Residents of Stamford Hill will not be able to have a direct say over planning rights because they cannot reach an agreement among themselves, Hackney Council has ruled.
Two opposing proposals for the Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Forum were rejected on the grounds that neither have received widespread support from the community and will do little to improve community tensions in the area.
The council instead set up an Area Action Plan to resolve the “major tensions” in the North Hackney community. A report said it would “bring together the two groups and formulate a vision which would unite rather than divide the community.”
The SHNF, composed of members from the UK’s largest ultra-orthodox Jewish Haredi community as well as non-Jewish members, was established in 2012 to grant planning rights to individuals and communities, capitalising on the Localism Act. The forum aims to enable the community to build extensions on houses and schools that the community needs to cater to its rapidly expanding population.
The forum has denied that it was set up to exclusively to respond to the needs of the Haredi community, stating on its website that it is inclusive and open to all.
The decision to refuse the forum is just one of many in a long history of rejections. The forum faced a similar fate in July of last year and since its establishment in 2012, four abortive forum applications have been publicised.
The council’s report stated that the “lack of social cohesion” has made it “very difficult” for the council to consider approving applications and that it faced “no option” but to refuse the SHNF due to concerns that it was established at the expense of others living outside the Haredi community.
According to Rosemary Sales, the Labour councillor for the area, a minority of individuals- often property developers within the Haredi community- have at times “adopted an attitude to existing planning rules that have caused friction with their neighbours.”
“There are numerous examples of over-development including the complete in-fill of back gardens and the development of loft conversions without the necessary planning permission. Such developments, while clearly providing additional living space, often impinge on the amenity of neighbours and have adversely impacted on the quality of the townscape.”
Jane Holgate, a leader of the Hackney Planning Watch that has consistently opposed the Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Forum, welcomed the council’s decision. She told ELL: “The rejection of the two proposals clearly indicates that there is no general consensus and indicates that the way forward is for an Action Area Plan.”
“At HPW, we don’t think neighbourhood forums are a good idea because we think they are unable to represent the needs of a diverse community like Hackney. Most people support the idea that planning remains in the domain of the local authority made up of representatives that they’ve elected, and not in the hands of unelected individuals.”
She added: “I think the SNHF should listen to the decision made by the council and consider involving themselves in the new plans.”
The Council will shortly engage with “key stakeholders” to agree the area that will be covered by the AAP.
ELL tried to contact the Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Forum but received no response.