Learn from others who have become involved in planning
There are many examples of community led plans and campaigns which have succeeded in changing public and private sector development proposals and realising alternative community-inspired visions. They are small in scale, but have significantly shaped London, and even the approach of planning itself. Movements such as the Homes Before Roads campaign in the early 1970s contributed to the revolution of transport planning, particularly in London (read a recent blog on the campaign here ). More contemporary campaigns such as Estate Watch are bringing people together to resist demolitions in regeneration areas, see their website here . And recent efforts by local campaigners on the London Plan are also helping identify alternative visions that are closer to the needs and wishes of London’s communities.
This section of our website is about those kinds of planning activities – by ordinary people creating alternative plans or seeking to positively influence development proposals for their areas. There are many locally-based, sometimes small but always significant projects, campaigns, plans and activities going on all around London and the UK. We have collected a few (historical) examples and provided links for you to find out more.
Looking for more stories? Find our podast here.
Planning Aid for London would like to thank Michael Edwards for sharing the below examples of community-led planning initiatives in London.
Examples of community-led planning
Are you part of a community group or campaign and have you used planning to reach your goals? Please get in touch!
We are making podcasts, videos and other resources to help community groups learn from each other about planning.
Greater Carpenters Neighbourhood Forum (Newham)
Just Space, mutual-support network of community groups on planning issues, and London Tenants Federation have assisted with setting up the Greater Carpenters Neighbourhood Forum (GNCF). GNCF activities prepared and submitted a Neighbourhood Plan; at the examination of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) Local Plan, the Inspector fully backed the residents’ wishes as stated in the neighbourhood plan to retain their community and avoid demolition of housing and high-density development.
However, the examination of the Neighbourhood Plan has recommended the deletion of essential policies that opposed demolition and sensitive infill development of housing. Most of the land on the estate is owned by Newham Council, although the Local Planning Authority is the LLDC. Newham Council has developed various plans in the past to demolish and regenerate the estate.
Read more about the Greater Carpenters Neighbourhood Forum here.
Calthorpe Community Garden (Camden)
Calthorpe Community Garden is a small plot of land on London’s Grays Inn Road near King’s Cross which originated through sustained agitation by local residents of this very dense district, who finally in 1983 persuaded the local authority, who owned the land, to let it be used as a community centre for sustainable food growing and other services.
It’s now a self-governing charity offering a horticultural programme for people with learning disabilities and mental health issues, supervised activities for children, sports development for children, and other community classes and activities.
Read more about the charity here.
Coin Street (Lambeth)
Coin Street Community Builders is perhaps the most-cited contemporary example of community building in London. Located on London’s South Bank, Coin Street redevelopment began from the local people, who mounted a campaign to purchase some land and regenerate their local neighbourhood. See their website for more information here.
You can also find a long and carefully-referenced history of Coin Street Community Builders, by London based artist and writer Will Jennings, which appeared in Medium here.
Stonebridge Estate (Brent)
The Stonebridge Estate in Brent underwent a community-led redevelopment process in the 1980s. The communities living at the estate used the Planning for Real approach to community planning. With assistance from the Community Land and Workspace Services (CLAWS) and Planning Aid for London, residents worked with the Stonebridge Tenants Advancement Committee to establish a Housing Action Trust. Together they drew up plans for the redevelopment the estate into mainly high-density medium rise terraced housing.
Read more about the Planning for Real approach here.
People’s Plan for the Royal Docks (Newham)
The People’s Plan for the Royal Docks was produced from 1983 to 1984 by residents in the Silvertown area as an alternative to what is now London City Airport. The Plan was completed with support of the Popular Planning Unit of the Greater London Council.
You can read more about the People’s Plan for the Royal Docks in an article here.
An interview with Dr. Sue Brownill on the plan is available here.
Wards Corner Community Coalition (Haringey)
Wards Corner Community Coalition is a grassroots organisation working to stop the demolition of the homes, businesses and indoor market above Seven Sisters tube station in Tottenham, North London. The coalition aims to stop the attempts of property developer Grainger PLC at forcing out the local community. The coalition has had lots of successes along the way but still face opposition from Haringey Council, Transport for London and the Greater London Authority to their Wards Corner Coalition Plan.
See their Facebook page for the most recent information here.
You can read their alternative community-led plan for Wards Corner on their website here.
King’s Cross Railway Lands Group (Camden & Islington)
The King’s Cross Railway Lands Group (KXRLG) was an umbrella group gathering a diverse network of formal and informal organisations. The group demanded to influence the development on and around the railway lands at King’s Cross and St Pancras, from the late 1980s until about 2010. The group came into existence in response to plans from British Rail for a London station for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (now called HS1). The state railway was under government pressure to make money from its land and air rights, and entered a partnership with developers to try and do so.
KXRLG campaigned to influence the local authorities, produced its own community plans, and did delay planning permission for a large office-led development scheme until the property crash of the early 90s drove the development partners into administration. The Group was later instrumental in the campaigns at the House of Lords, which led to a completely different route for the railway. It remained active in trying to pressure Camden and Islington councils to demand social housing and community benefits in a subsequent scheme, which eventually got built as King’s Cross Central.
KXRLG disbanded itself in 2013; its website is archived at the British Library, available here.
Covent Garden Community Association (Camden)
Without the local community-based action since the 1970s that the Covent Garden Community Association has been doing, Covent Garden would today be an anonymous urban motorway surrounded by office blocks, which would probably now be considered for redevelopment. Find out more about how their strange coalition overturned a GLC plan, doubled the population and was the making of a much-loved London district here.
You can also have a read of Judy Hillman's 1986 book for the Greater London Council, the predecessor of the Greater London Authority, titled The rebirth of Covent Garden: A place for people. The pdf is available here.
Finsbury Park Action Group (Islington)
In the 1980s, the Finsbury Park Action Group, assisted by Community Land and Workspace Services (CLAWS) and PAL, successfully opposed a developer-led initiative for a fashion centre and car parking on vacant land north of the Harvist Estate and east of Isledon Road, between Finsbury Park and Holloway (Islington). Eventually, the action group produced a Community Plan focussed on building affordable housing, a Garden Centre, a re-sited and refurbished park, health centre, some shops and some local employment space. The Community Plan was then taken up initially by a Community Development Trust and eventually by a number of Housing Associations.
Out of the Finsbury Action Group came The Friends of Finsbury Park, a community-led group still active today. Visit the Friends of Finsbury Park here.
You can read more about the Action group in this article here.