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Bermondsey neighbourhood plan: council sets area, rejects groups

London SE1 website team

After three tortuous years of consultation, conflict and confusion, Southwark Council has finally reached a decision on boundaries for a neighbourhood plan in Bermondsey - but the results are likely to please no-one.

The power for local people and businesses to draw up planning policy documents for their own neighbourhoods was a flagship initiative of the coalition government, enshrined in the Localism Act 2011.

Even before the Localism Act became law, Bermondsey was named in April 2011 as one of the 'front runner' neighbourhoods where this new approach to planning would be tested.

However the process reached an impasse in September 2012 when the council – which must rubber-stamp the proposed boundaries of a neighbourhood planning area – received conflicting applications from two local groups.

The Bermondsey Neighbourhood Forum wanted to draw up a plan for the area between Borough High Street and Tower Bridge Road, stretching south to New Kent Road and north to the river.

Meanwhile, the Bermondsey Village Action Group had proposed a neighbourhood plan area centred on St Thomas Street, with its northern boundary at Tooley Street and its southern boundary at Leathermarket Street.

Neighbourhood plans are not allowed to overlap so it was left to the council to act as arbiter in the dispute.

After nearly two years of stalemate, the council has chosen to approve a different set of boundaries focused on Long Lane and going no further north than Newcomen Street, Snowsfields and Crucifix Lane.

The decision by cabinet member Cllr Mark Williams, published last week and confirmed on Friday, excludes Tower Bridge Road from the proposed plan, as well as eliminating the areas around Tooley Street, Guy's Hospital and London Bridge Station.

Cllr Williams has also rejected both neighbourhood forum applications and the council is to invite fresh applications from local organisations for the task of drawing up a plan for the newly designated area.

It has taken nearly two years for the council to reach this conclusion. Perhaps with the Bermondsey stalemate in mind, last month the Government announced plans to force councils to reach a decision on neighbourhood planning boundaries within a maximum of ten weeks, and cut down the need for consultation.

Before any neighbourhood plan can take effect it must be approved in a local referendum.

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