Planning Watch also argue that many of these house extensions would go against local authority planning regulations. Holgate said: “We believe that developments must be in line with council policy and follow the planning guidelines outlined in Hackney’s local development framework.”
The consultation period will end in January next year and Hackney council will announce whether the forum is given the go-ahead.