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Bermondsey neighbourhood plan: council decision to be scrutinised

Opposition Liberal Democrat councillors have 'called in' a controversial decision by Southwark Council in relation to a future neighbourhood plan for the Bermondsey area.

The Localism Act gave local communities the power to draw up their own planning policy documents called neighbourhood plans.

As part of the process, a local council must approve the proposed boundaries for a neighbourhood plan.

Neighbourhood planning areas cannot overlap, so when faced with competing proposals from the Bermondsey Neighbourhood Forum and the Bermondsey Village Action Group, Southwark Council last month opted to approve a set of boundaries different to both applications.

Local architect Hari Phillips, who had served as a vice-chair of the Bermondsey Neighbourhood Forum, described the council's decision as "a case study in how not to do localism".

In an email to supporters, the Bermondsey Village Action Group warned that the council had "furtively alighted on a strategy for keeping local people out of the planning process where it doesn't suit them".

Now – after the intervention of local Lib Dem councillors – the decision is to be probed by a cross-party council committee.

"Neighbourhood plans are supposed be designed and led by residents, so it's a shame the control freak Labour council can't resist imposing its own boundaries," said Cllr Rosie Shimell, vice-chair of the overview & scrutiny committee.

"There were two different plans suggested, but what has been decided by the council pleases nobody.

"Liberal Democrat councillors have called the decision in for scrutiny to allow residents to put their case and try to find a way forward."

Cabinet member Cllr Mark Williams will now have to justify his decision at a meeting of the overview & scrutiny committee.

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