Neighbourhood Development Forum gets own website

I’ve mentioned the newly formed Neighbourhood Development Forum a few times before – it’s being set up so that locals can have a little bit more say into local planning issues.

The group has just launched a website, so I no longer feel the need to post the full minutes of meetings, but I will certainly continue to link to them when they are published and will keep West Hampstead Life readers up to speed with developments.

The minutes of April’s meeting aren’t quite up yet, but I have had a sneak preview, and below is an abridged version of item no.3, which is worth reading as it sets out what the Forum and the Plan can and can’t do based on a presentation by Camden planning officer Jennifer Walsh and answers she gave to questions. (For much more about the general concept, I’d suggest exploring the NDP website in more detail).

  • NDPs have to fit in with Camden planning policy, the London Plan, the national planning framework, plus some aspects of EU legislation.
  • Once the Plan is submitted to Camden Council, it then goes to an independent planning inspector for approval. If it is found to be sound there is then a referendum in the area covered by a plan; approval is by simple majority of those who vote. The government has yet to publish the rules about the referenda, so the process is not currently clear.
  • If the NDP is approved in a referendum, it becomes at statutory planning document, sitting alongside the Camden plan.
  • The NDF can make comments on any current planning application, just like any other local group.
    The NDP has to fit into the national planning policy of ‘pro-growth’. Questions were asked about the growth predicted in both wards; it’s not clear if the Camden plan goes into this much detail for the two wards.
  • Once the NDP is approved, it will be used as a framework for development by developers.
    There were questions about how specific the NDP can be – it can’t have a blanket ban on basement conversions; it can mention a general height limit and require new developments are in keeping with existing buildings (the example given was red/grey bricks); it is difficult to be too prescriptive in architectural terms.
  • The NDF will need to liaise with Conservation Areas in our area.
  • Questions were asked about high streets/shops – we can’t regulate who occupies each shop (eg we can’t have a ban on new Tescos); we can have design guidance (eg for shop frontages); we can seek to promote diversification of shops & facilities.
  • Questions were asked about how we express social provisions – eg for schools, health facilities. We need to get the opinions of schools and health centres/surgeries. We are still awaiting data from the 2011 census; information from the 2001 census will be circulated, although this may be significantly out of date.
  • The NDP needs to consider where future S106 payments [Ed: that’s the extra money developers pay to the council in theory to mitigate any financial impact the development has on public services/public realm] should be directed; into what services & facilities we would like to see more of.
  • A new Camden council initiative is seeking to produce a ‘Local List’ for the borough. This is a list of undesignated (ie not currently listed) ‘heritage assets’ – this can be buildings, monuments, sites, places, areas or landscapes – which merit consideration in the planning process. These can be listed in the NDP. It might be possible to protect certain views.
  • The NDP can be used to raise issues like the need for a permanent area available for markets.
    In terms of the number of licensed premises, licensing is generally separate from planning, but there is some overlap.

It will be interesting to see how much influence these Plans really do have when it comes to larger planning decisions. The whole process is obviously brand new and although such groups are springing up around the country now, even the pilot schemes haven’t been in place long enough to give a clear indication of how it works in practice. Lets hope it’s not just a talking shop, nor that the people giving up their time to put all this together end up being frustrated. A few early successes in driving positive change would help enormously in generating support for the idea.