Issue - decisions

Herne Hill Forum application for neighbourhood area and forum designation

15/12/2017 - Herne Hill Forum application for neighbourhood area and forum designation

Cabinet Member for Planning, Regeneration and Jobs, Cllr Matthew Bennett, introduced the report and thanked the Herne Hill Forum (HHF) for their considerable work up to this point. The process had highlighted the challenges of drawing local boundaries for the purposes of neighbourhood plans. Many objections had been received to the original proposed area in Lambeth and consequently a number of areas had been excluded from the final area proposed for designation. Justifications for the final inclusion or exclusion of various areas was provided in the report. It was noted that by revising the boundary, the neighbourhood forum application would fail on a technicality; this however could be addressed moving forward.

 

The Delivery Lead Planning for Strategy and Policy, Catherine Carpenter, explained that the recommendation to Cabinet was not to designate the area as applied for by the HHF, but to designate a smaller neighbourhood area without areas F, G, H and I (as outlined in the report). However, three of the 21 individuals listed in the forum application now lived or worked outside of the area recommended for designation. Consequently, the Herne Hill neighbourhood forum did not meet the statutory requirement to have a minimum of 21 members living or working in the designated area. It was therefore recommended to refuse the neighbourhood forum application and direct officers to discuss with the HHF the possibility of submission of a revised application quickly.

 

The Vice-Chair of the Herne Hill Forum, Mr Yan Hawkins, then addressed the committee and raised concerns with officers’ interpretation of the HHF application, in particular relating to the areas now excluded from the proposed designated area. Issues included:

·         HHF had evidence that Areas F, I and G were associated, in the majority, with Herne Hill.

·         Locality guidance had been followed when consulting residents. A working group was organised and all local representative associations had been consulted. The process was overseen by a Lambeth consultation/communications officer.

·         In areas F and I, the majority of residents said they associated with Herne Hill. The officers’ consideration of these areas included that SE5 Forum was active there and did not want to be part of the neighbourhood plan. This statement was not substantiated.

·         Another objection related to Area F was false.

·         Officers’ comments that the data concerning areas F and I was ‘mixed’, was misleading. The report too often focused on the minority views of those who responded to consultations.

·         The HHF application acknowledged the blurring of boundaries and attested that multiple areas would benefit from the neighbourhood planning process. The process would not prevent areas of Herne Hill from being associated with other areas. For example, the development of a masterplan in Loughborough Junction did not have to be mutually exclusive.

·         Area H, the waste site, had a history of impact on the Herne Hill community and appropriate to consider for neighbourhood planning involvement if re-classified.

·         Paragraph 2.40 was outdated as Southwark Council have since decided that the velodrome was in favour of the Herne Hill designation despite not giving any representations.

·         The report artificially divided estates by excluding areas F and I. The original HHF application did not.

·         The recommendations disenfranchised participation unnecessarily and divided the community.

 

Catherine Carpenter responded to some of the points, noting that:

·         The evidence submitted by the HHF relating to Areas I and F, and where people associated with, was indeed given due regard by officers. However, the data was not a full scientifically valid survey and could not be considered definitive. In these areas, officers accurately stated that views were mixed.  This information was also only one consideration alongside other planning considerations that informed the officer recommendation for each of the areas.

·         In relation to paragraph 2.40, the decision made by the relevant Cabinet Member at Southwark Council differed from the recommendations made by Southwark officers.

·         The Council did not consider the areas of housing referred to as unified estates.

 

Cllr Jim Dickson commended the work of the HHF who had produced their application professionally and in the spirit of enquiry. He questioned the officers’ assessment that a neighbourhood plan could not easily co-exist with a masterplan. He also objected to the claim that the SE5 Forum was active in Areas F and I, and said it was regretful that the forum designation could not be granted on account of a technicality. Despite this, he said it was important to support the officer’s recommendations and proceed with the work. Cllr Dickson sought assurances from officers that a revised application would be processed quickly.

 

Other cabinet members made the following comments:

·         The Loughborough Junction Action Group (LJAG) had their own distinct local identity and did not consider themselves part of Herne Hill. It would therefore be difficult to endorse Area F as part of the Herne Hill neighbourhood area.

·         Lots of local groups had ambiguous feelings towards their local boundaries and this made the process of neighbourhood planning particularly difficult. The legislation imposed a bureaucracy on an issue that demanded more fluidity.

·         Members hoped the HHF could find an appropriate solution in the near future.

 

In response to further queries from members, Catherine Carpenter explained that:

·         The Loughborough Junction Masterplan was evidence that would eventually inform the review of the Lambeth Local Plan, and that three public consultations had already been conducted as part of the process. The LJAG had expressed their concern with the inclusion of Area F in the Herne Hill neighbourhood area.

·         In principle, it was possible for a neighbourhood plan to co-exist with a non-statutory area masterplan but the potential policy overlap between the reviewed Local Plan and a Herne Hill neighbourhood plan that related to Loughborough Junction would in all likelihood become quite complicated. Officers had given consideration to how the two could work together.

·         Officers would work with the HHF to resolve the membership issue and process a new application quickly. If HHF were able to submit a revised application quickly, it would be possible to have a decision made on the Lambeth side by end March 2018.

·         The process of bringing forward a neighbourhood plan must be led by the relevant neighbourhood forum, however officers had worked to mediate between local groups on a range of proposed neighbourhood plan areas throughout the borough. They would continue to do this moving forward.

 

The Chair expressed thanks to HHF for the amount of work completed to date. However she agreed that the best option was to proceed with the officers’ recommendations. Cllr Peck urged officers to process any revised application as quickly as possible.

 

It was RESOLVED:

 

1)         To note the responses to the publication of the Herne Hill Forum neighbourhood forum and neighbourhood area application as set out at Appendix 3 of the report.

2)         To refuse the application to designate the Herne Hill neighbourhood area as applied for insofar as it falls within the borough of Lambeth for the reasons set out in the report.

3)         To designate the Herne Hill neighbourhood area insofar as it falls within the borough of Lambeth as shown in the map at Appendix 5 for the reasons set out in the report. 

4)         To refuse the application for designation of the Herne Hill Forum as a neighbourhood forum for the reasons set out in this report.

5)         That Cabinet instructs officers (i) to publicise its decision in relation to recommendations (2) and (3) and (4) in accordance with the statutory requirements including preparation of any required statement of reasons (ii) to liaise with officers in Southwark regarding its decision (iii) if necessary to discuss with the Herne Hill Forum any re-submission of an application for designation as a neighbourhood forum.