Examination of Witnesses

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:15 pm on 23rd June 2022.

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Tony Burton:

I hear what you are saying, and I am sure the populations of those boroughs and parishes are dramatically different. We need only point to the “city of villages” and Ebenezer Howard. The neighbourhoods of London are defined much more tightly than the boroughs, and many London neigh-bourhoods cross borough boundaries. One example is Crystal Palace, which is a very identifiable community, yet it crosses five London boroughs. It has been almost impossible to establish an effective boundary through the neighbourhood planning process, but that does not mean Crystal Palace is not Crystal Palace.

Crystal Palace identifies with itself, as do all the other neighbourhoods in London. We think there is significant scope below the borough level. There is an open question, which goes beyond the scope of the Bill, as to whether London might have too many boroughs, and the way they share services at the moment would suggest they acknowledge that—they share chief executives, legal services and all the rest of it.

London is an example of where there is still a need. There is the question of whether areas are willing to take on those responsibilities, linked to the issues of support, the attitude of professionals and politicians within the boroughs and the question of where this is going. What happens after they produce a neighbourhood plan? We would like to see the evolution anticipated by the Localism Act 2011 of neighbourhood forums evolving into the urban equivalent of a town or parish council, of which we have only one in London at Queen’s Park, which has a particular history. There are opportunities in this Bill to help the process mature and to create more sustainable models that might start with a neighbourhood forum producing a neighbourhood plan before growing into a much more all-encompassing, community-led form of governance.