Pioneering Highgate Neighbourhood Forum gives residents new powers to shape area

Highgate residents could install a pond in Pond Square or club together to buy prized land to stop it being built on, after they launched a groundbreaking new neighbourhood forum.

Around 70 residents crowded into The Bull pub in North Road last Tuesday (May 29) to set up the pioneering Highgate Neighbourhood Forum.

Speaking at the launch, newly elected committee member, Michael Hammerson, said the forum allowed residents the power not just to object to developments, but to shape them.

He said: “This gives us the power to bring in the Mary Portas recommendations, the government’s high streets tsar, to boost the support we give to shops in Highgate, if we wanted to.

“We can designate sites as community assets that ought to be used for a specific community purpose and could even buy them ourselves.

“It is all pioneering stuff. If residents decided they want a pond in Pond Square, we could do it.”

Launched in December by the government as part of David Cameron’s Big Society agenda, neighbourhood forums allow communities to draw up plans to decide what buildings and services they want to keep in the area.

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Campaigners say it is the first time residents across both the Camden and Haringey parts of Highgate can unite to play a meaningful role in shaping their area.

The committee is independent from the council and the government, and is not funded by either body.

Maggy Meade King, who was also elected onto the committee, said: “In a sense we can do anything because the legislation is so vague.

“So if a site presented itself, because we have the power to give outline planning permission, we can do a deal with a developer to meet the needs we require.

“We have never had that power before. Previously, it has all been about opposing. Now we can play an active role in how we want our area to be.

“But it is for the people of Highgate to say what they want.”

The committee is urging anyone who lives or works in Highgate to get in touch and have their say in deciding what the forum should do.

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