Local Plans For Local People
Eric Leach writes about the new neighbourhood development plans
Here in Ealing we are confronted by volumes and volumes of new Government edicts on how land should used in our town. At national level we have the spanking new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) launched just this week. At the regional level we have Boris Johnson’s new version of Ken Livingstone’s original The London Plan (TLP), which is our regional spatial strategy. In Ealing itself we have the recently Government blessed Ealing Local Development Framework Core Strategy (LDF CS).
Although I know plenty of Ealing residents, including me, who submitted suggested content to the NPPF, TLP and the Ealing LDF CS, I’m unaware of any of these content suggestions being adopted by Government locally, regionally or nationally. So what the NPPF, TLP and the Ealing LDF CS all have in common is that none of them are local plans for local people drawn up by local people. However there might be some hope on the horizon.
The arrival of the Coalition Government in Summer 2010 was accompanied by fanfares of rousing phrases like ‘The Big Society’ and giving/returning power to local people in plans and decisions about their streets and their communities. Much of this uplifting rhetoric achieves some real substance on 6 April 2012.when the 2011 Localism Act comes into force.
Over the last five years both Save Ealing Centre (SEC) and West Ealing Neighbours (WEN) have been heavily involved in trying to influence any developments in Ealing centre and West Ealing centre. Both organisations contributed heavily to the defeat – at a Public Inquiry - of Glenkerrin’s and Ealing Council’s aspirations for a 26 storey dominated residential development looming over Ealing Broadway Station. We also tried to institute a Judicial Review into the Dickens Yard development. However this failed and as we can all see that Dickens Yard Phase 1 is well underway - much to the joy of flat purchasers outside the UK who have acquired 50% of the properties.
At the end of 2010 both SEC and WEN felt that the Government’s localism aspirations provided opportunities for local people to construct new urban design plans instead of spending time trying to destroy urban design plans drawn up by people with no local knowledge or local involvement..
This approach bore fruit in March 2012. A Government grant of £40,000 was announced to be used by local people to carry out detailed urban spatial design work in the centres of Ealing and West Ealing. This project was conceived by WEN and SEC in January 2011 and is a pump priming Localism Act so-called Front-Runner initiative. Angie Bray MP helped SEC and WEN with this bid and gave local people face to face access to the Governemnt Minister responsible Greg Clark MP. The Ealing Business Improvement District (BID) company and West Ealing Traders were also consulted by SEC and WEN in setting up the projects.
These detailed plans – called Neighbourhood Development Plans (NDPs) – will be discussed and proposed by Neighbourhood Forums (NFs). Locally there will be a West Ealing Centre NF and an Ealing Centre NF. Each NF must comprise at least 21 people and these people must clearly represent a wide spectrum of stakeholders. NFs have a five year life.
Local Councillors may sit on our two NFs but not Ealing Council Officers. The Local Planning Authority (in our case Ealing Council) – by law – must support the NFs. NDPs are submitted by the NFs to Ealing Council, who appoint an independent inspector to review the plans. Once blessed by this inspector a local referendum is carried out. If the local community votes for the NDP then the plan joins the stack of plans along with the NPPF, TLT and the Ealing LDF CS.
The creation of the West Ealing Centre Neighbourhood Forum will be a unique opportunity for residents , local businesses and local service providers to get together and thrash out how exactly they would like West Ealing centre to remain or change.
29 March 2012