Why I think the first Neighbourhood Forum for the City is a good idea

Update: the City Corporation’s Planning and Transportation committee voted unanimously to approve the Neighbourhood Forum.

Comments on the proposed Neighbourhood Forum in the north west of the City are due in by June 21. I’ve previously written about being in two minds over the proposal that covers the Barbican and Golden Lane Estates.

If the Forum is approved by the City Corporation’s Planning and Transportation Committee on July 18, it will give residents on the two estates, and local businesses, a powerful voice in what happens to the area, with powers to develop a Neighbourhood Plan.

The proposal document says that an estimated 4,194 people live in the area, which is 49% of the City’s residential population.

Barbican Estate, foreground, Golden Lane Estate further north

Proposed area of the Neighbourhood Forum

It can be argued that other residents in the north west, particularly around Smithfield where I live, could also do with more influence, since that is the area where greatest change is planned. More about that in my previous post.

There’s a case for saying that the forum should cover the new Culture Mile Business Improvement District, in the same way that a Neighbourhood Forum is aligned with the Victoria BID. Currently the only option under discussion for the BID is a community forum.

On reflection I’m in favour of going ahead with the current proposals.

As I understand it, the planning committee could, in theory, propose a different area – but that wouldn’t have much force unless other residents are arguing strongly for a wider area. I haven’t heard that from neighbours – or from elected Members.

The two estates have a lot of issues in common, which are mostly different from those around Smithfield. The Corporation’s “Culture Mile” programme linked us all up, but that’s now subsumed by the BID and the Destination City programme.

The Culture Mile BID team have said they will welcome resident engagement once they have their Board and other arrangements in place. It may make more sense to work with residents and businesses around specific projects, rather than create a community forum with little influence.

On the other hand it may be that the Culture Mile BID will offer a community forum that is an effective complement to the neighbourhood forum.

Either way I don’t think there’s a case for holding up the positive proposal from Barbican and Golden Lane Estates.

Proponents of the Neighbourhood Forum have suggested that those of us living further west might propose our own Smithfield Neighbourhood Forum. I haven’t detected any enthusiasm for that so far, but maybe we’ll be inspired once the new Forum gets going.

Meanwhile I’ve completed the very simple survey saying that I think the Forum is a good idea, and the area proposed is appropriate. So far 86 others contributed too.


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