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Voters back new planning guidelines in Hampstead referendum

91.5 per cent support Neighbourhood Forum’s future development guidelines in referendum

29 June, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

VOTERS in Hampstead have ratified plans laid out by the area’s Neighbourhood Forum in a referendum, meaning the group’s guidelines for development in the area will now by enshrined in planning law.

The Forum has been working for five years to draw up detailed guidelines, under the 2011 Localism Act, and following a vote on Thursday they will now be adopted by the Town Hall. The ballot saw 1,484 votes cast in favour of adopting the plan, with 138 against – a majority of 91.5 per cent.

All residents registered in the area, which is made up of around 5,500 households, were eligible to vote. The 2011 Act aims to give people a stronger voice in shaping planning law, directly affecting the streets they live in. It means they can tell the Town Hall their priorities.

The plan has been shaped by a series of meetings, consultations and polls.

Once a draft is written, the Town Hall checks the document and passes it on to an independent planning inspector to ensure it does not clash with other policies. After this process is complete, a referendum is held. Similar votes have already taken place in West Hampstead, Kentish Town and Highgate, with other areas in the borough set to follow suit.

Hampstead Forum chairwoman Janine Griffis said: “It was five years’ hard work. We had to learn a lot about drafting planning law. It required a number of particular skills and we had the help of architects, planners, experts in transport, bio-diversity and conservation.”

Ms Griffis added that the plan could be used as a starting point for people in the area.

She said: “Moving forward, we will have a committee that focuses on planning applications and making sure the policies are referred to, both by people proposing projects and the planners making decisions.”

She added: “We do not want it to be a mechanism for turning down applications. We want it to be easy for people who are coming up with proposals to use and be used to shape applications. We want it to be a proactive plan, not just a set of rules that can be referred to when people write objection letters.”

The Hampstead plan has covered controversial planning areas such as the impact of new basements. It calls for “more stringent construction and management plans” and includes new rules that mean digging and other work can only take place during weekdays and specified hours.

It has also created a 15-metre exclusion zone around veteran and historic trees to protect roots. Under the Basement Construction Management Plan homeowners have to lodge at the Town Hall, they will be asked to identify and address any potential problems such schemes can cause in the sandy earth beneath the hills of the area before being given permission.

Ms Griffis added: “It isn’t about putting up roadblocks to development, saying you can’t do this. It is more about saying, if you want to do something, here are the details of what is possible and how. Neighbourhood planning is very much about people determining their area. It is about grassroots democracy.”

The area’s notorious school-run traffic problems saw the Forum draw up policies that will limit any new school opening unless it can be well served by public transport. It also limits the size of lorries coming through the streets for deliveries to both shops and for building projects.

Other key aspects cover new street furniture such as paving and lampposts, gates and fencing, protecting offices and shops and offering support for more social housing – a key issue in an area that has the highest incomes in the borough and has gradually lost affordable and social housing, according to the Forum’s research.

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