In order to have the powers to prepare a neighbourhood plan, a neighbourhood forum has to be formally ‘designated’ by the relevant local authority. The original April 2017 application for a neighbourhood area at Old Oak was for a ‘cross-boundary’ area of 280 hectares. This required designation by the OPDC and by Hammersmith & Fulham Council. As of September 2017, only a much reduced area of 22 hectares has been designated by the OPDC. Hammersmith and Fulham designated a separate area which the Council has labelled as the ‘Old Oak Estate Neighbourhood Area’.
In their September 2017 decisions, both the OPDC and Hammersmith & Fulham Council ‘refused’ designation of the Interim Forum. This was on the grounds that the original April 2017 application did not include the required 21 members in either of the much reduced areas designated. (This was hardly surprising, given the scale of the boundary variations involved).
An updated application for designation of the Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum will be submitted shortly, with a list of over 50 members who live and work in the newly designated Old Oak neighbourhood area. The OPDC has promised to process this as swiftly as possible. The application will need to be published by OPDC for a further 6 week statutory public consultation, before a decision on designation is made.
Because the legislation is based on the principle of ‘one forum/one neighbourhood area’ it is not possible for the Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum to prepare a neighbourhood plan for the separate ‘Old Oak Estate Neighbourhood Area’ as designated by Hammersmith & Fulham’s Cabinet on September 4th 2017. This will therefore be an ‘orphan’ area until such time as some ‘qualifying body’ comes forward to seek designation as the neighbourhood forum for this area.
Designation of a neighbourhood area which no one has applied for is a very unusual event (and one which OONF believe to be contrary to the spirit if not the letter of the 2011 Localism Act). The same thing happened in 2013, when Hammersmith and Fulham chose to designate Eynham Road and surrounding streets as an unnamed neighbourhood area. This was in response to a cross-boundary designation application for the St Quintin and Woodlands neighbourhood.
That part of the proposed StQW neighbourhood in Kensington and Chelsea was duly designated in July 2013 and the StQW Neighbourhood Plan was completed and supported by a 92% majority at its referendum in February 2016. No application was submitted for a neighbourhood forum covering the Eynham Road area, and so this too remains an ‘orphan’ area without a forum.
All this may sound complicated, but the basic requirements for a neighbourhood forum to be designated are fairly simple. Under the 2011 Localism Act, a ‘qualifying body’ needs to meet the following criteria:
- a purpose or objective of promoting or improving the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of the area
- membership open to all who live or work in the area, including elected members (ward councillors for the area)
- a minimum of 21 people as members of the forum, from the above
- a written constitution
Once an organisation can demonstrate that it can meet these requirements, it becomes a ‘qualifying body’ and is eligible to submit an application for designation.
Click on this link to see a copy of the original April 2017 OONF designation application.final. The forthcoming updated application for the forum alone will cover similar ground to the back part of this earlier document, including the draft constitution.