Tower Hamlets Mayor approves planning forum for Spitalfields residents and businesses

Spitalfields residents will have a say on planning matters. Photograph: Herry Lawford
New forum: Spitalfields residents will have a say on planning matters. Photograph: Herry Lawford

Plans for a neighbourhood planning forum in Spitalfields were approved by Tower Hamlets Council on Tuesday, in what has been called a “first step” towards localism.

After an 18-month delay, Mayor John Biggs signed off the proposed forum, which will have the power to draft a neighbourhood plan for Spitalfields.

As Spitalfields was designated a “business neighbourhood”, the neighbourhood plan, which the forum has five years to produce, will be put to two referendums: one of local residents and the other of businesses.

Map of the Spitalfields Business Neighbourhood Planning Forum
Map of the Spitalfields Business Neighbourhood Planning Forum

James Frankcom, Secretary of the Spitalfields Business Neighbourhood Planning Forum, said he was “very pleased” that the forum had been given the go-ahead.

Neighbourhood planning was introduced by the Coalition Government in 2011 and allows local residents to put forward development plans for the area.

Although the forum will not have the power to stop developments in the area, it will have to be consulted on all planning matters and has influence over the process.

Mr Frankcom said the forum will take pressure off the “small group of activists” who campaign on planning issues.

He added: “With the sheer volume and size of proposals that come through, it exhausts activists and groups and it is very expensive to challenge these things.

“This is a way of being proactive in our approach and try to anticipate what is likely to happen and have some influence.

“We’re very lucky to have a mayor who has the vision that is needed. Many mayors are very centralising but John Biggs is not like that.”

Town identity

Mr Frankcom believes that the creation of the forum in Spitalfields – which is a historical parish – is the “first step” towards more local powers for the area.

He said: “Spitalfields has a very strong sense of civic identity and community because of its diversity. We think and operate very much like a town.

“Gradually the people making decisions have got further and further away from where people actually live.

“We hope that this is just the start of the reversal. There are lots of people who would welcome the return of a town council.”

David Donoghue, Chair of the forum, said that the scheme was “localism at its best!”

Local residents are being urged to register as members of the forum, which can be done for free at spitalfieldsforum.org.uk

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