In 2011 Parliament passed the Localism Act, which gave local communities a greater say on Town Planning decisions. Providing we follow some basic rules, we can write our own planning policies for the Kirkstall area. These could ensure, for example, that we only permit those kinds of development that Kirkstall residents want to see.
Neighbourhood Forums start from a group of like-minded individuals who apply for recognition by their local council. Normally this is first come, first served. The Council will advertise the application, and once it is satisfied that it comes from a genuine community organisation, it will designate the entire group to produce a Neighbourhood Plan.
Now follows a very brief description of the plan-making process. There is a much longer and more detailed version below.
Our first task is to engage with the public to make sure that everybody knows what is happening. The Forum must organise Public Meetings, promote debate and encourage a wide range of people to express their views. We must gradually seek a consensus about our local priorities, before we put these together in our Neighbourhood Plan. We don’t have complete freedom, because our plan must always respect existing local and national planning policies, but most Neighbourhood Forums live fairly easily with this.
This isn’t just about buildings. Neighbourhood Forums can can decide where parks and green space should be located, and how much there should be. This may require additional land and money, but developers often contribute as part of their planning consent. Forums can promote Public Health measures, for example to reduce traffic noise and vehicle pollution. They could promote an active “outdoor” lifestyle, and make sure that all our children have safe and convenient places to play.
Our Draft Plan is advertised to the public and reviewed by planning experts. There is a period for people to make objections if they wish. Having dealt with objections as far as possible, the entire plan is put to a postal vote open to all the residents in Kirkstall Ward. If our plan is approved by this Referendum, then it acquires legal force.
KNF operates under a Constitution provided by Leeds City Council, although we can amend this if we wish. All our main policy decisions are taken at open Public Meetings, but these need some preparation to get the papers ready and to book the room! Our Constitution requires the Forum to elect a Board at every Annual Meeting to do the routine work and manage our internal business from one public meeting to the next. The Board elects its own Chair, Treasurer and Secretary and the Public Meeting has no say in this. Download our original Constitution here.