How new Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum could hand power back to residents

Tuesday, 17th December 2013

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Published: 17 December, 2013
By DAN CARRIER

THE latest Neighbourhood Forum in Camden is currently being established in Hampstead – and could provide neighbours with an added layer of protection against controversial basement schemes that have hit the area.

 
Forums are being set up under the government’s Localism Act, and the aim is to allow people to have a greater say in shaping planning policy for their neighbourhoods.

Kentish Town already has a well-established Forum, while Highgate, Dartmouth Park, King’s Cross and West Hampstead are also in the process of setting up forums, drawing up a neighbourhood plan, getting it ratified by the Town Hall and passing through a public vote.

Steering committee chairwoman Janine Griffis – who also chairs the Pilgrims to Willoughby Road Residents Association –  told the New Journal that the area had many planning issues the Forum could help with.
She said: “We can help by clarifying some of the planning guidelines we have.

“We would like to strengthen policy over basements, offer definitions on what ‘overdevelopment’ means, provide guidance on issues such as turning front gardens into car spaces, and protect the village from heavy traffic.”

They plan to hold an annual meeting and appoint a management committee in the spring.

The plans came about after a public meeting in September. Hosted by the Heath and Hampstead Society, the steering group was set up to gauge opinion and find volunteers. 

Ms Griffis said the group had been inspired by the village on the other side of Hampstead Heath.

She said: “We looked at Highgate and saw they have been at the forefront of neighbourhood plans. We wanted to gauge if one was desired here and as a result we got together a steering group to look at what a neighbourhood plan could do for us. As we considered it in more detail we saw this would be an opportunity not to be missed. If we achieve this it would mean we can have a bespoke plan of how Hampstead should develop.”

The Forum has decided the area they wish to cover and it includes swathes of Hampstead Heath. It runs into South End Green – stopping before Constantine Road – and takes in the Royal Free Hospital. To the north, it runs up to Hampstead Lane and takes in pockets of housing along the northern boundary of Camden. It roughly sits along the lines formed by the Hampstead Conservation Area.

Ms Griffis added that Hampstead was an area that had much to protect and many issues that residents could bring experience to bear on.

She said: “We will begin drawing up our neighbourhood plan to sit beside Camden’s own strategic plan. While Camden’s plans are well advanced, we felt we could strengthen it. Hampstead is a wonderful place to live in: what people value most is the village atmosphere, but being so desirable, there are many pressures on our area."

She added: "Developing our plan is not about saying no, or stopping development, or saying no to change at all, it is about providing a framework that shows how positive development can take place."

Ms Griffis said they would be drawing on the experience of well-established civic groups such as the Heath and Hampstead Society.

She said that this would make the Forum a strong voice for shaping planning issues in the area.

She added: "We are at the talking stage. We want to make sure all the residents associations in the area are happy that their neighbourhoods and streets and included in the area."

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