Parish or Neighbourhood Council?
7 April 2012…..A morning retweet from the Georgian Group flagged up this article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-17734125 which suggests that re-establishing Parish Councils is “a good chance to reaffirm local distinctiveness”. But is it?
Some 8,000 residents in the Queens Park area of London will vote in a May referendum about whether or not to establish their area as a Parish Council, fearing loss of services from Westminster Council and seeking a measure of control with all 8,000 residents paying £45 a year to fund it.
How is a Parish Council different from a Neighbourhood Council? It is a question worth asking and pondering as BHCC works toward setting up Neighbourhood Councils in either or both of Hanover and Brunswick & Adelaide wards. Unlike London’s proposed Parish Council, Neighbourhood Councils under Localism will be government funded through councils.
There is still a majority of Hove citizens wishing we could have back the Hove of yore – the one we had before Brighton grabbed it in order to establish its Unitary Authority and then citify it. The fact Hove got so scruffy after the switch is one huge reason for this grim feeling. The fact that it immediately became the place for developers to fell houses and throw up pavements-edge vulgar blocks of flats is another. And it is certainly a truth that most of what BHCC does is Brighton-centric. Hove is somewhat relegated as hinterland in the minds of too many totally Brighton-centric council officers.
When the protected area for Hotels was organised, Hove was left out. It means that if someone wanted to build a hotel in Hove, they would be blocked by council policy. This is to protect central Brighton hotel trade and encourage hotel building there. But what if one wanted to, say, put a hotel on the King Alfred site or see Medina House turned into a spa hotel? There is no policy help for it.
A further example of blockage exists north of Hove Station between Fonthill Road and Sackville Road up to Old Shoreham Road. Semi-industrial/offices, or nothing, is their cry. A lot of arm-wrestling and horsetrading went into getting the mixed development planning consent for flats, retail & offices for the Sackville Trading Estate (which saveHOVE promoted). This consent has not been used due to the recession, problems with necessary relocation of Rayners & latterly, the liquidation of developers Parkridge.
But the St. Agnes Church space in Newtown Road is now a gym, and an as yet unused temporary planning consent was given for sporting use at the adjacent derelict factory (climbing). So there are question marks over Brighton’s wishes for this part of Hove.
Would the existence of either a Parish Council or Neighbourhood Councils make a difference? And would this be for Hove good or nimby-ill? Local knowledge has yet to be given its rightful place within planning. Indeed the new National Planning Policy Framework was deliberately contrived to carve away local interference in developer drives and intentions. This is ironic in view of the Localism Act’s wish to devolve local governance down to ‘neighbourhoods’.
Would having a multi-ward Hove Parish within BHCC assuage those wanting back control of Hove? Will it help those in the Queens Park section of London? There is a lot of discontent in Britain concerning methods of governance but only questions and potential for factionalising it right now.