Neighbourhood Forums: why bother?

John Woolf says young people should get involved

Highgate-Fair-2013a-300One might be forgiven for thinking that neighbourhood forums are solely dominated by the retired. They are, after all, extremely time consuming affairs. But in my experience with the Highgate Neighbourhood Forum (HNF), nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, I was rather intimidated by the number of professionals—and indeed young people—involved: professionals ranging from architecture, finance, IT and media; committed councilors of all political persuasions and even a young man studying neighbourhood forums for his Master’s degree.

As a youngster (well, 24 and three quarters!), I like to think I have a ‘life’—girlfriend, job, rent to pay, friends to see— but I’ve decided for some time that my ‘life’ has room for the HNF.

Yet when I relay this to my fellow (predominantly younger) friends, I tend to get the response: ‘why bother?’ Fair point—but here are the whys.

Neighbourhood forums empower local communities. For all the legislative complexities, under the Localism Act we can work towards establishing, building and enacting a vision for our community that has real impact through the Neighbourhood Plan.

My friends often complain that today’s politics are distant and irrelevant but through the NHF, I am seeing a different side to politics: one in which the community takes center stage. Residents from all walks of life and people from all political persuasions join together in building a better community.

In the HNF, whether young or old, from Camden or Haringey, regardless of political party – people unite to work for an even better Highgate. And this remains the focus: our vibrant, diverse and historic community is the motivating factor for involvement.

For my generation, where the world seems rather transitory as people go on GAP Years, go away to university or move around in search of affordable rent; the community in which you eventually settle is your root, your bedrock. Neighbours, friends, local amenities, local culture and yes, neighbourhood forums, are part of your daily life.

So whatever your background or age, do join us at the HNF. You will find friends working to build a better community for us all and a legislative structure that gives us power to realize our vision for a better, brighter Highgate.

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