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Vision - Objective - Policy - joined by a Golden Thread


The Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum recently held an internal training session on how to write a Neighbourhood Plan. Jolly good thing really, since that is the first thing the jolly old forum has to do. The session was conducted by Miriam (now on a tour of the world), Clodagh McGuirk (a Haringey council officer in the planning department) and Tony Burton (a national name in local planning)

I'm trying to set out here the bits that Tony Burton covered, for three reasons. 1) Maybe if I write it down, I'll remember it and understand it a bit better 2) If I get it right this could be a useful reference (and even if I don't the comments section might bring corrections) 3) Not every one can be at every training session, so this might be a chance for any one who missed it, or who don't attend CENF meetings, to catch up.

Vision - Objective - Policy


A Neighbourhood Plan only really has to consist of Policies. Given a complete comprehensive set of policies, any proposed development will be seen either to conform to the policies

(permission granted)  or not conform to the policies (permission denied)

 Doesn't sound too difficult so far. For example, I've recently been looking at the Superdrug planning application for their new branch in Crouch End. The original application was for a completely standard Superdrug shop front, which in my view fails the test set by the Haringey policy SPG 6a which states that, for traditional Haringey shopfronts "The strong vertical emphasis created by the arrangement of glazing bars and doorways coincided with the tall sliding sash windows common in the upper floors of traditional buildings. " which the proposed Superdrug single plate glass frontage completely ignores. But in a Neighbourhood Plan it would be possible to reinforce the Haringey wording with a purely local Crouch End policy such as (remember, I'm only making up examples) "Any new or changed shop front will look just like Margaretta and Rickard (46 and 46a Topsfield Parade)"

Now, Superdrug would definitely fail this test, and permission for their single sheet of plate glass would be denied


But any policy has to be framed in order to support an objective. It may very well be that there would be some support for the objective of turning Crouch End into a quality, quasi-Edwardian, quirky , quintessentially quaint local shopping centre. Perhaps in the hope of being able to maintain the quota of independent shops which surveys locally show up as our preference. Other objectives might be:

  • "to create a town centre broadly in the Edwardian vernacular as represented in the upper stories of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings lining Crouch End's streets"
  • "to make the shopping centre into a tacky clone town just like everywhere else"
  • "to transform the shopping centre into the highly desirable model adopted by almost every high street everywhere in the western world"
  • "to grant shop front designers a completely free hand and let the dice fall where they may"

But however ludicrous my examples, the point is to create a pass/fail test expressed by a policy, which can be applied to planning applications, and which serves to support an objective. .


The objective contains some detail on a particular planning point. The look and feel of a shopping arcade. The density of housing developments. Conformity to or departure from the already present style of building, or some aspect of it felt to be especially (un)/desirable. The use to be made of any remaining open spaces. These are quite identifiable and really quite specific. The vision for the area is rather more expansive. The vision will probably contain vague aspirations. To gentrification perhaps, or independent shops, or green oases, or cultural activities, or a sense of community, or a village feel. Difficult things to define. And yet, this vision is where we have to start. Not what I have done in writing this note to myself.  It is relatively easy to draft specific rules which can be applied to planning applications. It is a little more difficult to set out the objectives which these rules are supposed to support and really quite tricky to set out the vision we might be trying to achieve. I have fallen here into the temptation of considering the easy bit, which is what we call "bottom up". What we really need is top down.

Tags: cenf, objective, policy, vision

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Having now read a fair few 'Neighbourhood Plans' they clearly seem to fall into two camps when it comes to the tricky task of drafting visions and objectives.

Camp one is the simple, the vague, the "let's get on to the next bit, the policies, which is the point". Fortune Green & West Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum is a fair example (their Plan here, page 12). The advantage is in making explicit the golden thread thing.

Camp two is the kitchen sink option, the "everything you ever wanted to know is here". Kentish Town (plan here, pages 12-13) and Highgate (plan here, pages 12-17) both have a bit of this, and the golden thread gets longer and longer, becoming vision-theme-core objective-sub objective-policy. In effect they have simply expanded the overarching objective to include subordinate objectives (ie. "we'll do this, and this, and this"). The advantage is lots of lovely prose about how wonderful things will be.

Now I have to admit I come from the brief and to the point school of thought as far as visions, mission statements and objectives go. You have at least the possibility of making the linkage between the elements of the golden thread visible and understandable. But the possibility of long, long discussions about objectives is clearly there should you want it.

the PLAN, Vision, Policies etc under the overarching banner of "economic, environmental and social well-being" can only be pursued if more residents and businessowners are involved in the Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum  ..recruitment and making people feel involved and used to their particular interests and expertise is essential


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