I’ve watched from afar the birth pains of a neighbourhood forum for King’s Cross. Those first, seemingly small, steps for any organisation are always difficult and often painful, and this is no different.
Neighbourhood forums are an initiative of the coalition Government contained in the Localism Act that became law last year. A group in King’s Cross has gained approval from both Camden and Islington Councils to set up a forum for ‘King’s Cross’ (in inverted commas because the boundary is not exactly unproblematic).
Where these forums exist they are responsible for local planning policy, says the Government’s Planning Portal:
“Neighbourhood forums… can use new neighbourhood planning powers to establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in a neighbourhood. These are described legally as ‘neighbourhood development plans.’
“In an important change to the planning system communities can use neighbourhood planning to permit the development they want to see – in full or in outline – without the need for planning applications. These are called ‘neighbourhood development orders.’
“Local councils will continue to produce development plans that will set the strategic context within which neighbourhood development plans will sit.
“Neighbourhood development plans or orders do not take effect unless there is a majority of support in a referendum of the neighbourhood.”
So, the group currently working hard, in a totally voluntary capacity, on our behalf have a huge job to do. First and foremost though, they need to get the local community onside. Is this something we all want? What would we get out of it? If the majority of us do want it, how can we all be enabled to participate?
The boundary set by the group is an interesting one (it includes all the shaded areas in the map). It was largely decided because of local political constraints. For example, Camden Council had already set up the Somers Town Neighbourhood Forum as they’d wanted it to be one of the original pilots, so Somers Town has been excluded from the King’s Cross forum. However, it is said the Somers Town forum would benefit from being part of a wider geographical base as these Neighbourhood Forums require a great deal of local expertise and casting a net a little more widely might pay dividends. However, as I understand it the boundary is now set.
To get us all on side the group needs to undertake a massive marketing and promotion campaign. As with any such campaign, the first thing to start with is branding – what is it we are being asked to participate in? Easy, I hear you say. But… would you want to join KXNF or NFKX? There are many of us out there still reeling from well remembered days when another NF claimed our streets, so that acronym will only serve to annoy, offend and hurt – hurt badly. Perhaps the coalition Government should have thought more carefully when deciding to call these things a name that would result in an acronym bathed in infamy, hate and violence. So, our King’s Cross group faces a challenge when they are not even out of the starting blocks.
It’s not one they are prepared to ignore however. Discussions have taken place, and they’ve not been easy. After all, it IS a neighbourhood forum; why take people’s emotional reaction to the name NF into account? Some argue exactly that. Others argue that if such a body is to be inclusive of the population that lives here, then it must, from the beginning set out its stall in a way that invites us all in rather than puts many of us off. To show that thought has gone into this isn’t just a marketing exercise, it’s about communicating the underlying values that the initiating group hold.
Short, snappy and hopefully grabbing names have been suggested and they include these top runners:
Each would have a strapline explaining what the group is in a complete sentence and would be partnered with a graphic to create a logo… perhaps something like this:
What do you think? Which one of these names would get you on board? Is it important? Maybe you are not worried by potential confusion with the British National Party’s forerunner, the National Front?
Let us know. We’ll pass your comments on to the group. A group that deserves our thanks for their commitment and passion for our local area.