As tensions rise over proposed planning changes in Stamford Hill, planning minister Nick Boles has come out against community forums that lead to divisions in communities.
Boles told The Guardian that the forums – made possible under the 2011 Localism Act – were intended to encourage members of communities “to work as a team and achieve better results for their neighborhoods”.
The comment comes as Hackney Mayor Jules Pipe hits back at accusations of “social cleansing”, calling the claims “unacceptable”.
Two forums have been proposed in the north of the borough, which, if granted, will enable a delegated committee of unelected local people to oversee planning decisions in the area.
One set of plans has been put forward by a committee lead by Conservative councillors and members of the Heredi Jewish community; and have provoked local academics and Labour activists to submit counter-proposals. Stamford Hill rabbi, Abraham Pinter has described the feud as being between “the yuppies and us”.
Other members of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community have slammed those opposing the plans calling them discriminatory against “ethnic communities”. They say that the reluctance to adapt planning to cater for the prevalence of large families in the Heredi community is a means of forcing the ultra-orthodox community out of Hackney.
Benzion Papier, Conservative councilor for the New River ward and supporter of the Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Forum, told The Guardian on Friday: “It is the mayor, Jules Pipe, who is responsible for this social cleansing. We don’t need the south [Hackney Town Hall] to decide on the north.”
Pipe has denied the allegations, stating that although “there would be a huge question mark over any forum that wasn’t inclusive”, it would be “an unacceptable leap to claim the planning system not allowing people to build whatever they want is [done] to drive people out”.
Chief executive of orthodox Jewish charity Interlink, based in Stamford Hill, said that the dispute has “opened old wounds.” “We are seeing how difficult it can get when this issue is put in the hands of the community”.
Hackney Planning Watch, who are behind the counter-proposals for a North Hackney Planning Forum, in public consultation from today, have now asked local residents to oppose both submissions on the basis of community tension.
In a statement sent out on Saturday, Hackney Planning Watch said: “Over 80 per cent of our supporters believe that planning issues in the north of Hackney are so divisive that planning should remain a direct local authority responsibility.
“We are asking people to sign up to a petition calling on the council not to grant either of the current applications on the basis that the issue of planning is simply too divisive to be handed over to a neighbourhood forum in this part of Hackney.”
Hackney Council will give a verdict on the two proposals in September.