Topic Groups

During 2014 we held a number of Topic Group Meetings aimed at discussing some of the issues that residents and businesses had raised.  These discussion groups are now closed.  Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the discussion.  Your ideas, thoughts and fears have been included in the latest strategy documents:  There will be further opportunities to help develop these ideas and others later in the process.

 

Notes of each meeting are available below:

TOPIC GROUPS

COMBINED ENVIRONMENT, LICENSING, GREENING  GROUP

Note of meeting Wednesday 25 February Licensing and Environment issues

 

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES – NOISE, AIR QUALITY, REFUSE, STREET MAINTENANCE

Note of meeting Wednesday 22 October Environmental issues

HOUSING

Note of meeting Wednesday 3 September Housing

CONSERVATION AND CULTURE

Note of meeting Wednesday 3 September Conservation and Culture
LOCAL ENVIRONMENT

Note of meeting Tuesday 9th September  Local Environment

DEVELOPMENT AND CROSSRAIL 
Note of meeting Tuesday 30th September Development and Crossrail

 

 

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TERMS OF REFERENCE

What is it all about?

In 2011, the government swept away reams of planning legislation and policy advice, to produce a short document called the Nation Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).  In so doing they opened the door to new planning thinking.  They tasked local planning authorities, like Westminster City Council (WCC), to think again about what planning should include.  The new policy is also very clear about what planning should not be.  Government was concerned about the planning process delaying development and established the principle of a presumption in favour of sustainable development.

In addition the legislation that went with the new policies established a principle of localism.  That means that people within their local area can, for the first time, establish their own planning policies, for their own neighbourhoods that have a legal (statutory) status.

This does not mean a free for all.  Westminster City Council and the Greater London Authority (GLA) both hold planning powers and still have the right to establish strategic policies.  A neighbourhood plan, like ours, does not have the power to overturn those policies.  However non-strategic decisions we make, and the policies that come out of them, will have a legal status and will take precedent over the council’s existing non-strategic policies.

“Once a neighbourhood plan has demonstrated its general conformity with the strategic policies of the Local Plan and is brought into force, the policies it contains take precedence over existing non-strategic policies in the Local Plan for that neighbourhood, where they are in conflict.” (Par 185 NPPF)

 What is considered strategic?

  • The homes and jobs needed in the area; the provision of retail, leisure and other commercial development;
  • The provision of infrastructure for transport, telecommunications, waste management, water supply, wastewater, flood risk and coastal change management, and the provision of minerals and energy (including heat);
  • Provision of health, security, community and cultural infrastructure and other local facilities; and
  • Climate change mitigation and adaptation, conservation and enhancement of the natural and historic environment, including landscape. (Par 156 NPPF)

However this does not stop us collecting and monitoring the data about such issues as housing provision in our neighbourhood, and using that data to assist the council in maintaining robust policies for us.  We think the argument on strategic policies will be more readily heard if we work with our neighbouring forums, like Soho, Marylebone, Mayfair and FitzEast and by maintaining a constructive relationship with the planning authorities.

What can the topic groups talk about?

We don’t wish to put any restrictions on the topic groups.  Their topics come out of the initial consultation that we did and have been modified by discussions at our public meeting in July 2014.  Our primary role must be to make a neighbourhood plan that will be popular enough to receive a yes vote from businesses and from residents, and robust enough to withstand the technical assessment that it must go through before Westminster City Council can accept it as policy.  But we also recognise that the power of the neighbourhood forum can be used for all sorts of community initiatives.  We don’t want to stifle those initiatives.

We think the best way of achieving a better community and a better plan is to work with as many local people, businesses and organisations as possible and to work constructively with Westminster and the GLA.

Government has defined ten subjects that Westminster’s local plan MUST cover at a strategic level.  In London some of those duties are also given to the GLA.  The highlighted topics are those that people told us are most important for Fitzrovia.

These are:

  • Housing
  • Business
  • Infrastructure
  • Minerals
  • Defence, national security, counter-terrorism and resilience
  • Environment
  • Historic environment
  • Health and well-being
  • Public safety from major accidents
  • Viability and deliverability

In addition the NPPF sets local authorities the task of being proactive in establishing a better environment in which to live, work and play, via the planning system.  They set out a number of topics.  These are listed in the diagram below and highlighted in blue.  On the other side of the diagram, and highlighted in red are the topics that Fitzrovians want to discuss.  You will see that they are all valid planning issues and that they all relate to governments priorities.  However this diagram also shows the complexity of some of these issues.  For example, when we think about the night-time economy we have to think about it from the residents’ point of view, about issues like noise and public safety, but we are also tasked by government with thinking about it from the point of view of economic vitality.

 

You can see from the diagram above that this is a complex task.  Issues don’t fall neatly into one category.  There will be much cross-over and inevitably some differences of opinion.
PowerPoint Presentation

Handling conflict

Do not shy away from the difficult issues.  Conflict means that people care about the area enough to stick their necks out.  It is our job as a forum, to recognise different points of view, to record that there are those differences and then to find a way of resolving them, as well as we can.

We will encourage topic groups who find themselves conflicted to spend the time to discuss, to listen to the other viewpoints and to try and find compromises.

In the end your ideas will be turned into a set of policies that will be decided by referendum.  If they don’t receive majority support the referendum will fail.

How will we work?

We would like each group to establish its own method of working.  Some of you might want to meet in a local café, or in someone’s home.  Some groups might prefer to meet less often, but to circulate emails, or set up a Facebook page, or a Twitter account.

We encourage you to invite specialists to help you formulate your ideas.  For example if the transport group wants to look at better ways of encouraging cycling and walking, we can find experts who will come and talk to you, and we can also help with a venue.  You might also want to work together with other groups on some topics.

These topic groups are an important part of the neighbourhood plan public consultation, so the wider your reach, the better.

How can we best help the Neighbourhood Plan?

There are some really helpful pieces of work that we hope you will want to tackle.  These relate to the stages that the Executive Committee will have to go through as they work on the neighbourhood plan documents.

Establishing Issues and Options
The establishment of topic groups has already made some progress to setting issues and priorities.  Please continue to do that within each group?

Evidence Gathering
We can’t work on hunch.  We will have to present reasoned arguments backed up by credible facts. If you have figures, research or data of any type please share it with us.  We will place it all on the website.  If you can’t find the information your group needs we can help you search it out, or even find some funding for the necessary research.

Analysis of the Existing Situation
We encourage you to go out and really look at FitzWest with a critical eye.  Take photographs, make notes and draw diagrams. Get to know your area and how it ticks. Talk to the kids, the older people, to the traders.  Try to find out how their mental map of the area differs from yours.   This is the great advantage of a neighbourhood plan.  We know our area better than anyone else does.  Be creative in the way you think about it.

Opportunities for Development
There is pressure for development round here, and that’s not going to go away.  Where should it go?  Are there sites that will inevitably come up over the next 15 years that we must think about now – before it’s too late?

Opportunities for improvement
Development in this area will bring with it the potential for improvements in the area.  Every development will have to make a contribution to the area, improving the sustainability, reducing negative impacts and providing positive ones.  What are those opportunities, where do they lie?  What should developers be invited to contribute to in our area?

Place Making
Fitzrovia is a fantastic place; the architecture is lively and varied. Our street cafes mean that street life is enjoyable and friendly.  How can we maintain and enhance this.   What are the landmarks and meeting places in Fitzrovia, how can we conserve and improve them?  How can we manage things like vehicles, pollution and rubbish so as not to scar our environment?  How can we ‘green’ such urban spaces.

Drawing the diagrams
As you work on your topics, look for patterns, zones and sub-neighbourhoods.  Are there a series of quiet streets that could be pedestrianised, or traffic calmed.  Where are the cycle routes, how do they link together?  What about building heights, or clusters of function?  Where are the places to sit and watch the world go by, where cafes might prosper.  Where is the best place for housing?  Where should children play?

Drawings can save a thousand words.  Don’t feel held back if you aren’t that good at drawing.  If you like we can introduce you to local artists and architects, who can translate your thoughts into visuals.

 Keeping records

Each group will need to ensure that its work is well recorded and can be scrutinised.  We plan to establish a place on the website where your facilitators (all of whom are Executive members) can place notes of meetings and any information or data as you create it.

Take the opportunity to look at what other groups are doing as well.  In-keeping with our policy of transparency, all topic group meetings will be open to any forum member.

Next Stage  Policy Making

Once all the topic groups have established their priorities we will have several meetings together in larger groupings and as a forum.  In this larger group, we can make the whole thing coalesce.  The executive, advised by the topic groups and the forum will have the responsibility for writing draft policies and collating all the information and ideas into the final document.

What about things that are not planning?

There is nothing to stop topic groups deciding to take initiatives on issues that are not wholly planning issues.  We suggest that before embarking on anything major, that you bring your ideas to the attention of the Executive Committee and possibly the whole forum.

We might be able to help you find funding, or put your group in touch with others who have similar ambitions.  Below is a reminder of our mission and objectives.

Mission

Our mission is to ensure that Fitzrovia develops as a habitable, sustainable and neighbourly community through all means available including planning, collaborative working and community enterprise.

Objectives

  • To promote the social, economic and environmental well-being of Fitzrovia, including with Westminster Council and other relevant bodies;
  • To produce, and help to implement a Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Development Plan that delivers the vision of the Forum and the wider community;
  • To help foster community spirit and encourage local democracy and civic pride.

Useful Documents

Westminster Topic Based Discussion Documents
https://www.westminster.gov.uk/westminsters-city-plan-city-management-policies-revision

Westminster Strategic Plan
https://www.westminster.gov.uk/westminsters-city-plan-strategic-policies

The London Plan
http://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/planning/london-plan

The National Planning Policy Framework
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/6077/2116950.pdf

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