Kentish Town Neighbourhood Plan: An example of good practice in early and detailed community involvement

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Background

The_Assembly_House_Pub__Kentish_Town__LondonKentish Town is a small, densely developed inner city area immediately to the north of Camden Town & Euston Station in central London. Characterised by a varied mix of land uses, the plan area covers the whole of Kentish Town ward, one third of Cantelowes ward, and small parts of Gospel Oak and Camden Town with Primrose Hill wards.

A local pressure group Kentish Town Road Action decided to look into preparing a neighbourhood plan in early 2011 – before the Localism Act came into force. Once a Kentish Town Neighbourhood Forum (KTNF) was set up, it received “front runner” funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government. Later, planning advice and support during the plan’s preparation came from the Prince’s Foundation, Planning Aid England and Groundwork UK and also two independent planning consultants – Vincent Goodstadt & Biljana Savic. KTNF also benefited throughout from help and advice given by officers at their local planning authority, the London Borough of Camden and had a group of local advisors. (Image: Jim Linwood)

Timeline

2011:  April onwards Local residents and business representatives meet to discuss a possible neighbourhood plan;

2012:  January Kentish Town Neighbourhood Forum formed;

2013:  April Kentish Town Neighbourhood Plan Area formally designated;

          December Initial community-wide consultation;

2014 (throughout): Analysis of Evidence Base & Community Engagement + Policy Drafting;

2015:  March/April Draft Plan Consultation;

          December Submission;

2016:  January/February Regulation 16 Consultation;

          March Examination & Report;

          June Referendum.

How evidence was gathered for the plan

Whilst the Kentish Town Neighbourhood Forum (KTNF) was formed in January 2012, it took some time for the constituent residents’ groups in the area to reach agreement before the plan area was formally designated in April 2013. Nevertheless, community engagement and evidence gathering went ahead as soon as possible.

Walkabouts

In April 2012 the Forum organised a first weekend of walkabouts covering the entire plan area. The aim was to get to know the neighbourhood, its residents and businesses, and to hear how people would like to see their area develop. Four walkabouts were initially organised with 70 people taking part. In October 2012 a second set of walkabouts was held in the northern section of the area and a further 70 people attended. From these walkabouts KTNF drew up its initial ideas about sites and buildings which might be suitable for development, both for employment use and housing. Additionally, KTNF recorded details of local heritage buildings, open spaces and playgrounds and shopping streets.

Working with The Prince’s Foundation

Soon after its formation the KTNF approached the Prince’s Foundation to run an Enquire by Design process which is similar to a Design Charrette. The Foundation and KTNF agreed to work with each other from April 2012 to March 2013. In particular, it helped organise and run a set of workshops and street engagement work with local businesses and residents. Angela Koch of ImaginePlaces, a local resident and advisor with the Prince’s Foundation, supported KTNF in delivering these key activities.

Stakeholders and businesses were invited to these as well as local residents and two reports were later produced on the outcome of these. On several days in June 2012, prior to the Design charrette, and January 2013 a number of KTNF members held street engagement sessions in Kentish Town Road and in other parts of the plan area, asking passers-by how they would like to see Kentish Town develop. This was part of an engagement strategy developed by Angela Koch, through coaching sessions and ‘making days’ delivered by KTNF. This involved taking a large blackboard on site onto which members of the public attached their best ideas for making the neighbourhood more attractive. KTNF talked to hundreds of local people in this way and also documented conversations by simply taking a photo of the conversation written on a small blackboard and person that said it. All these contributions fed into the policies that appear in the final Neighbourhood Plan.

Public meetings and workshops

During the plan’s preparation the Forum also organised several public meetings and workshops. In December 2013 a meeting and exhibition was held to help publicise the Draft Neighbourhood Plan. To advertise the meeting many local people helped hand-deliver 10,000 flyers to every residence, shop and business across the entire plan area. Over 110 people attended this meeting and many comments and views were subsequently received – which were used to inform drafting of the Plan.

Website and creative citizens

PublicOpenSession3JunePrincesFoundationKTNF set up a website early on and used it to alert and inform the community about meetings, newsletters and events. In January 2013 the Creative Citizens research project with the RCA Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design suggested that the Forum work with them for a year to explore the potential for new and traditional media to engage more people in Neighbourhood Planning. This led to the setting up of an interactive Online Neighbourhood Plan on the KTNF website. It proved to be a very effective way of finding out what people thought about the draft policies and projects. As KTNF was aware that a number of people do not use or have ready access to computers, it asked Creative Citizens to also organise workshops to discuss how to inform that part of the community. One idea that came up was to produce beermats showing policy and project ideas and images and giving contact details. These were distributed to pubs and cafés across the KTNF area. (Image: KTNF)

Drafting the policies and site proposals

Working parties, committee meetings and internal workshops

During 2013 and 2014 six working parties met regularly to formulate policies and projects for the Plan. The groups varied in size from four to twelve people, some of whom were members of the KTNF committee, some from an advisors’ group and others members of a wider signed-up “Neighbourhood Forum group” comprising over 300 interested local residents and business people.

Based on the initial public responses, the working parties each took a policy area to study:

  • Working & shopping
  • Planning & design
  • Housing
  • Getting around
  • Green & open spaces, and
  • Community, social & culture

The results of the working parties’ discussions fed into public meetings and into the final Neighbourhood Plan.

Throughout the development of the Neighbourhood Plan the KTNF committee met regularly. It also held some internal weekend workshops to concentrate on finer details of the Plan and its policies. By November 2014 the committee considered the Plan sufficiently developed to move forward to the draft plan consultation stage.

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

Prior to publication of the draft plan for consultation, the KTNF requested a SEA screening by Camden Council in September 2014. In October the Council confirmed it considered the Kentish Town Neighbourhood Development Plan was likely to have significant environmental effects and consequently required a Strategic Environmental Assessment. AECOM completed this and it was published for consultation concurrently with the draft Neighbourhood Plan in March 2015.

Any significant changes to the Plan’s content were subsequently tested prior to the Plan’s Submission to the Council and the SEA Report accompanied the Submission Plan.

Final Preparation Stages

In March 2015 the Forum published the draft Kentish Town Neighbourhood Plan for consultation. The entire Plan Area (including all local businesses) was again leafleted, the Plan was put on the KTNF website and hard copies were placed in Kentish Town Library, Kentish Town Community Centre and in the Somali Family and Youth Centre. 96 comments were received and informed the further drafting of the Submission version of the Plan.

A Submission Draft was then prepared and a further consultation on this conducted by the Council ended in January 2016. A further 33 representations were received and considered at the subsequent Examination in March. In his report the Examiner recommended a number of changes to the Plan and a further revised version was published ahead of a Referendum in June 2016 – when 91% of those voting supported the Plan being “made”.

The final plan

KTNFKey land use pressures identified during public engagement on the Kentish Town Plan include the need for further affordable social housing, the retention of local job opportunities by as far as possible keeping sites and buildings currently in employment use, and the retention of its green / open spaces. The final Neighbourhood Plan looks to balance these competing needs through sets of general and site specific policies and also highlights a set of community-backed projects aimed at improving the area in the longer term. (Image: KTNF)


Early, well planned and ongoing community involvement played a key role in the development of the Kentish Town Neighbourhood Plan and KTNF carried out a huge number of community engagements between 2012 and 2016.

As Caroline Hill, Chair of the KTNF, notes, "all these activities were a combination of great fun and very useful for the formation of the Plan. They benefitted the participants, the community and the organisers, but each activity needed a great deal of pre-planning. The success of each event relied on good preparation carried out well before the starting date -  that would be my advice for delivering effective community involvement."