Lewisham Council’s Director of Planning, Emma Talbot has refused the application for the Bell Green Neighbourhood Area after a statutory consultation on the creation of a local Bell Green planning neighbourhood held between 26th May and 7th July 2022.
A Neighbourhood Forum is an organisation or group empowered by the local authority to lead the neighbourhood planning process in a neighbourhood area. The Bell Green Neighbourhood Forum submitted its application to Lewisham Council in a document on the 7th April 2022.
The BGNF submitted a map defining the neighbourhood area that they cover. This is an area defined by the forum that they wish to create a neighbourhood development plan for. The process for establishing a local neighbourhood forum are set out in legislation. At the time, the Government said that the Localism Act 2011 introduced new powers for people to make neighbourhood plans and neighbourhood planning orders, with reduced interference from central government. These new powers are in addition to existing opportunities for community involvement, which are already part of the planning system.
The members of the Bell Green Neighbourhood Forum have been told that Lewisham Council has rejected their proposals following the statutory consultation and that the Director of Planning has drafted a new reduced forum boundary.BG-Neighbouhrood-Forum-and-Area-applications-LBL-published-captured-230822
This has shocked and surprised local volunteers and they have asked local residents and organisations to write to Lewisham Council to express concerns. They say that the larger area has been extensively consulted upon for the past few years, and this has been supported widely. They maintain that the Council’s actions are unlawful and referred the matter to the Council’s Monitoring Officer, Jeremy Chambers who has a legal duty to ensure that Lewisham Council obeys the law.
Lewisham Council’s website says: “Neighbourhood planning is a method of planning led by the local community rather than by us or the Government.”
Full text of a letter send by former Bellingham Councillor Alan Hall:
Dear Jeremy Chambers,
I am writing to request that you intervene following Lewisham Council’s totally unexpected rejection of the Bell Green Neighbourhood Area. I have attached a map of the two areas. The larger area has been extensively consulted upon for the past few years, and this has been supported in the recent formal public consultation, which closed on the 7th July. The second is a counter proposal from Lewisham Council.
Like many other residents, local workers and businesses, I participated in the formal process, and was looking forward to getting involved in the neighbourhood’s future development.
The Bell Green Neighbourhood Forum has been advised by expert opinion at Locality, (the government-funded body that oversees Neighbourhood Planning) that this decision exceeds Lewisham’s legal power, is unlawful and therefore cannot stand. This opinion concurs with my understanding of the current law.
I would welcome your support to help us overturn this decision, giving us the right to develop a Neighbourhood Plan which will guide the redevelopment of Bell Green for a better future.
Deputy Chair, Save the Livesey Hall Campaign