OpinioN8

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The Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum will be holding its Inaugural General Meeting on Sunday (Feb 7th 2016 2pm - Hornsey Town Hall).

If all goes well and a committee is appointed this could be a jolly important step for Crouch End. It'll be as though we'd grabbed some control back from Haringey, and the GLA, and Westminster, and Brussels and Strasbourg. Although looking at that list it's somewhat surprising to think there's any control left to be had.

The way this might progress on Sunday afternoon is to look at the four policy areas 

  • Community services – facilities, health, education
  • Town centre – shopping, business, art and culture, traffic and transport
  • Public realm – public, open and green spaces, streets and landscaping
  • Planning and development – design, heritage, active planning applications and policy

I have my doubts about this approach. It feels to me as though this reinforces a whole set of pre-conceptions which actually we ought to be challenging.  What I think we need is a big picture. A grand vision: 20/20 for 2020 perhaps. Except 20/20 vision is clear and well focussed and what I'm looking for might not be, it might just be grand ideas and vague notions, which might be enough, for the CENF captain of the Crouch End ship, just to put a hand on the tiller here and there, to avoid most of the icebergs.

Let's take a couple of examples. 

1) Hornsey Town Hall. I've spoken to a lot of people over the years about the Town Hall, and Haringey, and our local councillors (past and present), and the Hornsey Town Hall Creative Tryst have always had a very clear, well focussed set of principles and policies for it. Including:

Well, bollocks, not to put too fine a point on it. Last October twelvemonth, three imaginative, somewhat anarchic, very energetic young men took the building over and look at it now. The very model of a thriving business cum arts centre. And knock me down with a cheque book if those chaps have spent millions on it.

And they did it , not by writing policies about inclusive access to the arts, or by crying into their beards (at least one of them has a beard) about lack of funds, but by having a vision and working towards it. Not by worrying if it was world class but if it's good enough for the people arriving on the W3 and the W7.

What I'm looking for from the Forum is this level of anarchy , energy and vision. I very much hope they co-opt the three young men on to their committee.

2) Shopping. Once upon a time Town Centres were places where you went to do your shopping. Not any more. Let me just mention Ocado, Amazon, eBay, Buy Sell and Swap Crouch End, Harringay Superstores, Click and Collect, Quidco and Yodel. Town Centres have got to change. Crouch End's Town Centre has changed. It is still a place where you can go to buy expensive knick knacks, or Vintage Clothing, or 1950s French Objets d'artisans, i.e. niche markets, but it is much more a place where you can go to eat your artisan quinoa croissant and sip your skinny decaff camomile infusion, surrounded by buggies and wi-fi, perhaps with like minded buggy owners, or with a business associate or on your own with just your headset and your apps.

And how has this come about? Well, stuff happens and the world changes. A well drafted policy on dentil mouldings and the size of flagstones would certainly help to moderate some of the plastic and neon excesses forced upon us by modernising shopkeepers, but it won't help us with the vision, the big picture brought into being by the people who run the Haberdashery, and Muddy Boots and the Arthouse and the Floral Hall (obviously I could list more, but you all know who I mean). I hope the Forum will be co-opting these entrepreneurs onto their committee.

Which brings me back to my doubts about the policy area working groups. I want to start with a vision and work my way down from there to policies.

Maybe:

"Crouch End will be a place where creative people can live and work and carry out business, in a way which reflects and enlarges upon the changes that take place in the world."

Tags: crouch end neighbourhood forum, neighbourhood plan, vision

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Squarely based on the evidence of the latest consultations -

Our vision is for Crouch End not to change all that much, as we like it the way it is. We reserve the right to imagine it as Greenwich Village twinned with Brigadoon. We like it being in London, but mostly we value it as a refuge from London's vibrancy, diversity and change. Less coffee shops would be nice, though we keep using them, so maybe not.

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