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. In September 2017 only a much reduced area of 22 hectares was designated by the OPDC. Hammersmith and Fulham designated a separate area which the Council has labelled as the ‘Old Oak Estate Neighbourhood Area’.
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 as an 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. We hope that such a body will form on the Old Oak Estate and will apply to LB Hammersmith & Fulham for designation, so that a neighbourhood plan can be prepared for that area.