The draft version of this resident-led Neighbourhood plan has now been completed, and has since been subject to a period of consultation with the local community, that concluded at the end of January. The updated version (referred to as the pre-submission draft) will be subject to a further statutory six week consultation, which we are hoping will happen towards the end of Summer 2017. Further updates might be necessary following this period, and a final submission then made to the Local Authority. The local authority is then responsible for publicising the plan, arranging for the independent examination and arranging for the referendum to take place.
Here we speak to residents who have been involved in preparing the draft Neighbourhood Plan. The Forum, which always welcomes new members, is composed of approximately 30 people; there is also a steering group made up of 8 residents, who have put in a lot of voluntary time to see it through to this stage. Some involved have experience as planners, architects, educators, events specialists as well as a wealth of knowledge about the local area.
Esme Yuill, Kay Pallaris, Melita Cawdell and Pauline Morrison speak with us now:
In your own words, what is a neighbourhood plan?
EY: A neighbourhood plan is a mechanism for a community to formally shape how their local built, and natural environment changes in the future. It is a document with legal status so can really help protect and enhance the assets that make Crofton Park and Honor Oak Park such lovely areas to live, work and play in.
How did the HopCroft Neighbourhood Forum come into being?
PM: At the time a lot of contentious planning applications were being submitted, and the response from the community was fragmented. As a Local Ward Councillor, I saw that a Neighbourhood Plan could help to ensure the community could have more influence over future planning applications, and through having a Forum the community would have the opportunity to develop more cohesive responses to incoming applications.
KP: It was largely due to several approvals for plans that were incongruous with the character of our neighbourhood, such as that opposite the Brockley Jack). If these types of developments continue to be allowed, then some of the reasons why we all moved here, and why we love our neighbourhood so much will be eroded beyond recognition. We are slowly creating places that are sterile, lacking in unique character, and are unhealthy. Planning and design has to start responding to the local context, to the evidence of a neighbourhood’s environmental, social and cultural assets.
What got you involved?
KP: I love this neighbourhood, and know only too well (from working in the field of regeneration) how outside investment which has no consideration for the local context and its heritage can ruin the character and sense of a place.
EY: When I finally managed to buy a flat and feel settled in an area, I wanted to use my knowledge (working for TfL) and experience to help that area thrive. Mostly my role has been to keep those with more planning expertise grounded. I’m sure others have got bored with me asking “will the ordinary person understand this?”
MC: I want to better my area and learn new skills and experience. Also to meet more people in my neighborhood. But I feel like I need to understand the plan better before I can help people better.
What is it that you think makes the Honor Oak and Crofton Park neighbourhood so special, and in need of a Neighbourhood Plan?
EY: HopCroft has loads going for it. You feel it when you first arrive and spot quirky local businesses and glimpse hilly green spaces in the distance. It reveals its charms slowly – a bit of street art here, an historic street there. But the people make it; they care and invest their time and energy into things like the library, Croftfest, community groups and events. It’s this stuff that we hope to protect and expand through the projects bit of the neighbourhood plan.
MC: I think something that makes the neighbourhood special is that there is a real community spirit when everyone gets together for events in the local area. To me it also feels alive as there are bars, a theatre and a dance hall all in a few yards of each other. Finally the history of the area is very rich and I would love to find out more about it.
PM: What is special about this neighbourhood is its healthy mix of residents – long standing and new – and of all different cultures and diversities.
KP: The hilly green spaces with stunning views and the wildlife of our railway cuttings, the community facilities, the independent local shops, its existing architecture, the friendliness of people who live here. We hope the neighbourhood plan can ensure these remain for years to come.
What are the aims of the Plan and what do you hope the Neighbourhood plan can achieve?
EY: Like other established residential areas of London, keeping ‘Hopcroft’ an attractive, diverse and thriving area is challenging. Regional and borough policies can not fully address issues such as traffic congestion, affordable homes, changes to buildings and public spaces, access to good quality green space, and a strong economy, at the very local level. Which is where it makes the most difference to people’s quality of life. Hopefully the neighbourhood plan will help us make ‘HopCroft’ a greener, healthier place that continues to cater for all types of people. It would help focus the energy of the community into projects that have wide benefits and give access to additional funding.
KP: Change is inevitable. So the neighbourhood plan is trying to be proactive, rather than our usual approach, which is to be reactive and annoyed by approval of poor planning applications.
The plan highlights green spaces which currently do not have protection and therefore calls for their Green Space designation. It also tries to address the environmental issues, which are often hidden and not much talked about and community meetings, like surface water flooding and air quality. At the moment, the neighbourhood has many community buildings and facilities, and so the plan ensures these remain and are enhanced, unlike in other neighbourhood’s in Lewisham, where these have been allowed to redevelop, leaving no social infrastructure.
How can other residents become involved?
PM: The main process for developing a neighbourhood plan is through consultation with the wider community. We are always keen to build up the core Forum and at every meeting we invite new members to join. But we understand not everyone can be an active citizen, but we try and show how planning affects everyone.
KP: It is paramount that everyone gets a chance to feed back comments. I would say, if you love your neighbourhood, and want to see it continue to improve, have its character protected and see it thrive, to get involved in feeding back comments. We may have missed something and some policies may not be what everyone desires for the neighbourhood. It can’t however, just be my voice, or the voice of those who have already joined the Neighoburhood Forum. The Neighbourhood Plan must reflect a diverse range of local knowledge and voices, from all ages and ethnicities.
ES: If you are interested in helping the plan, and the projects in it, progress; visit the website and send us an email!