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Rampant development and high street woes drive support for Hampstead pressure group

13:00 04 February 2014

Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum brain storming session at Burgh House

Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum brain storming session at Burgh House

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Fears that rampant development and struggling high streets could see Hampstead “change out of all recognition” are contributing to a surge in support for a new pressure group, a campaigner says.

Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum brain storming session at Burgh HouseHampstead Neighbourhood Forum brain storming session at Burgh House

Janine Griffis said worries about what Hampstead will be like in five years time are a major motivation for many who are getting involved with plans to create a Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum under the Localism Act, which, it is hoped, could wield real power over planning matters.

More than 40 people gathered to express their thoughts on the area’s future at the first community engagement event held by campaigners – a mass brainstorming session at Burgh House in New End Square on Sunday.

Campaign spearhead Ms Griffis said: “There’s kind of a concern and fear that Hampstead will change out of all recognition.

“I think it’s based on the fact that property is worth so much and rates are so high in Hampstead High Street and Heath Street, people are afraid that shops they love won’t be able to stay.

Janine Griffis Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum brain storming session at Burgh HouseJanine Griffis Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum brain storming session at Burgh House

“People really care about Hampstead and want to make sure it doesn’t lose its special character.”

Ms Griffis said the meeting had been a great success and was the first of many that will feed into a “neighbourhood plan” to be drawn up by the forum.

“It was really to start to establish some themes upon which our plan will be based, everything from what Hampstead should look like in five years, to how to protect our open spaces and how to keep our heritage,” she said.

“We were really taken aback with the level of enthusiasm.”

Guests were encouraged to let their imaginations run free and Ms Griffis said about 50 suggestions were put forward, with a full list to be published this week.

Ideas included keeping streets leafy by insisting two trees are planted for every one that is felled, while the impact of lorry traffic, large developments and basement excavations were hot topics.

Ms Griffis, who is chairman of the Pilgrim’s to Willoughby Residents’ Association, added: “People came along because they want to keep the village vibrant, maintain the sense of neighbourhood and make it a place that people of all ages can live in for all of their lives.”

Visit www.hampsteadforum.org for more information and to register your interest.

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