Closed minds

In the run up to the September 2017 decisions made by the OPDC Planning Committee, OPDC Board, and Hammersmith & Fulham Cabinet, we tried to make decision-makers aware that they were ignoring Government guidance on neighbourhood planning, as well as the very clear outcome of the public consultation on our proposals for an extensive Old Oak neighbourhood area.

Concerns over the Hammersmith & Fulham Council decisions

Our letter to members of the Hammersmith & Fulham Cabinet can be read here OONF letter to LBHF Cabinet.V4.  This includes a detailed annexe setting out why we think that the decisions recommended by officers were unjustified.  The inaccurate information about responses from the Old Oak Friends and Residents Association is a particular concern.

Unlike other London Boroughs, Hammersmith & Fulham still does not seem to understand the basics of neighbourhood planning.  As on a previous occasion in 2012, the Council’s response has been one of minimal compliance with the 2011 Localism Act by designating a much smaller area than that proposed, and one that nobody has applied for.

In designating a separate neighbourhood area, the Council has also frustrated the expressed wishes of those respondents to the consultation who wished to see Wormwood Scrubs, the Old Oak Estate, the Linford Christie Stadium, Woodman Mews, Scrubs Lane and College Park as part of a coherent wider neighbourhood area.

Concerns over the OPDC decisions 

OPDC officers have devoted an enormous amount of time and energy in finding reasons to justify removing 89% of the 280 hectare neighbourhood area originally proposed in the OONF designation application.  This was after 18 months of discussion on the proposed boundary.

A letter was sent to OPDC Board members from the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum, prior to the Board’s final decision on September 12th.  A copy can be read here StQW to OPDC on OONF designation. Sept 2017.

The principle applied by OPDC officers, that parts of a neighbourhood area have to show uniform or consistent characteristics to be ‘appropriate’ for designation, is entirely novel.  Nowhere else across England has this approach been applied, in the 2,000 or so neighbourhood areas designated to date.

London already has several neighbourhood areas as large as the 280 hectares proposed at Old Oak, and ones that include brownfield land, railway infrastructure, Opportunity Areas, open spaces of London-wide significance, and other features which OPDC officers seem to think should be classed as ‘diverse character areas’ and hence ‘inappropriate’ for inclusion as part of a single designated neighbourhood.

The attitude of both these local planning authorities is proving to be very defensive and negative.  Significant and sustained efforts by local residents to contribute to the planning of a future Old Oak have been rebuffed.

Both bodies are offering meetings to discuss alternative forms of ‘dialogue’ and ‘engagement’.  But this is not the same thing as granting local people what is now a widely accepted and meaningful role in the planning process, through preparation of a neighbourhood plan.

Parliament introduced neighbourhood plans in 2011 as ‘powerful tools’ for local communities to influence what sort of development takes place in their area (within clearly defined limits).  The OPDC and Hammersmith & Fulham Council appear to have taken fright at this prospect.  This does not bode well for creating a successful and sustainable new part of London.


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