We wanted to bring you up to date on the Forum's activities.
You will remember that the main purpose of the Forum is to draw up a Neighbourhood Plan that will have an important influence on planning decisions in our area. Work on writing the Plan continues, following extensive consultation with Hampstead residents and businesses.
The Forum committee has spent more than a year drafting and re-drafting the Plan, as well as on compiling the evidence to support our policies. We have conferred with Camden Council to confirm that we are complying with the laws and practices governing neighbourhood planning.
Having polished the Plan as best we could, the committee decided that it would be helpful to ask professional consultants to review our latest draft so as to make sure that it will meet our aims and objectives. We successfully applied for a grant to fund this work and our consultants, Fortismere Associates, are currently reviewing the Plan.
Following this exercise, we will submit the Plan to Camden for comments. The next step will be to consult you, our members, and we aim to do this in the autumn. We will take account of the comments we receive, and the Plan will then go to an independent inspector. The final stage will be a referendum in which Forum area residents will be able to vote. If approved, it will take its place as a statutory instrument alongside Camden’s own local Plan.
The work sometimes does seem endless but we are encouraged by the example of our neighbours in Kentish Town who recently had their Plan approved in a referendum, following five years of hard work.
Meanwhile, the Forum has been continuing its work on various projects which are related to the policies that will be included in the Neighbourhood Plan.
Assets of Community Value
The Forum has been successful in having the Wells Tavern and Pentameters Theatre designated by Camden as Assets of Community Value (ACV). Last year, the Forum secured ACV status for the Keats Community Library, as well as the King William IV and Duke of Hamilton pubs.
ACV status means that the freeholder must notify Camden before selling the property. Should a community group express interest in bidding, a six-month moratorium is invoked to give the group time to raise funds. In addition, the Council will consider ACV status as an indicator of local support when deciding on planning applications that would involve the loss of community facilities.
During consultation on the Neighbourhood Plan, many people expressed concern about the loss of community amenities such as pubs, as a result of conversion to other uses, particularly residential. Last year the Forum asked members to nominate their favourite pub and give us their reasons why it was important to community life. This evidence helped support our successful applications to Camden.
Meanwhile, the Old White Bear remains closed. We believe that its holding company ownership has changed, and local residents are trying to establish the identity and intentions of the new owner. The Magdala closed more recently. The lease is on the market and the owners are taking offers from interested parties to reopen the ground floor and basement as a pub.
Community Infrastructure Levy
In mid-July, we expect Camden’s cabinet member for regeneration, transport and planning to approve our short list of projects to be funded through the new Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). This is a new tax on development, of which 25% of the proceeds must be reserved for local projects to help offset the impact of development.
The Forum led the consultation on setting local priorities earlier this year. The most popular included projects to help Burgh House, Keats Community Library, restoration of Oriel Place Garden, tree planting, new heritage-style rubbish bins and others. More information about CIL and the short list put forward by our local councillors can be seen on our website.
Last winter, the Forum conducted a study to test air quality in the area. The results were sobering. All locations near major roads had levels of N02 that put local health at risk – a few locations had levels twice the EU limit.
The Forum will be re-testing this summer when traffic should be at its lightest to measure the full impact that traffic is having on our environment and our health. We will keep members updated.
Protecting local trees
As part of our Plan, we are developing a list of locally important trees. We now have 58 trees that have been nominated, thanks to our members.
Work on a veteran tree survey, in conjunction with the RedFrog Neighbourhood Forum, is also progressing. Hampstead Heath’s veteran tree experts are lending their advice. The Hampstead region had many fields as late as 1866 with oak trees along the hedges. There are still many of these old hedgerow trees on Hampstead Heath. So far we have found 39 veteran trees – possibly 250 to 400 years old – within the gardens and streets of the two neighbourhoods.
If any members can see a tree with veteran features (holes, dead wood, large and wrinkled trunk) in their gardens or elsewhere, or trees with holes that might be used by woodpeckers, other birds or bats, Vicki Harding would be very grateful for the information: [email protected]