The Heathrow villages of Sipson, Harmondsworth and Harlington have made great strides in the formation of a Neighbourhood Plan in a community-led effort to shape the future – should expansion of the airport be rejected later this month.
Residents of three Heathrow villages have issued their latest update on ambitious plans to advance a Neighbourhood Plan, despite only getting started last November.
Since successfully bidding for £7,000 of Government funding from the Community Development Foundation the residents have been working hard to lay foundations. They set up the Heathrow Villages Forum a 21-member cross-section of the community at the end of last year.
After piloting its questionnaire at Grow Heathrow’s 5th Birthday in March and conducting extensive consultation with the community the Forum originally agreed that it should be governed by six priorities – ‘housing’, ‘transport’, ‘enterprise’, ‘community spaces’, ‘green spaces’ and ‘heritage’. But has recently decided to add ‘health and wellbeing’ as well. Each will underpin the principles to be embodied in the Plan.”
The Forum is reaching out for residents to help with ‘enterprise’ and the new ‘health & wellbeing’ portfolio, along with help with websites and social media. But it has enlisted the help of three groups of postgraduate students on the planning course at University College London!
The future of the Heathrow Villages should be defined by the communities of people living there and what they feel is important. The Neighbourhood Plan will provide a framework in which leadership, partnership, governance and resources can emerge that will give shape to these communities’ values and aspirations.
Last week the Forum announced that the boundary of the neighbourhood area has now been finalised. Cranford and Longford, originally to be included have been dropped for now to ensure the focus is kept small enough area, although the group has left the door open to including them later on.
“The idea was to focus on the three villages of Sipson, Harmondsworth and Harlington, with the knowledge that it is more realistic to start small as a local neighbourhood plan is a big endeavourer, requiring lots of volunteered time and energy.”
The residents behind the project believe that a Neighbourhood Plan will give them more of a say in development decisions that have been difficult to influence in the past.
It’s particularly important for this area, which has suffered the blight caused by airport-related development for decades.
“The uncertainty surrounding the possible expansion of Heathrow Airport has led to lots of land speculation in the area. Even if the airport expansion is finally ruled out, the alternative development plan model, supported by the borough, still assumes that our area is essentially for growth ancillary to the airport and not in the interests of the residents, or enhancing the unique character of the villages and their surrounding countryside.
Here in Colnbrook there has been little progress since the issue was first discussed in 2011. As a parished area only the Parish Council can pursue the initiative locally. It briefly toyed with former councillor Michael Nye’s proposal in February 2012 to link with the Windsor villages, threw the idea out on cost grounds in 2013, and resurrected the idea in July 2014. But there has been little progress since.
The Heathrow Villages Forum is now set to submit its proposal to Hillingdon Council for approval. In the mean time the Airports Commission’s recommendation on a new runway in the South-East is anticipated at the end of June.