New Hampstead neighbourhood forum will have ‘real power to shape area’s future’

Residents hoping to set up a Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum gather on the high street. Picture: Nigel

Residents hoping to set up a Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum gather on the high street. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A collective of residents with real power to shape Hampstead’s future – that is the dream of campaigners bidding to set up a new community pressure group.

Highgate, Dartmouth Park and Kentish Town already have them, and now the people of Hampstead are hoping to launch their own neighbourhood forum.

These are bodies that came into being under the Localism Act in 2012 and are designed to give residents a say in decisions that impact on their area.

In Hampstead, it could give extra clout to residents on contentious matters such as developers digging mega-basements or the area’s chronic traffic problems.

The forum would be tasked with drawing up a neighbourhood plan which Camden Council’s planners would have to take into consideration.

Janine Griffis, 57, chairman of the Pilgrim’s to Willoughby Residents’ Association, said: “A neighbourhood plan that we develop would sit alongside Camden’s main strategic documents and carry, perhaps, even greater weight than some of the conservation area guidance that already exists. Hopefully it would be a positive tool for shaping the way Hampstead develops.

“You might be able to have more protection of local and community facilities such as shops, to prevent them being transferred to housing. You could also elevate the basement guidance to a more strategic level and beef it up a bit.

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“One thing a lot of people say they don’t care for is the traffic. Perhaps there’s some scope for more limitations. There are many things that one could do.”

The campaign for a neighbourhood forum in NW3 is gathering pace after it was launched at the Hampstead Christmas Festival last month. But before it can become “a force to be reckoned with”, the hope of campaign leader Ms Griffis, of Denning Road, its most pressing concern is to settle on the boundaries of the area it covers.

The proposal takes in Hampstead Village and South End Green, as well as parts of Hampstead Heath.

A steering group has been formed and will next meet on January 8, while anyone who lives or works within the forum area is invited to join.

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