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All change for more of the same? A grand vision. Would it work?

I've been thinking out load about what the Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum should be doing to kick off the process by which it develops its plan. My latest maunderings ended up with a first stab at a grand vision.

"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."

Clearly, there is only a point in having such a statement if it helps in the planning process. So that's the hurdle I must get over - if the vision can be used in some way to guide the planning process, then it has value. If not then perhaps it's not a good vision, or perhaps the whole 'grand vision' approach is wrong.

Let's imagine that we are taking a top down approach to devising our plan. The next step below a vision would be strategic / high level objectives. For instance:

We plan to maintain in Crouch End a number of business units, sufficient to satisfy the demand arising for such units.

This is certainly a high level objective - it might even be strategic. It's not prescriptive - it does not attempt to prevent anything, or to insist on minimum numbers, or to have business units at the expense of some other type of unit. Just to have, Specifically, as many as we need.

Can we Measure whether it has been achieved. Well there are a lot of clues. In the last 15 months the Hornsey Town Halll Arts Centre has let over 70 units to small businesses. On the renewal of their lease they made a further 25 available - all of which were taken following an Open Evening. The suggestion at the moment is that there is more demand than supply. If the objective were Achieved then the Result would be a number of businesses operating out of suitable premises. There would be no empty premises, and no businesses without homes. Is the objective Time limited - well actually no, it's not. It's the sort of objective that needs to be re-assessed every so often. So it's not quite a SMART objective.

Is it any good to us. Can we use it to help us make decisions, to judge proposals , to formulate ideas and to apply the results to the real world. I think it can. For instance:

  • Haringey and Crossrail 2 are currently in negotiation to vary the originally proposed route for the new line. Haringey want it to run through Wood Green. The object is to make Wood Green a better place. Well, as long as we maintain Crouch End as a good place to do business, we don't care. There may arise a question of competition between the two centres, but that's another question. Our objective stands and allows us to make an informed comment on the Crossrail 2 proposal.
  • Imagine that out of the Town Hall procurement process there are two rival bids. One depends on turning the Hall itself into dwellings, leaving no room for small businesses. The other does not, depending only on the car park development for dwellings. By reference to our objective, and knowing that there is a waiting list for the spaces available, we object to One proposal, but not to The Other.
  • Suppose that the block of buildings between our two cinemas were up for demolition and redevelopment, and that the proposed replacement were to contain no business units, in order to maximise the developer's profit. Our objective, combined with the knowledge that several existing businesses would be displaced, and that there is a waiting list at the Town Hall, would lead us to object to the development and request that it be re-jigged to provide a suitable number of business units.

Can we turn our objective into policy. I think we can. We know for instance about presumed development, whereby shop and office owners can assume planning permission for a change of use to residential. We know also that a local authority has powers to over ride this assumption. Our objective supports our request to Haringey to invoke those powers. 

Thinking out loud has not so far dissuaded me from the vision , objective, policy - top down approach.

Tags: crouch end neighbourhood forum, neighbourhood plan

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