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Our community will have its say on its own future

09 February, 2018

An artist’s impression of the new-look market area in Church Street

• THE Church Street ward Neighbourhood Forum feels vindicated by the clear support Sadiq Khan has thrown behind our long-held aim, not just to allow, but to demand a residents’ ballot on the Church Street master plan.

The Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration, just published, includes a requirement to ballot residents as a condition of schemes receiving mayoral funding. What Westminster Council bills its “largest regeneration scheme to date” affects our neighbour-hood profoundly.

Scandalously, with the publication of this master plan, the council announced the demolition of over 700 homes, naming blocks explicitly, without having spoken with affected residents first. The words the council representatives now use when arguing against the Mayor of London’s announcement: that instead of allowing ballots he “should let the people really speak”, ring decidedly hollow.

Our neighbourhood forum is not a “special interest group” as some have dubbed it dismissively. Just like any other forum in the country it is an independent association of residents, businesses and organisations, empowered by (a Conservative) government to make a neighbourhood plan for its area.

Our members have always embraced change, with the renewal of our neighbourhood at heart: the building of new homes to replace dilapidated ones, additional homes especially for the many in dire housing need, improvements to the existing housing stock, environmental and infrastructure measures and the sustainable growth of our numerous independent small businesses.

Over the years many of us have worked in close co-operation with the council to achieve the kind of renewal our neighbourhood so badly needs.

Sadiq Khan’s announcement is all the more important at a time when the council appears to be abandoning a key principle of what this co-operation has been based on: the 2013 ballot on the previous, and unrealised scheme, the Futures Plan. Who in their right mind would want to be involved in a scheme they have had no meaningful say on?

Council leader Nickie Aiken may rightly say that “many things in an area can change following any specific vote”. It is a vote, however, on the scale of the planned demolition or refurbishment of homes, on the principles of urban design, and on the degree of intervention required that gives these plans legitimacy; even if their details may be adapted over time.

We urge the council to take this significant, and soon to be enforceable, position of the Mayor of London seriously and finally start engaging with residents and stakeholders in a meaningful way.

Local citizen’s priorities on what they want to see happening in their neighbourhood must be taken into account in a way that ensures broad support by a community that will no longer be deprived of having its say.

ACHIM VON MALOTKI
Chairman of Church Street Neighbourhood Forum

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