Hampstead and Highgate civic groups united in opposition to planning reforms

Some worry about lack of protection for Metropolitan Open Land like Hampstead Heath in the new gover

Some worry about lack of protection for Metropolitan Open Land like Hampstead Heath in the new government's new planning proposals. Picture: André Langlois - Credit: André Langlois

Civic groups in Hampstead and Highgate are united in their opposition to the government’s much-maligned Planning for the Future White Paper.

Robert Jenrick outside 10 Downing Street; PA

Robert Jenrick outside 10 Downing Street; PA - Credit: PA

The Heath and Hampstead Society, the Highgate Society, and the Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum have all shared their disquiet at the plans – which would see the planning process revolutionised and a new zonal approach ushered in.

On behalf of the Heath and Hampstead Society, retired architect David Castle who heads its planning sub-committee said the society felt it the draft plans would “almost certainly be amended for better or worse” by parliament, but said it was “extremely worrying” that the protection of urban open spaces such as Hampstead Heath – as “metropolitan open land” – was not mentioned. READ MORE: ‘We have just twelve weeks to respond to these dangerous proposals’He added: “The proposed changes are the most radical since 1947 and amount to a restriction in the powers of local councils, their control over development and a total reduction in the ability of those most affected to object.”

Michael Hammerson of the Highgate Society said it thought the proposals were “disastrous”.

In response to the proposals, he wrote that the plans would entrench disadvantage, adding: “We believe that we are not alone in considering that the White Paper’s proposals bring more certainty to developers but actually disenfranchise communities, which is completely unacceptable.”

His response also called for encouraging affordable housing to be the priority, and slammed the watering down of Local Plans and the concept of introducing “protected”, “growth” and “renewal zones which would have different planning rules.

In its own response, the Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum (HNF) also criticised the loss of community involvement in the system. It said: “The prime motivation for the government’s proposals appears to be to make it easier for larger developments to be built, on the assumption that this will be enable provision of new housing to be accelerated.

“It is important that England has enough new housing. But the planning system should not be built exclusively around this national target at the expense of community involvement and local considerations.”

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The arguments made have been echoed by the London Forum and professional bodies such as the Royal Institute of British Architects.

In announcing the consultation and the White Paper, the government said the changes would “reduce the pressure” on developers, make the planning system more accessible, protect green spaces and encourage housebuilding.