What is a Neighbourhood Forum ?
A neighbourhood forum for neighbourhood planning, is a designated organization under the 2011 Localism Act, whose purpose is sustainable neighbourhood planning for a defined geographical area, where, there are no parish councils. A neighbourhood forum for neighbourhood planning, must have a minimum of 21 people who live work and do business in an area, or who represent the area as a local councillor. Membership must be open to all the aforementioned groups, and be drawn from different places in the area, and from different sections of the community. A neighbourhood forum can undertake a variety of tasks to achieve its purpose, besides neighbourhood planning, according to its constitution. The history section below gives progress towards forming an Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum.
Aireborough Neighbourhood Development Forum – Constitution
Purpose and Aim of Aireborough Neighbourhood Development Forum (Aireborough Forum)
The purpose of the Aireborough Forum is to support the regeneration and sustainable development of the Aireborough Neighbourhood Area. The aim is to facilitate collaboration between the Area’s stakeholders in order to evaluate, plan, and implement initiatives to improve the economic, social, cultural and environmental well-being of the people who live, work or do substantial business in the Aireborough Neighbourhood Area.
Objectives of Aireborough Neighbourhood Development Forum
a) provide leadership in bringing together a wide range of local people through consultation and co-production, to overcome identified issues affecting well-being, and to seek initiatives that add value to life in Aireborough.
b) produce, implement and maintain an Aireborough Neighbourhood Plan in accordance with both relevant legislation and a shared vision for the Area.
c) seek to conserve and promote the identity and distinctiveness of Aireborough within its wider geographical context.
d) advance the practice of ‘placemaking’ in the Aireborough Neighbourhood Area. The ANF supports the principles of the Freiburg Charter (The Academy of Urbanism, 2010 ).
e) help to promote growth in the local economy to regenerate a sustainable local community.
f) work to grow a connected, quality green infrastructure that enhances well being and the local ecology.
g) foster strong community spirit and encourage civic pride.
h) seek to establish and maintain an effective organization, capable of raising and managing income and funding for community initiatives.
i) create long term partnerships between the Aireborough Neighbourhood Development Forum and the public and private sectors in order to achieve the purpose, aim, and objectives
The Aireborough Neighbourhood Development Forum is an non-political organization.
A Neighbourhood Development Plan must be in general conformity with a local authority’s Local Development Framework
 People who live work and do business in the Aireborough Neighbourhood Area, and other Stakeholders.
 Placemaking is the collective shaping of uplifting ‘public spaces’ that draws on local assets and innovation to mitigate spatially caused issues, and create places that enhance health, well being and potential.
History Of Aireborough Neighbourhood Development Forum
Democracy and Planning Changes
The Localism Act 2011 gave local communities the right to shape the sustainable development of their area, through the production of a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP). The regulations for this were formalised in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which came into effect on 6th April 2012. When the NPPF was launched on 27th March 2012, the key objectives were given as
- To put unprecedented power in the hands of communities to shape the places in which they live;
- To better support growth to give the next generation the chance that our generation has had to have a decent home, and to allow the jobs to be created on which our prosperity depends; and
- To ensure that the places we cherish – our countryside, towns and cities – are bequeathed to the next generation in a better condition than they are now.
Who Is To Plan for Aireborough?
Neighbourhood plans are the responsibility of local communities; either parish/town councils, where they exist, or, if there is no such council, a neighbourhood forum. In the spring of 2012, Aireborough – Guiseley, Hawksworth, High Royds , Yeadon, and Rawdon did not have a parish council to look after its interests. At the same time Leeds City Council was developing a new Local Development Framework. The draft Leeds plan had a housing target of 2,300 houses for Aireborough, but very little to address the sustainable infrastructure needs, eg road congestion, schools, medical facilities, or quality of life facilities eg sport facilities, green infrastructure, community areas and facilities.
To address this issue, Wharfedale & Airedale Review Development, (WARD) a networking organization set up to help local communities shape the places they live, decided to facilitated the setting up of a Neighbourhood Forum in the area. Leeds Council advised that Aireborough would be a suitable geographical area, which had similar development issues. At the same time Local Councillors took steps to set up a Parish Council in Rawdon to help protect Rawdon Billing from development.
Planning Becomes Place Making
First steps towards a Neighbourhood Forum in late Spring 2012, involved exploring the resourcing, learning from the Government’s Front Runners, undertaking training from Locality, and understanding Leeds’ draft Development Framework. It was at this stage that a talk by Dr Rachael Unsworth(Leeds University and Leeds Sustainability Group) for a WARD networking group in May 2012, introduced leading edge ideas in what is called place making – creating places for the well being of inhabitants. Dr Unsworth pointed out that Leeds’ Development Core Strategy lacked any vision for place making.
Raising Awareness in Aireborough – With No Resource
WARD then set up three meetings, one each for Guiseley, Yeadon and Rawdon, in June and July of 2012, to inform local residents of the option for a Neighbourhood Forum and Plan. The objectives were firstly, to gauge if local residents and businesses would be interested in setting up a Forum, and secondly, to explore the possible place making issues a Neighbourhood Development Plan would have to address. Local groups and businesses were invited to attend and asked to spread the word amongst their members and employees, whilst local papers carried extensive coverage of the events, which were well supported by local councillors and MP’s. The meetings were funded by WARD volunteers and planning expert Kathryn Jukes from Direction Planning, kindly gave a no charge presentation at the Guiseley meeting: Leeds Council had made clear that there was no money available for publicity or setting up a Neighbourhood Forum, and all Government funding was to go to the areas designated as Front Runners.
Around 70 people attended the three meetings, £100 was donated, and a number put their names down as potential volunteers for a Forum. They were asked to both spread the word about the potential Forum and encourage family, friends and neighbours to take part in the initial qualitative research to look at Aireborough’s issues. Again, local papers were extremely supportive. The universal agreement was, that Aireborough needed a Neighbourhood Development Plan whilst overall opinion was that Aireborough was the area to plan for – local people used the whole of the area and had issues in common, there was also merit is sharing the burden of resourcing the work; economic regeneration and place making were imperative as the area no longer worked the way it did, and had had an enormous influx of new people in new developments. There was, however, confusion about the plans for a Rawdon Parish Council.
The big issue at this point was resource. The Government had made resource available to four organizations to assist in neighbourhood planning (Locality, Prince’s Trust, Planning Aid and CPRE) as well as extra resources to Local Councils. However, all of the four organizations had been directed to only help Front Runners, and Leeds Council did not have any money to help local groups. Aireborough thus had no resource, and the estimated cost of doing a plan for the area was £60,000 to £80,000.
A Summer of Exploration
The key task was therefore to find resource which WARD set out to do: Stuart Andrew MP was particularly helpful in taking the resourcing issue for non parished, non front runner groups, to the Department of Communities and Local Government. At the same time WARD volunteers continued to spread awareness of the potential forum through local networks, to speak with local stakeholders eg Leeds Bradford Airport, generate a list of potential volunteers, to write the initial research report and verify its findings in order to establish what the plan would need to tackle, to draw up skeleton programme plans and budgets, explore potential governance structures, and to solve the issue of the Rawdon Parish Council; it was agreed that Rawdon would, under the Localism rules, have to do its own Neighbouhood Development Plan, but that there would be strong links between the two plans. A potential map of Aireborough was drawn up at this point, which was the Leeds planning area of Aireborough excluding the Parishes of Rawdon, and Bramhope & Carlton.
Getting volunteers in Yeadon was also proving more difficult, than in Guiseley. So a ‘seed’ Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum (ANF) Steering Group was set up with committed, volunteers from Guiseley, Yeadon and Rawdon, Cllr Graham Latty (Guiseley and Rawdon) and Cllr Ryk Downes (Otley and Yeadon) to drive the whole process forward. At this point WARD stepped back from the Forum to focus on opposing unsustainable development, whilst the ANF’s role was to focus on positive place making, whilst being in general conformity with an eventual Leeds Core Strategy (not due for ratification until the end of 2013).
Resource at Last – We Can Begin
By October 2012, Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum, had been given £500 from the North West Area Wellbeing Fund by Guiseley and Rawdon Ward,(not Otley and Yeadon). Stuart Andrew has been successful in opening discussion with the Department of Communities and Local Government on funding issues And, most importantly the ANF had been successful in getting a serious grant from Design Council CABE for consultancy support up to March 2013. Leeds Council had also arranged for programme office support from the North West Area Office, and advisory support from Leeds Forward Planning on the designation of the Forum, including constitution. With some resource at long last, the seed ANF could begin the process of creating a Forum to draw up a Neighbourhood Plan. Draft programme plans for the process were revisited following research over the summer on Front Runner experiences, budgets were looked at, the CABE consultants recruited, and a website established.
Localism – A Fundamental Change in Civic Society Not Well Understood
Meanwhile, strenuous efforts were taken to recruit advocates and volunteers from a range of diverse groups around Airebrough (now Guiseley, Yeadon, High Royds and Hawksworth). Not an easy task when many people are busy with their own lives, do not know what the committment to the work entails, know little of planning, and are still under the expectations that a Council should be carrying out planning on behalf of local communities. The Government and Local Council’s have sadly neglected public awareness and education campaigns on the real meaning and thrust of localism – which in essence is a process of far more participatory democracy than the UK has been used to for the past 60 years.
The Process Moves to Community Engagement
The first ANF meeting for potential volunteers was held on 5th December 2012, and facilitated by the CABE consultants and ANF Steering Committee. This was the turning point in the process, where potential volunteers were asked to take part in place making activities, and help in engaging the wider community. Experience from Front Runners had shown that this was the best way to get people involved, especially those who would not usually do so, and that the best plans had place making (or urban design) at their heart. The strategy for the formation of the Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum was now to get people who lived, worked and did business in Aireborough, and who came from a wide range of areas and groups, working together to create a vision for what Aireborough could be, drawing on the principal of place making, to address the fundamental issues that the initial research had thrown up in the area. The aim was to be ready to take part in the Leeds City Council consultation process for their Core Strategy, and for their Detailed Site Allocation Development Plans both of which were happening in Early 2013. The first task was Mapping Aireborough via place awareness walks, which people were encouraged to do over the Christmas 2012 holidays.
Phase 1 – Creating a Vision
Despite the dreadful weather during December 2012 and January 2013, many people did the place awareness walks, or contributed their views and ideas on where they lived. This enabled the ANF to hold a vision workshop on the 2nd February 2013 led by CABE. Following this, all the research over 2012 was put together, to emerge with the headline themes for the Vision for Aireborough. The ANF was able to use this emerging vision when Planning Minister Nick Boles visited Aireborough in January to look at the issues; in the response to the Tranmere Park conservation consultation; and as a representation from Aireborough to the Leeds LDF consultation in February.
During these months the efforts to engage local people, businesses and groups in the process went on. A Facebook page, Aireborough Voice, was set up alongside the website and Twitter, to keep people informed and linked. A trial Pop Up Exhibition and Vintage Tea, was tested as a method for gathering input and ideas, whilst some of the steering committee and volunteers arranged activity with local schools and young people – others began to look at the local economy. Guiseley Infant School held a drawing competition on Growing Up in Aireborough, and Simon Toyne arranged a conference with the Aireborough Youth Forum, to ensure that young people had input to the emerging vision.
All of the output from these ‘events’ fed into the headline themes for the Vision. At the same time the ANF with the help of CABE started to explore place making ideas. One of the key issues for the area is the A65 and the congestion and traffic it causes. At the start of March, an expert in shared space came to have a look at the opportunity for using this as a potential solution. Another issue is the number of growing businesses looking for appropriate accommodation, so the idea of business zones and specific research on the local economy were discussed.
At the end of March all of the work on the vision and ideas and Forum structure, culminated in a training day for everyone interested in joining the Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum. The training was run by CABE and covered neighbourhood planning and localism, place making, and the ANF vision. At the end of this, people who had a good idea of what neighbourhood planning was about, signed the new membership forms, so the task of forming a representative Forum officially could begin. At this point, however, CABE had to bow out of the process, as their funding for neighbourhood planning support from the Government had come to the end. The new support contract had been given to Locality, and the ANF had to go through the process of establishing what support there would be available going forward. At the same time discussion were picked up with Leeds City Council, and the Department of Communities and Local Government about moving from recognition to official designation status as a Forum.
Phase 2 – The ANF Gets To Work
From the late spring of 2013 the ANF was swept up in a number of live local development issues, which meant all hands on deck . The ANF Vision was put to good use, in all the activity.
1. In the Summer, a survey and questionnaire were organized by the ANF, on Leeds’ Site Allocations Issues and Options. Leeds themselves had not planned any specific consultation sessions in Aireborough. This led to a submission to Leeds on what local resident felt about the details of building a further 2,300 houses in the area, plus their views on green space, retail and employment. This work also led to a much greater awareness across the area of plans for Aireborough in the LDF; also the setting up of several ‘action groups’, to look at specific geographical areas, eg Nether Yeadon Conservation Group.
2. The ANF also assisted the following campaigns with facilitation, advice and research. Many of these were actioned via the new Facebook page Aireborough Voice and the Twitter Account.
- Menston Wind Turbine – the application was turned down
- Naylor Jennings Plans – the application was returned by plans panel for something more innovative to be done
- Guiseley Schools Place Shortage – the ANF supported the GINS group in understanding the issues around planning and school places.
- The Regent Hotel Guiseley – a community consultation was carried out on proposed plans for this iconic building
- Application for housing on land used by the Scouts – the application was withdrawn for further discussion
3. The ANF represented Aireborough at the Leeds’ LDF Inspector hearings in October 2014.
4. The ANF build relationships with Pennine Prospects, Leeds Sustainability Group, Leeds Civic Society, Leeds Bradford Airport, and joined Leeds Planning Forum and the SHLAA Panel.
Phase 3 – Forum Designation and Govenance
Having understood the role the ANF needs to play in the area through the work done in 2013; 2014 saw the setting up of the Management Board, and the writing of the constitution. The ANF sought designation as a Neighbourhood Forum from Leeds City Council in March 2014, and, after a period of 6 weeks consultation, received designated status for both the Forum and the Area on 15th July 2014.
The first ANF AGM was held on 27 September 2014, where the Management Board was elected, the Topic Groups set up, and the Plan Vision ratified. On the 23 October 2014, the name ANF was changed to the Aireborough Neighbourhood Development Forum to better reflect the nature and work of the organization.
Throughout this period the Aireborough Forum gained experience in planning applications, supporting local organiztions, and representing Aireborough with Leeds Plans Panel, the LDF Inspector, Leeds Planning Bodies, and with Government and Shadow Ministers.
Phase 4 – Gathering the Evidence for a Vision Masterplan
The task now is to gather relevant evidence for a vision masterplan.