The Council will consider the proposed Neighbourhood Forums on Monday 22 July at a Cabinet meeting. The committee report can be downloaded here.
The proposal is to reject both Forums (as there are deep-seated divisions within the community in this part of Hackney on planning issues.) but to create a Neighbourhood Area which is different from either of the proposed areas. Designating a forum is a separate legal step to designating a neighbourhood area, and the council feels that it is legally obliged to establish an area due to the wording of the Act, Paragraph 14.3 states:
‘If a valid application to designate an area is made to the Council, some or all of the specified area has not been designated as a neighbourhood area, and the Council refuse the application because they consider that the specified area is not an appropriate area to be designated as a neighbourhood area, the Council must exercise their power of designation so as to secure that some or all of the specified area forms part of one or more areas to be designated as neighbourhood areas – Section 61G TCPA 1990.’
The problem is that if the Cabinet chooses not to exercise the power to designate a neighbourhood area simply on the grounds that the area is ‘not an appropriate area’ (a reason which more properly relates to its geographical boundaries, rather than on the legitimate grounds that declaring a Neighbourhood Area would exacerbate divisions over planning within the community and be inconsistent with the Council’s duties under the Equality Act 2000) then the Council will be caught by a provision which is designed to prevent council’s frustrating genuine attempts to create neighbourhood areas by disagreeing over the details of the boundaries.
Hackney Planning Watch will be writing to the Cabinet outlining this, but we are not confident that they will back down. If the report is agreed in its current form then we will need to hold a strategy meeting to decide our next steps. Stay tuned for further updates!