In England, Politics Pervade New Community Planning Initiative

When the Localism Act was adopted in 2011, local communities gained broad new planning powers across the UK. But as recent events in one London suburb demonstrate, politics and ideological conflict have found a home in the participatory process.

Kerwin Datu examines how "one of the more interesting sets of measures" to arise out of the new planning legislation has played out in the north London suburbs of Stamford Hill and Stoke Newington in the borough of Hackney. "The measures allow residents and workers in a local community to form an organisation and apply to become a 'neighbourhood forum' associated with a defined neighbourhood area," he explains. "If approved, the forum becomes 'entitled' to 'require' that the local authority make neighbourhood development plans and neighbourhood development orders, based on drafts that it submits, that can determine what kinds of development are and aren't allowed in the area, and what kinds of development do or don't require approval from the local authority."

"What this should mean is that the residents and businesses of any neighbourhood, however small, can slowly become their own planning authority, collectively shaping the kind of development they want, and making life easier for themselves in the long run."

"But it also means that the kinds of local politics usually conducted by councillors and local lobbyists may now be played out in the homes and shops of every affected neighbourhood, or through neighbours facing off against each other in the streets."

Full Story: England's experiment with neighbourhood planning brings ethnic tensions to the surface

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