Report shows London's lack of neighbourhood planning

Neighbourhood planning is failing to take off in London because of a lack of support from some councils and the difficulty of defining urban neighbourhood boundaries, experts have said, after a report found that just one community-made blueprint has been adopted in the capital.

Norland: area has only adopted neighbourhood plan of possible 1,200 in capital [Photo credit]Ewan Munro/Flickr
Norland: area has only adopted neighbourhood plan of possible 1,200 in capital [Photo credit]Ewan Munro/Flickr

The London Assembly planning committee’s study revealed a lack of progress with neighbourhood planning in the capital since the government’s flagship localism policy was introduced in April 2012.

Only a handful of neighbourhood plans are likely to be in place in London by the time of next year’s general election, the report says. The study found that only around 80 of London’s 1,200 neighbourhoods have expressed interest in neighbourhood planning. Meanwhile, just one neighbourhood plan has been adopted as yet – Norland in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

The report said while it is difficult to pinpoint reasons for the low take-up, evidence suggests that the policy is designed for "smaller, more homogeneous areas than London".

In contrast, about 1,200 communities across the country have embarked on neighbourhood planning, the latest figures show, with 29 plans adopted or "made".

But neighbourhood planning consultant Tony Burton said he does not accept that progress in the capital has been slow, adding it is "pretty impressive" that 80 plans are under way in London within the first three years of the policy.

However, he added: "London has too many examples of local authorities dragging their feet or being deliberatively obstructive of neighbourhood forums’ efforts to get going and start preparing their neighbourhood plans."

Consultant Stephen Tapper, vice-president emeritus of the Planning Officers Society (POS) and neighbourhood planning convenor, said councils differ over the degree to which they promote neighbourhood planning in their areas.

But he added that the POS always expected that neighbourhood planning would not be easy in urban areas. Creating neighbourhood forums within "complex, diverse and sometimes very poor neighbourhoods" is going to be difficult because communities are not so clearly defined, he said.

He said: "The designations have taken a long time in London boroughs. It is hard to do, because these are overlapping communities with overlapping interests and in some places are very competitive."

Mike Kiely, director of planning at the London Borough of Croydon, said neighbourhood plans outside the capital have often aimed to influence where development should go. However, Kiely said because London is largely brownfield land, the key planning issue is often the design of a scheme rather than its location. "For this reason there is much less neighbourhood planning activity," he said.

Plan update

  • Residents of Malmesbury in Wiltshire voted on a draft neighbourhood plan for their area yesterday.

  • Arun District Council in Sussex has voted to adopt or "make" three neighbourhood plans – Bersted, Littlehampton and Yapton.

  • A prospective neighbourhood forum for Heathrow Villages in Middlesex, covering the five villages between the airport and the M4, was due to be launched yesterday.

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