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‘Let families build home extensions’ plea

Neighbourhood Forum’s draft plan includes bid to encourage residents to stay in the area

23 April, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

The Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Forum want to protect its ‘village feel’

PROTECTING what is special and shaping future development are the key planks of a new neighbourhood plan, due to be revealed next week.

The Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Forum has spent the past four years drawing up a framework for the area, which covers streets from Churchill Road in the south up to Swains Lane in the north, Dartmouth Park Hill to the east and Parliament Hill Fields to the west. The draft plan will be presented at the Forum’s annual meeting on Wednesday and gives people living in the area the chance to comment on the project.

The Forums were set up under the 2011 Localism Act and aim to give residents a stronger role in shaping planning policy. If it is ratified by Forum members, the plan will then be surveyed by a Whitehall planning inspector. It will then go to a referendum and, if a majority vote in favour, it will become part of planning law. Kentish Town, High­gate, West Hampstead and Hampstead have all either had plans ratified by a referendum or are set to do so, with other areas in Camden also seeking to establish a Neigh­bourhood Forum.

Dartmouth Park committee member Ben Castell told the New Journal it was a chance for the community to have real power in shaping the streets they live in. He said: “It is important to have a Neighbourhood Forum. Communities around the country have been given the chance to do this and the intention is to put much more power and control in their hands.”

Mr Castell cited the potential redevelopment of Murphy’s builders depot, which snakes behind Highgate Road and Gordon House Road down to Kentish Town, as a space the Forum could shape. He said: “No plans have yet been drawn up for it but we have been led to believe Murphy’s might relocate.”

Camden Council have begun to look at the space and the plan would influence what could be built on the site.

Mr Castell added: “It could bring a lot of housing – up to 500 new homes – and an equivalent floor space for businesses. We could help carve out a whole new piece of the city. We are saying, if it comes forward for development, let’s make sure people living around it can properly influence what form that development takes.”

And the plan will also protect what makes Dartmouth Park a special neighbourhood, he added. “Many have said they value the village feel and the green spaces,” said Mr Castell. “The streets are very green and we have a policy that says if a street tree is removed, it must be replaced. “People are very protective of the conservation area and for good reason – we have a policy that will strengthen the protection of our heritage assets. We say we welcome new development but only if it fits in with the scale and massing of existing buildings.” The draft offers extra protection for social housing.

Mr Castell said: “There is a real housing crisis. Our plan is strong on social and rented housing not being lost.”

It also wants to see householders able to build small extensions to their homes to help those who live there to be able to afford to stay as their families grow.

This, Mr Castell said, could particularly affect households in three streets – Churchill Road, Spencer Rise and Chetwynd Road – who have been blocked from converting lofts or filling in side passages under strict conservation area rules.

He added: “The plan says there should be some flexibility in changing existing buildings for extensions. We want to encourage families to stay in the area instead of being forced out.” Shops and pubs will also feature, with the plan offering extra protection against their use being changed.

The Forum’s annual meeting takes place on Wednesday April 25 at the Highgate Road Baptist Chapel, Chetwynd Road, at 7.30pm.

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