At long last, having responded to further requirements, the NPA has submitted its application for “designation” by Lambeth Council.
The cabinet must make its decision within 13 weeks. The Localism Act sets out a simple process for local groups to be recognised for the purpose of neighbourhood planning. Legally, only 21 members are required. However, meeting Lambeth’s interpretation has taken two and a half years of campaigning, lobbying and argument. NPA’s application to be designated as a neighbourhood planning group is supported by over 1400 members and 18 pages of evidence and justification. We are advised that NPA has the largest membership base of any application in London and possibly in England.
At the same time, the cabinet has been requested to second a council officer part-time to support NPA’s administration and engagement. This has been requested several times under the council’s statutory “duty to support” neighbourhood planning. In addition, cabinet endorsement has been sought for a councillor from each of the Norwood wards to act as neighbourhood planning champion. So far, Norwood councillors (with one exception) have failed to reply to repeated requests for such support. We now know that in 2015 they agreed in confidence to the council’s alternative “Norwood Masterplan refresh” project costing £140,000. NPA only obtained a copy of the consultant report through a Freedom of Information request. The council’s report will be published in April. However, under the Localism Act, only a neighbourhood plan produced by local people has statutory force over developers. There are now over 270 completed neighbourhood plans in England including 5 in London.