Sunday, 28 October 2007

It's certainly never dull when dealing with Hackney Council

We have now received a letter from the Government Office for London. It appears that the Council may not have a legal basis for the policy document that includes the proposed areas of exception.

This is quite a technical point, but a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) cannot make council policy, it can only give guidance on existing policy. The proposed SPD relied on three Council pre-existing Council policies, two of which have lapsed (it appears the council forgot to renew them), the third of which applies only to conservation areas.

Consequently it appears doubtful that the Council can adopt the SPD without first adopting some basic policies.The Council is suggesting that it can rely on a general 'plan for London', the principles of which the Council has adopted, but this seems unlikely (or should I say 'desperate'). The Council intends to continue with its existing proposals.

We have been led to believe that the Council may remove the phrase 'area of exception' which is viewed a problematic, but they are currently committed to the substance of the proposals. The latest proposed timescale is that the report will go to Cabinet in December, but there is every reason to suspect that this timescale will be extended. In any event, our campaign must continue to build in strength.

The accidental lapsing of important Council policies is of course a typical Hackney Council 'cock up', but what does it mean for our campaign? Well the good news is that it makes it even harder for the Council to simply ram through the existing proposals, and consequently more likely that we will, eventually, get them amended.

The bad news? Well it appears the Council no longer has any policy on residential extensions! It is therefore possible that unscrupulous developers with good lawyers can appeal any application (however outrageous) that is rejected on the basis that the Council has no policy grounds for rejection.

What have we done?
We have written to the Mayor, Jules Pipe seeking a meeting. We will also be seeking a meeting with Diane Abbot to discuss this matter further. Our hope is that they will agree to meet us at a meeting open to all Planning Watch supporters (but not a public meeting as our previous public meeting demonstrated how difficult it is to find a venue large enough).

We are also undertaking legal research to establish whether we have strong grounds for Judicial Review. We currently have one 'volunteer' who may be eligible for legal aid in relation to this matter, but we definitely need more applicants. If you fit the following definition and are willing to speak to our lawyer (currently giving his services for free!), please let us know) :

a) Own a flat or house within one of the areas of exception, and
b) in receipt of Income Support, Jobseekers' Allowance or Pension Credit.

What you can do?
We still have a number of streets that need to be leafleted, Volunteers to leaflet these streets would be much appreciated:

Adolphus Road
Blackstock Road
Brand Close
Brownswood Road
Gloucester Drive
Kings Crescent
Somerfield Road
Wilberforce Road

Street surveys
If anyone wants to survey their own street, then please contact Jane, who is co-ordinating this. We currently have 11 streets where we have a survey. It's easy to do, and only takes an afternoon. It will help if when we speak about the proposed areas of exception we have more information than the council officers!

'Street watch'
We are hoping to develop a network of people who are prepared to regularly check for developments in their streets. It merely involves logging onto the Council's website and checking for new applications. This should only take an half an hour once a fortnight, but it will ensure that we have visibility of proposed inappropriate developments before the date for comments and objections has passed. Anyone with a computer with internet access can do this (if your too busy, why not ask your kids!).

Next steps
Please let us know your ideas for what we should be doing next.

Also here is notice of another planning issue that you might want to support.

What's happening in Durlston Road?
As you may have noticed, number 62 Durlston Road has undergone major building work over the last 2 and a half years. The garden space has been completely filled in by an extension with a roof terrace on top. 6 air conditioning units have been added to the side and rear of the house and the garden wall has been knocked down to annex the council-owned alleyway between 60 and 62.

All of this has happened without planning permission and without any consultation with the people living close by.If you've ever wanted to extend your house or build a roof terrace, you will know that both planning permission and consultation are a required part of the process.Some of our local streets have already seen inappropriate developments leading to noise, loss of light and privacy and damage to the integrity of the 'streetscape' - this overdevelopment is not good for our community.

Hackney Council are currently proposing to sell the alleyway between 60 and 62 Durlston Road despite the fact that it was illegally taken over, they are allowing work to continue without planning permission and our neighbourhoods are being destroyed.

If you are worried about any of this, please come along to a meeting on November 1st at 7.30 at Tower Gardens Estate Community Office, 2 Inglethorpe House, Tower Gardens Estate, London E5.

Did you know?
Hackney Council plans to exclude 30 streets in Stamford Hill from normal planning protection, extension restrictions will be relaxed & dimensions increased. Hackney Council feels that the streetscape is already damaged by abuses of planning permission, due to a period of corruption within the planning office, yet many of the streets included in the draft have been untouched & remain true to their Victorian character. Consultation ended with the majority of the residents affected unaware of the proposals, no letters were sent out, a small article in the local paper made some aware. Stamford Hill streetscapes have a unique Victorian character, the area of exclusion would allow the character & heritage to be lost to inappropriate developments, & increase the density of occupation in already crowded streets. We, the undersigned, object to the sale of the alleyway between 60 and 62 Durlston Road. The alley was annexed without permission or consultation and should be restored to its previous usage immediately.


Sunday, 7 October 2007

Newsletter 3 - Urgent action needed…

Hackney council is proposing to introduce a policy where properties in streets in Stamford Hill, around Queens Drive and in Cricketfield Road are deemed to be within ‘areas of exception’ where normal rules relating to planning will not be applied. We believe that all residents of Hackney should receive the same protection f r o m inappropriate development wherever they live in the borough. It cannot be justified that different rules to apply in different streets, such that developments which would not be allowed elsewhere, are approved in our streets.

Some of our streets have already seen too many inappropriate developments leading to noise, loss of light and privacy, and damage to the integrity of the ‘streetscape’. There have been too many full width dormers (effectively adding an additional story to the property) and gardens that have been either wholly or largely in-filled to provide additional rooms. This overdevelopment is not for the good of the community, as it all too often provides substandard rental accommodation where landlords exploit vulnerable tenants. This proposed policy will go to the Council’s Cabinet for approval (probably in November).

None of the Cabinet members represent residents in the affected areas and it looks as if our streets are to be abandoned to rogue landlords and property speculators. Hackney Planning Watch has little confidence that Hackney Council is either willing or able to exercise its planning regulation function effectively. Unless we, as residents, monitor the situation, they will allow our neighbourhoods to be destroyed by allowing inappropriate developments.

Please help…

  • Hackney Planning Watch has produced a detailed report calling on the Secretary of State, Hazel Blears MP, to intervene and stop this policy (which we believe may be so unreasonable as to make it unlawful).

  • Please visit our website and download a copy: If you agree with us then please send us a letter or email stating that you wish your name to be added to those already endorsing the report.

  • We are calling on residents to undertake a street survey of their own street to identify developments that have no planning permission and those which are operating as unlicensed bedsits or (also known as ‘houses in multiple occupation’). Surveys already undertaken by our supporters have been submitted to the Council with requests that enforcement action is taken. Please write to members of the Council’s cabinet calling on them not to agree this policy and ask them to meet with residents to hear our concerns.

    For contact details of cabinet members please visit:

  • Call a street meeting and get the views of your neighbours and agree to monitor proposed developments in your street for compliance with Council policies.

  • Please sign our on-line petition:

    Legal challenge

  • Please consider if you are eligible for ‘legal aid’ and if so whether you would be prepared to help take a test case regarding the legality of the Council’s proposals

    We believe that the council’s proposals are so deeply flawed that they would not survive a legal challenge by way of judicial review. However such action is potentially very costly, so we are seeking volunteers who are residents of the area and who may be eligible for legal aid. If you feel aggrieved by this policy and you meet the criteria below please let us know. Are you in receipt of:

-Income Support

-Income-based Job Seekers' Allowance

-Guarantee State Pension Credit (under section 1(3)(a) of the State Pension Credit Act 2002(a))

If so let us know!

  • Join our list of supporters and we will keep you informed of upcoming events (send us your email and address).

    Hackney Planning Watch was established by local residents in 1998 when Hackney Council had devolved planning decisions to neighbourhood committees.

    At the time, Hackney was going through one of its periodic crisis and there was widespread concern at malpractice in the planning department and a perception that the Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Committee was corrupt. Eventually, we were forced to take a judicial review against the council in relation to a particularly extreme example of malpractice. The council was forced to concede the case, pay our costs and right the wrong. Soon afterwards the planning function was recentralised.

    However, the council continues to approve developments that are contrary to its core policies. As recently as July 2007, the planning committee approved a development that will see the complete in-fill of the back gardens of two adjoining houses in a residential street. This was in conflict with any number of council policies, and will result in a series adverse effect on the amenity of neighbours. Despite a petition and a well-argued case against the development, it was nodded through by councillors. Now they intend to make it a formal policy that they will not apply the usual rules in some of our residential streets.

    The proposed areas of Exception

    Hackney Council is proposing to create three ‘areas of exception’ where its planning policies on residential extensions will be applied differently to elsewhere in the borough. These ‘areas of exception’ are the streets around Stamford Hill, an area around Queens Drive and on Cricketfield Road. In these areas, developments will be allowed which would not be granted permission elsewhere in the borough.

    What is the justification for this policy?

    According to the council’s policy document ‘some parts of the borough contain a large number of front roof exceptions, often consisting of full width box dormers which are contrary to current policy …in recognition of the existing situation within these areas, and the continuing needs of particular local communities, the policy will be applied with greater flexibility’.

    In other words, in those areas that have already suffered developments that are contrary to Council policy, rather than see enforcement action to right these previous wrongs, the Council intends to relax the rules so we can expect more of the same! The council’s proposals are deeply flawed, and many streets within the proposed areas of exception are unspoilt (but presumably will not remain so if this policy is approved).

    We acknowledge that some streets in the borough are in a mess, with huge amounts of unauthorised development, including the complete infill of some back gardens.

    However, the biggest problem seems to be that the Council’s planning committee has routinely authorised developments which are contrary to agreed policy. In other cases, where the council has refused planning permission, the developers have gone ahead and the council has failed to take enforcement action. The Council has been roundly criticised by the Local Government Ombudsman for these failings (see

    At a time when they are not applying the existing rules, we dread the consequences of a relaxation of those rules.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Report to The Secretary of State (Hazel Blears)

Hackney Planning Watch has submitted a report to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears. The reportis signed by many local residents and urges her to intervene using her powers under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (PaCPA) to "satisfy herself that the policy is sound and that the law has been complied with". It is our view that such an enquiry will demonstrate that the policy should be amended and the proposed areas of exception dropped.

You can read the full text of the report here in MS Word format.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

First results of survey

Why do landlords really want to alter houses in Stamford Hill?

This letter has been sent to all councillors, planning enforcement, environmental heath and the mayor today. It shows the first results of a survey of our local streets. Please let us know about your survey work and we can do one of these for every street.

From the Triangle Community Group

30 July 2007

Dear Councillors, planning enforcement and environmental health

As consequence of the council's production of the Local Development Framework and the proposed 'area of exception' a group of residents in Amhurst Park, Bethune Road, Bergholt Crescent, Cranwich Road, Denver Road, Durley Road and Dunsmure Road have formed the 'Triangle Community Group'. As part of our campaign against the area of exception and to maintain the same rules for our streets as those that apply in the rest of the borough we have begun to undertake a detailed survey of our streets. We believe that this will produce evidence to refute the suggestion by the council that our streets have already been blighted by inappropriate developments and that the area of exception is needed due to the needs of large families.

Our experience is that large houses in this area are in fact being bought up by landlords and extended and then converted into flats and bed-sits. If the council wishes to ensure that there are sufficient large properties then the area of exception will be counter-productive and instead action should be taken to prevent regulated and unregulated conversions from taking place.

Some of these large houses appear to be operating unlawfully as unlicensed HMOs. They are badly supervised and tend to create a noise and environmental nuisance. We wish to draw your attention to three. The results of our full survey will be sent to you in due course.

Of the 90-plus Victorian and Edwardian houses in Cranwich Road, the only ones we are aware of which have been the subject of planning applications, which would lead to over-development, are number 52 (which we believe has been converted, unlawfully, into flats, and is currently the subject of a Council order), number 3, and 7.

No. 3 Cranwich Road: Currently being used as a house in multiple occupation (HMO)
HMO licence applied for and currently being processed by the Council. This has a notably dilapidated appearance and is overflowing rubbish bins. There have already been several complaints to Environmental Health yet no action has been taken.

Planning issues
In November 2006, and again in January 2007, the owner-applicant, stated that the existing use of No. 3 was as a 'single family dwelling'. This is not the case. The owner also gave No. 3 as his own address. His actual family dwelling is elsewhere in Stamford Hill.

In both cases, the application was for 'ground and first floor rear extension and erection of two rear dormers'; in both cases the Council, to its credit, turned the application down, citing the policies of the UDP.

We do not believe that this was a genuine family-type application of the kind that it is claimed justify the proposal for an 'area of exception'. On the contrary it is an example of an absentee landlord acting as a property developer seeking to maximise their income at the cost of both local residents and tenants.

This kind of thing actively needs to be discouraged, both for the sake of Hackney's administration and for the sake, also, of accountability and good management of our streets. Please note that a similar false application with a wrong Certificate 'A' has recently been made for No. 68 Cranwich Road (an infill of nearly all the back garden). The planning department is aware of this.

No. 5 Cranwich Road: Currently being used as a house in multiple occupation (HMO)
We believe that this property has been operating as a HMO since April 2006 without a licence and is in a dilapidated and unkempt state. There are recurrent problems with rubbish. The house is divided into four flats, at least one of which we believe has housed five tenants.

Planning issues
The deeds show that property was previously owned by Hackney Council and was transferred to a religious trust in November/December, 2002. Planning permission for a pre-school and primary school for 100 pupils was immediately applied for, and turned down on the grounds that 1) a noisy school was not suitable for a residential area, 2) the large proposed extensions were intrusive and discordant, and 3) 'The proposal represents a cumulative loss of residential buildings.'

It is perhaps surprising, in view of the obvious need for family accommodation in the area that the Charitable Trust then transferred the property in April 2005 to a landlord who we believe has turned it into an unlicensed house in multiple occupation, posing a significant risk to the health and safety of the tenants and providing no increase in the availability of homes for large families in the area.

No. 73 Cranwich Road: Currently being used as a house in multiple occupation (HMO)
We believe that this property has been operating as a HMO since April 2006 without a licence.

In March 1997, a planning application was applied for the basement of number 73 to be converted into two bedsit flats. The application was refused on the grounds that it was 'unacceptable by reason of inadequate natural lighting and size of the kitchen areas, representing an inferior standard of accommodation'. Anyone seeing the basement of number 79 would be bound to agree that the Council was, right to refuse.

Yet neighbours inform us that someone is living in this basement nevertheless. Also scrawled on its door, in large letters in green ink, is 'Flat No. 1 BASEMENT'. The person applying for planning application also filled in the Certificate 'A' form on the planning application stating that he was sole owner of the property. Yet we believe that this is not the case and that the information given to the Planning Department in 1997 was false. The owners, bought the property jointly in February 1997 and live (according to the electoral register) elsewhere in Stamford Hill

We believe that the council should take action to regularise the use of the above properties. We also believe that when it comes to planning applications the council should undertake a routine check to confirm that if the person making the application claims to be living at the property that this is true. A simple paper check with the land registry would not be expensive, and an unannounced site visit by the planning officer (when they are in the already in the area) would help to establish the truth behind some of the applications.

This is particularly important when the main reason for the council proposition that this part of the borough should be exempted from normal planning regulations, is based on the erroneous notion that these building are for extended families in single occupancy. The behaviour of the above landlords exposes the falsity in our area, of the supposed grounds for making our streets part of an 'area of exception'.

If councillors are genuinely representing local people they would see to it that relevant bodies, which include the Planning Department, building control, environmental health and the fire brigade are utilized to ensure that decent standards and statutory obligations are adhered to.

This would benefit of the tenants of these properties, and the majority of residents of Cranwich Road. It may prove unpopular with a small number of rogue landlords, but why should the council's policies be set to please landlords who are already flouting the rules?

Yours sincerely

Jane Holgate
On behalf of the Triangle community group

Encl. Documents on each of these properties have been sent by post to the planning department and environmental health department.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Register now for our campaign training

If you want to know how to navigate the council’s planning website, how to object to a planning application, how to involve the ombudsman (when the council fails to answer your concerns) or 101 other ways in which you can help to challenge inappropriate planning in your street, then pre-register for our two hour training session. Email us at

Organise to protect our neighbourhood!

On Tuesday 26 July over 180 people turned up to a Hackney Planning Watch meeting in Stamford Hill Library. Unfortunately the room only held 100 people and many residents had to be turned away. The issue was Hackney Council’s proposal to introduce an ‘area of exception’ into its planning regulations which will see streets in Stamford Hill excluded from its normal planning requirements. The issue arouses fierce passions and people were almost fighting to get into this meeting. Yet the council reports that a mere 216 people responded to its ‘sham’ consultation about which most residents knew nothing.

Council delegation
The next evening, a delegation from Planning Watch addressed the full council meeting (thanks to Councillor Linda Smith for facilitating this). Our spokesperson put our case eloquently, but the councillors did not seemed that concerned with the issues that residents raised. Councillor Guy Nicholson insisted that the flawed consultation period would not be extended and that enforcement was taking place to address inappropriate developments.

What are our concerns?
The council has experienced years of malpractice within its planning service. The notorious Stamford Hill neighbourhood committee was disbanded in 2001 after Planning Watch initiated a successful action by way of judicial review. More recently, the Council’s enforcement arm has been heavily criticised by the Ombudsman for its delay or failure to take enforcement action (they illustrated their concerns by reference to the council’s failure to take timely action in a case where an owner had built a pair of two story semi-detached houses in a rear garden). It is against this history of incompetence (or worse) that we object to a loosening of planning rules in our area.

1 Please sign our on-line petition:

2 Also please sign our separate paper-based petition (and ask your friends and neighbours to do the same) petitions available from Planning Watch.

3 Call a meeting in your street of concerned neighbours. We will send a speaker to update you on what is happening in the campaign. Where street meetings have been set up they have been productive and a great way to meet your neighbours!

4 As part of our campaign we are planning a survey of the streets of exception. Could you help out by surveying your street? This is not hard, and involves using a simple checklist to assess the types of property and the extent to which inappropriate development has already taken place.

5 Do you have any special skills that you could use to further our campaign? We already have people with a background in architecture, equalities, environmental health, research, media, and law. Do you have specialist skills such as documentary making, database or web design or other skills that could help? Please let us know.

6 Finally, we must ask for money. Hackney Planning Watch does not receive any public funding. Yet our campaign needs money. Could you help out by organising a fund-raising event (for example a barbecue or a social). Alternatively, why not make a small donation by standing order?

Monday, 9 July 2007

"Hackney Planning Department in complete disarray"

Hackney Council's planning department is incapable of enforcing the law or the present rules on planning. That's not Hackney Planning Watch's claim, it's the concluion of the Local Government Ombudsman in December of last year. So much for claims by Councillor Guy Nicholson that Hackney's planning problem were in the past...

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Stamford Hill deserves better

Stop the proposed area of planning exception

Hackney Council is planning to exclude 38 streets in Stamford Hill from normal planning protection. A period of so-called ‘consultation’ on the plans has already concluded, but most residents had no idea that this consultation was taking place. One councillor has already been quoted in the press celebrating what he described as an unprecedented u- turn in council policy. While the councillor was celebrating, most residents had not even been informed of the proposals. Those who have managed to obtain copies of the ‘draft’ proposals are appalled at the proposal to abandon their streets to unregulated property developers.

The Council already has an appalling record of applying its existing policies and often grants planning permission for front, rear and side extensions that are completely out of character with the existing streetscape, and which in some cases involve the almost total in-fill of rear gardens. Not satisfied with the existing levels of architectural vandalism, the Council wishes to relax even further the rules that they so rarely apply.

If this ‘area of exclusion’ is allowed, the unique character of our Victorian and Edwardian streets will be lost forever. With the Olympics approaching the area will be a magnet for unscrupulous ‘hit and run’ property developers and unlicensed ‘buy to let’

landlords who will destroy the quality of our environment. Already residents are facing inappropriate developments with a resulting loss of privacy, light and other amenities. Developers are even applying to build three storey houses in residential back gardens.

Why should residents of Stamford Hill be any less entitled to statutory planning protection than the rest of Hackney residents? We pay the same council tax; we deserve the same services. If you own your own home and this policy is approved, then you may not find it easy to sell up and leave as ‘planning blight’ will make prospective owner occupiers wary. If you rent, you may find your landlord decides that there is more money to be made by ‘increasing the density of occupation’, i.e. extending the property and then converting it into additional flats. The result will be a loss of high quality rental accommodation and more people forced to live in smaller flats and ‘houses in multiple occupation’ (including bedsits).

If you are concerned at the prospect that your next-door neighbour (or some future next door neighbour) will be able to build a wholly inappropriate extension with no regard to normal planning controls, if you care about the quality of our built environment or just wish to express your views on the Council’s flawed consultation, then please show your support.

• Email us at
• You can also contact the council for a copy of the consultation document at mailto://

How you can help

The council has confirmed that it will not re-open the consultation period. So we must use other methods of impressing on them the strength of feeling.

1. We are asking supporters to collect names on our petitions. We have two petitions.
One is a 'traditional' paper petition, which we are asking to be completed only by people who live in the proposed area of exception. We want to demonstrate the strength of opposition within the area. Click here to download petition sheets.

A second 'e' petition is available on the Downing Street website. We are asking everyone to sign this one (as it addresses the wider point of principle which arises from the proposed area of exception).

Please tell as many people as possible, we have more than 120 signatures so far, and need 100 for it to be looked at by Downing Street; ideally in excess of 4000 to show a real opposition.

2. We are also asking you to contact your ward councillors and invite them to meet with residents to discuss concerns. Please email your councillor and copy in the council and Councillor Guy Nicholson, cabinet member for planning and Sue Foster, planning officer - see addressed below.,,,

New River:,,,

Springfield ward:,,,

Lordship ward:,,,

Suggestions and ideas

This campaign will only succeed if we work together. Please forward any ideas, or suggestions as to how we can increase the pressure on the councillors to Hackney Planning Watch.

Hackney Planning Watch meeting

The proposed Local Development Framework and the 'areas of exception'.
Tuesday 26 June 2007
Stamford Hill Library

Over 180 turned up for the meeting - with over 171 people signing the attendance sheets. Unfortunately not all were able to get into the meeting as the room was absolutely full and we did not anticipate these numbers wanting to attend. This shows that this issue is one that has raised very strong feelings.

At the start, it looked like the meeting may not go ahead as a large number of people who were disappointed at not being allowed into the room (due to it being absolutely packed) decided to try to disrupt the meeting to prevent it going ahead. This continued for about half an hour and provided some difficulty for the stewards who were physically pushed and abused by people, mainly, but not exclusively from people from the Orthodox Jewish communities. Eventually the meeting settled down (although this was only after the police had been called) and we had a really interesting and constructive meeting which began to open up a dialogue with all the different communities represented at the meeting. The following is a report of what happened in the meeting.

Our sincerely apologies to those who were unable to gain admission to the meeting.

Jane Holgate introduced the meeting
Jane read a list of apologies from 11 Labour councillors. Councillor Odze, New River ward gave apologies for Cllrs Middleton and Steinberger. Other councillors in attendance were Councillor Odze, New River; Councillor Shaik, Springfield; Councillor Matthew Coggins, Lordship Ward; Cllr Dawood Akhoon, Cazenove Ward.

Hackney planning Watch had invited all councillors to attend and invited a representative from each political party to address the meeting at the start. Cllr Matthew Coggins, Lordship Ward spoke on behalf of the Conservatives and Cllr Dawood Akhoon, Cazenove Ward spoke on behalf of the Liberal Demoncrats.

Cllr Matthew Coggins, spoke first:
He had had many contacts by people who had planning applications refused including for alterations to low roofs around Church street of a type that had been accepted previously. Hackney Council withheld an earlier supplementary planning doc for political reasons, and the Conservatives had opposed the previous policy because they supported a more accommodating approach to extensions. There was a need to balance competing interests. They supported present proposal as a reasonable compromise, being acutely aware of pressures of rising house prices and the increasing need for family-sized accommodation. He said many in the orthodox Jewish community were poor and the majority lived in rented accommodation.

Cllr Dawood Akhoon
Said he was here to listen to all points of view

John Page introduced the issues and explained why the meeting had been called: This is an important discussion about what is happening in our neighbourhood. He apologised to late-comers who could not get in; the room was only intended for about 70 people, and there were fire risk issues if it became more crowded.

We must discuss and decide what to do, if necessary, to challenge council. Hackney Council has a long history of planning incompetence at best and of corruption in some proven cases. He was sure there are some very honest people in planning, but there is a history of approvals of applications clearly contrary to policy and regulations. In one case, Hackney Planning Watch had taken the issue as far as judicial review, at which point the council had backed down and paid all Hackney Planning watch legal costs. One Planning Committee member has been jailed for an election fraud.

The purpose of planning is to protect local people from inappropriate developments. HPW's view, confirmed by discussions with neighbours is that proposals flawed, and the consultation inadequate. It is important to restrict the number of houses carved up into multiple occupancy by developers and landlords.

The proposed policy suggests we need less protection than Dalston or Shoreditch, and encourages over-development. It is a green light from the council for property speculators and bad developers. Why was the consultation process a sham? Although he kept a close interest in local issues, the first he heard of the proposal was a Hackney Gazette article saying that the policy had already changed. He had since been told that there had been an 18 month consultation, which is clearly not true, and that there was a petition with 4000 signature in favour of the proposed change. However, there are not 4000 households in the area of exception.

The Triangle Community group invited councillors visit the area, in order to see that not true it had already ruined by d over-development and alterations, as has been claimed in support of weakening controls of changes. Only 4 councillors out of 60 came. Guy Nicholson admitted Hackney council hadn't got officers to survey the streets concerned and check, and many streets in the proposed area of exception are not even listed in the proposal booklet before they decided on the area of exception.

The proposals also name streets outside Stamford Hill - Cricketfield Road, and also the area around Queen's Drive near Finsbury Park - certainly not areas housing large families-why? For developers who see chance of large profits? It I important to keep up the political pressure, starting with the Full Council meeting tomorrow night, where Jane Holgate would address the meeting. We should continue to collect signatures for the petition, and also consider judicial review.

This particular policy can't be rubber- stamped; if there are objections it must go to the secretary of State, and must be reviewed by an independent assessor.

John showed the meeting photographs of examples of property extensions marring the appearance of the area, some with planning permission, and some without but with no enforcement. These included very high extensions and entire back gardens filled in. If this has been done under present rules, what will happen if they are relaxed?

Speakers from the floor

Bethune Road resident: Bethune Road is potentially a prime example of what we have seen. As an architect, she cares about the urban fabric. If we destroy it, we will never get it back. On the question of the need for more accommodation, he Woodberry Down regeneration is taking place, with 3 other developments in the last 5 years, bringing quality new developments all over the area. Rubbish problems and environmental damage are caused by overcrowding.

A young girl read out a statement written by her mother; she and her 7 siblings live in a 4 bedroom house, struggling for room, with nowhere to study, while sharing a room with 3 sisters. The council has refused their application for no specific reasons. Her little brother has chronic lung disease. She was born here but does not feel accepted in this vibrant multicultural environment.

Resident in Ravensdale Road: there are already 4 synagogues in his street, with applications for more, with cars parked up at many times, and noise from public address systems, and from a Hassidic school. This is very disruptive and is too much in one street. He said this wasn't fair on normal residents.

John Page pointed out that our Jewish neighbours are normal residents too and Hackney Planning Watch has no objection to synagogues.

[interruption - yes, but 4 and a school is too much in one street]

Another Ravensdale Road resident: said she has had 3 floods caused by over developments, while unregulated development has caused flooding and damp. All light is blocked in gardens and they are overlooked entirely.

Wilderton Road resident: Similar problems, not just aesthetically horrible, but a loss of green space and hence environment, with problems with cracking and subsidence caused by over-development.

Abraham Sunshine (speaking on behalf of a section of the orthodox community): Has lived in London Borough of Hackney for 20 years: We should compare Stamford Hill with the rest of Hackney in levels of crime Use of guns, knives and of mugging is almost nil because orthodox Jews are very law abiding. Living in harmony with orthodox Jews brings these benefits; isn't it a small price to allow them enough housing? In most cases neighbours of extensions are Jewish and make agreements informally over plans. If unregulated building work is a crime - why are police not called in?

Another resident: Would like to agree with last speaker on one point; Stamford Hill is a very desirable place to live. However, extensions are not the solution to the need for big houses. This is an example of the well-know 'tragedy of the commons' where unfettered grazing benefits individuals but ends up destroying the commons entirely. Housing is absurdly expensive, but this policy will encourage developers to build or subdivide more flats, so that prices rise even more.

Castlewood Road resident: Yes, this is a lovely area to live, relatively crime-free. However, despite good relationship with neighbours, restrictions on hours of use and covenants have been ignored. We need to respect each other.

Farley Road resident: He gets on well with Orthodox Jewish neighbours, who had asked him first about a proposed development agreed and withdrew a proposal that would block light. However, there is a pressure group to promote applications. In a democracy we can't make a special case of one community. This was not what his father fought for in the Second World War.

Dunsmure Road resident: As a former equalities officer, she knew that anti-discrimination laws say that regulations must not benefit one community over another. There was no equalities impact statement in the proposal document.

Cllr Harvey Odze New River Ward: lives in Breydon Road. Agrees that we cannot allow flouting of planning laws; but planning restrictions will be applied equally. An equalities impact assessment has been done-it is on the Hackney Council web site. The Local Development Framework document is very badly worded. The proposal is not making exceptions for Jewish community, but for any with large families, be they Jewish, Muslim, Christian etc. Moving house is very disruptive, better to extend. Loss of the extended family has driven the crime rate sky high. Need space for extended families. He would not support flouting planning law or ignoring neighbours.

Portland Avenue resident: loves living here, in a great family oriented are. Had searches done when buying and no planning proposals were found, so she was surprised to have windowless flat roofed structure built nearby without permission. Extended families are good, but developments looking like rubbish have been put up without permission, despite her objection.

Holmleigh Road resident: has lived here for 20 years, but since a neighbour moved in 5-6 yrs ago, their house has been just a building site, with no planning permission, trouble including builders fighting in the street, constant skips, drains blocked by cement. The Planning Department say they have no money to prosecute enforcement.

Jane Holgate: enforcement is a nightmare, but we have forced those who made changes without permission to pay to restore buildings. We must keep on at the council and be vigilant.

Amhurst Park resident: 2 years ago, the large house next door was sold, and he would have been happy to see a large Jewish family move in, the new owner from the Orthodox Jewish Community has converted it into 15 bed sits without planning permission instead. We need a real solution to the housing problem, but this proposal is not the solution.

Dunsmure Road resident: happy living alongside Hasidic community for 24 years. We must concentrate our fire against Hackney Council instead. The council are slipping an area of exception full of ambiguity and unclarity in an otherwise basically good policy. No clear rational for picking out Stamford Hill has been given. Don't fallout between ourselves; the council has let us down.

Denver Road resident: has lived in area For 8 years now. What antagonises people is building works without planning permission.

Holmleigh Road resident responsible for the developments referred to by previous speaker: There have not been the problems claimed, they had full permission. However, when an arbitrator's meeting was arranged over the dispute, Hackney Council did not turn up as arranged. The council has let us down.

Cllr Matthew Coggins: again, he would not support this proposal if he thought it would lead to a repeat of the bad practice shown in the earlier slides. The housing crisis is for all, especially for orthodox Jews who don't have enough access to social housing He will be interested to see what happens in the Woodberry Down development for the Jewish community, but he suspects it will be inadequate and will increase pressures you are all facing.

Councillor Dawood Akhood: the key is enforcement. 2 Asian residents came to him with problem of a builder's merchant whose development blocked out their family's light. Although there was no planning permission, the council did not enforce. It is good to see that people care; at the end of the day we should show respect for our neighbours. We are making progress and should go forward. Glad to see this meeting, well done

Bergholt Crescent resident: it was the Tories who sold off social housing in first place, so they are as much to blame as labour for the shortage. The problem is not Jewish, black or white; it's Hackney Council's incompetence: we need to push them, not our neighbours. We must to talk to our neighbours before development. To live in a closed community is people's choice if they wish, but we need to live together in a mixed community. The consultation process was inadequate and illegal. Contact Hackney Council tomorrow to say it's not good enough

John Page summed up
He had enjoyed the meeting and it has shown how many people care about the place where we all live. This meeting has shown that the consultation process should not be over. Many voices have been heard tonight on both sides of the argument and we have all had an opportunity to hear new points of view. Let us set up a dialogue between us, and show we can work together. Let's talk about having a meeting together with the Jewish community. The Council has tried to divide the community, but we are more than capable of engaging in dialogue and finding common ground. We should go forward together.

There will be a delegation tomorrow at 6.30 at Hackney Town Hall, when Jane will speak to the full council.

At the end of the meeting
There were many discussions at the end of the meeting and there was a commitment to establishing a dialogue between different sections of the community.

There were also a number of people who identified themselves as property developers who spoke to us. They accepted that many of the properties identified as overdevelopment in Stamford Hill are not for the benefit of large families but are a form of buy-to-let accommodation. Properties are extended and then subdivided into 2 or more flats. One in particular boasted that he bought up property to subdivide in this way and then extended the property without planning permission - he said he knew that Hackney council never took enforcement action.

It is against this background that we must ensure that the proposed area of exception is removed from the Local Development Framework.