Manchester’s first neighbourhood forum is… Northenden! Council give green light despite boundary conflict

By Ana Hine

The first neighbourhood forum in Manchester has been given the greenlight by the council, despite disagreement over what its geographic boundaries should be.

The decision, made at the Executive meeting on November 20, gives residents in Northenden a certain level of power over planning and development in the area.

Although there are neighbourhood forums in Trafford and Preston the Northenden forum is the first founded outside of a pilot scheme.

The forum’s secretary, Graham Pheby, 67, said: “We’re the first directly founded by the people.”

Cllr Mary Di Mauro, who represents the ward, said: “It’s great news for Northenden and great news for Manchester.

“It’s going to enable local people to get involved with democracy in the local community and influence planning in their area.”

She also hopes that others will be inspired to found their own forums.

Members of the newly created Northenden Neighbourhood Forum were hoping that an industrial estate in Sharston would be included within their jurisdiction – a suggestion that the council rejected.

Mr Pheby, a retired international school principal, described the Sharston Industrial Estate as ‘neglected’.

However, the council explained that none of the members of the forum live or work in the estate.

While 35 major companies and businesses in the area were informed of the application none, at this time, have decided to join the forum.

Because of this the council wrote in the deputy chief executive for growth and
neighbourhoods’ report last week: “The current membership cannot be said to reflect the character of the entire proposed neighbourhood area.”

It continued: “It is considered that proximity to the Sharston Industrial Estate, an area with a very different character,connectivity and function is not sufficient justification for including it in the designated Neighbourhood Area.”

During the six week consultation period between March and April, Cllr Fran Shone highlighted this issue of the proposed area including places that were not part of Northenden. She’s one of three councillors who represent the ward.

She urged the council to give careful consideration to the proposed boundaries.

Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, as amended by the Localism Act 2011, a group wishing to become a neighbourhood forum must meet a number of conditions.

These are; that the group contains a minimum of 21 individuals who either live in the area, work in the area, or are elected members of the local authority for that area.

There must be at least one member who falls into the first two categories and the group must also have a written constitution.

If these conditions are met the forum gains the power to prepare Neighbourhood Development Plans – setting out ideas for future development in the area, though a local referendum must be held before decisions are implemented.

Forums also gain the ability to prepare Neighbourhood Development Orders, which give them the power to grant planning permission for particular types of development within the area.

This can include granting planning permission for housing schemes.

Mr Pheby says that the forum intends to ‘come back’ to the issue of the industrial estate at a later point.

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