Search

Whatever happened to ‘The Big Society’? Neighbourhood forums battle on with little government support

PUBLISHED: 08:30 23 June 2014

Volunteer for the Highgate Nighbourhood Forum, including former chair Maggy Meade-King, go on a walkabout to garner residents' views. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Volunteer for the Highgate Nighbourhood Forum, including former chair Maggy Meade-King, go on a walkabout to garner residents' views. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

David Cameron’s “Big Society” dominated headlines in the run-up to the 2010 general election as he pledged to give people the power to shape their own communities. Four years on, the Conservative leader’s flagship policy has seemingly been relegated to the sidelines.

In Camden, residents have seized upon the opportunity to have their say on the things that matter to them, including traffic, parking and overdevelopment.

Seven neighbourhood forums - approved pressure groups dedicated to producing a neighbourhood plan to shape the future of their communities - were set up under the Localism Act 2011.

But, as yet, none of their plans have won approval, begging the question: is localism working?

Rachel Allison, the newly appointed chair of Highgate Neighbourhood Forum, responds with an emphatic yes.

“It’s actually helped to put Highgate on the map,” the former Lib Dem Haringey councillor said. “People feel they are all getting a say in their community.”

Unlike other forums, Highgate’s group has not won large government grants to appoint consultants to help them write the plan and have had to rely on members’ goodwill and free time to put the document together.

Volunteers have been collaborating on the Highgate Neighbourhood Plan for more than a year and hope to submit it to Haringey and Camden councils next month.

Maggy Meade-King, who stepped down as the forum’s chair last month after three years, agreed with Ms Allison that localism is working in Highgate, but criticised the lack of support from the government.

“I don’t think the government had urban communities in mind at all. It was more about rural communities, so I think they were surprised that all these urban communities wanted a neighbourhood plan,” she said.

“Some forums were able to get £20,000 right at the beginning but we weren’t formed quickly enough to do that because we had the complication of being cross-borough.

‘‘It’s an enormous amount of work. The neighbourhood plan has exhausted a lot of us.”

Despite requiring hours of commitment, forums across the borough have gained hundreds of members eager to have their say on their neighbourhood.

Janine Griffis set up Hampstead’s forum in December last year in response to concerns about basement developments and struggling high streets.

“To give decision-making power to local groups is a very good thing,” said Ms Griffis, also chairman of the Pilgrim’s to Willoughby Residents’ Association. “It should be a powerful tool, but of course you have to conform to existing legislation, but I would agree that we should.”

Ms Meade-King said it is still too early to say whether the process will really put power into the community’s hands.

“There’s only been about 10 neighbourhood plans go through referendum,” she said.

“We don’t really know the relationship between the plan and what the councils can do to make them happen.

“And there’s no doubt developers will challenge this.”

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hampstead Highgate Express visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hampstead Highgate Express staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hampstead Highgate Express account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

17:20

A Belsize Park tennis club says it fears its days are numbered as it believes Camden Council has earmarked the site for housing development.

13:31

Orthodox rabbis in St John’s Wood and Golder’s Green have called on their congregations to boycott Hampstead Jewish cultural centre JW3 in protest at the cultural centre’s promotion of ‘lifestyles and behaviours forbidden by the Torah’.

12:53

Police are appealing for help to find a missing Camden teen.

Friday, July 21, 2017

A devoted remain MP was quizzed this week by a young Brexiteer during a politics summer school.

Friday, July 21, 2017

In this week’s Ham&High we spoke to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels actor Vas Blackwood told us about his life, loves and respect for former Labour leader Michael Foot.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Plans to part-privatise council homes and business in a multimillion-pound deal were reapproved within 40 minutes last night amid cries of “shame” from the public.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A serial-fraudster will spend four years behind bars following a scam in which he posed as a jet-setting businessman dealing in fine wine and champagne.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Chalk Farm tube station will be closed this weekend as work begins on replacing the station’s two lifts.

PROMOTED CONTENT

Navigating divorce or separation when there are children involved can be emotionally difficult and confusing for everyone involved. Here, Jessica Palmer of Streathers Solicitors in Hampstead, offers answers to commonly asked questions

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now