Janine Griffis, Forum chair, sent an update to the Forum's members and supporters on 21 November 2019. She said: We wanted to let you know what the Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum has been doing since the Neighbourhood Plan was overwhelmingly approved in a public referendum last year. Most importantly, we have been seeking to ensure that the Plan is being properly applied in Camden's consideration of planning applications. But we are also involved in several other activities.
The reason for setting up the Forum five years ago was to create a Neighbourhood Plan. The intention – as with similar bodies all over the country – was to give the local community a greater say in how the area would develop in the coming years. The Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan 2018-2033 was therefore built with an enormous amount of consultation. It encompassed the expressed views of hundreds of people. And it was supported by extensive evidence.
So the Plan can truly be said to represent the wishes of the Hampstead community. After being supported by 92% of voters in a referendum, it was formally adopted in October 2018 as a statutory document alongside the Camden local plan. This means that people submitting planning applications, and the Camden officials who assess them, must take note of the Neighbourhood Plan’s policies, as well as those of the Camden plan and other regulations.
We felt it was important to monitor the implementation of the Plan. Thus, the Forum has submitted comments to Camden on more than 30 planning applications. In almost all the cases on which officials have made decisions, they have taken the Neighbourhood Plan’s policies into account. In addition, in nine cases Camden’s decisions have explicitly cited the Neighbourhood Plan even though the Forum itself did not submit any comment. We therefore believe that the Neighbourhood Plan has swiftly taken its rightful place within the planning architecture.
We have created a page on our website so that you can keep up to date with the Forum’s comments on planning applications, and Camden’s decisions that relate to the Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan. The Planning Watch page is at www.hampsteadforum.org/planningwatch
You can read the Neighbourhood Plan and its appendices by clicking here
Community Infrastructure Levy
We expect in the next few months to hold the next in a series of public consultations about potential projects that could be funded by the proceeds of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), which is a tax on developers. The money is intended to be spent on improvements to local infrastructure in the area. A proportion is allocated specifically to be spent in the ward where the development took place, and as a resulted Hampstead Town Ward had a pot of about £700,000 to be spent on local projects.
Councillors have already allocated most of this money to projects that received public support in the Forum’s earlier consultations. For example, new windows were recently fitted in the roof of the Hampstead Community Centre, enabling its many users to benefit from better temperature and lighting control, which was urgently needed. Earlier, CIL proceeds funded a new kitchen and toilets at the centre. Another notable example was the innovative refurbishment of a dementia ward at the Royal Free Hospital.
Though the majority of the Hampstead Town ward money has been allocated, a worthwhile amount remains. Therefore, we welcome ideas for future projects. Our councillors, who have the deciding role on how Camden will spend the money, have stressed that they want to hear ideas, large or small, for the future of our neighbourhood. We will pass on all ideas to Hampstead’s councillors. One caveat: we will only include in our public consultation those potential projects that have a realistic chance of receiving CIL funding. You can find more information, including a list of the projects so far, at our webpage http://www.hampsteadforum.org/cil2018.
The Forum on local issues
The Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum gets involved in other issues when we feel our efforts are aligned with the vision and policies of the Neighbourhood Plan.
For example, during our consultations on the Plan, residents bemoaned the loss of a significant number of local pubs. Accordingly, the Forum applied for and achieved designation by Camden of six local pubs and three other notable venues as Assets of Community Value (ACV). This means that if the owner wishes to sell such a site, the community can invoke a six-month delay so as to come up with an alternative purchase that would preserve the property’s existing use. Most recently, the Forum has achieved the renewal for a further five years of ACV status for the Magdala Tavern. There have been hopes – not yet realised – that the pub might reopen.
In keeping with the importance of traffic and transport issues in the Neighbourhood Plan, the Forum has made submissions on traffic schemes proposed by Camden. The Borough held a public consultation on changes to traffic arrangements on Hampstead High Street and Heath Street. The Forum, in a submission backed by extensive evidence, objected to the replacement of the pedestrian crossing between Boots and Gail’s with traffic lights – though we supported other parts of Camden’s plans. The replacement of the crossing was dropped.
We’re not going away….
We were officially designated by Camden as a Neighbourhood Forum in 2014. This status lasts for five years and has to be renewed thereafter. Camden recently held a public consultation on the renewal, and we’re pleased that it decided on 25 October to re-designate the Forum for a further five years. As you can see from the above, we still feel that there’s plenty for us to do. The Forum is composed entirely of volunteers living in Hampstead and was established under the Localism Act 2011, which gave communities the ability to shape the future of their areas through Neighbourhood Plans.