The level of turnout at last Thursday’s referendum is a testament to the fact that local residents care deeply about our neighbourhood.
We had been hoping that most of the 370 members of the neighbourhood forum (same membership as St Helens Residents Association) would take the trouble to vote. But going along to a polling station, or completing a postal vote or proxy vote form, takes time and effort and has to be fitted into busy lives. The turnout of 700 plus (including all postal votes) came as surprise.
To put a 23% turnout in context, this is not much below what happens in a local election in several wards in the Borough (in St Helens and Dalgarno wards we are more active voters, with a turnout of 34% in each ward in the 2014 local elections).
In one of the very few neighbourhood plan refererendums held to date in London (West Hampstead and Fortune Green) the turnout was a lower 14%. This is the sort of level we were expecting. Neighbourhood plans are unfamiliar to most people in London, although now much more common in rural and parished areas across England.
So it was very welcome to see people streaming into St Helens Church to cast their vote, having heard about the referendum from their neighbours, our flyers, or from information left with Shelley the chemist, the butchers at North Pole Road, St Helens Cafe and other venues. Getting this neighbourhood plan in place has been a real joint effort across our London ‘village’.
One lady voter who came with her carer told me that she had lived here all her life and remembered being at the opening of the Princess Louise Hospital, by Queen Mary. As noted in the short historical section of the StQW Plan, this event was in 1928, nearly ninety years ago.
A main aim of the StQW Plan has been to keep this pocket of London multi-generational as well as ‘neighbourly’. More ways need to be found to enable older and younger people to stay in the area – far from easy in a housing market which increasingly excludes all but the very wealthy. We hope that the policies and site allocations in the StQW Plan will help to achieve this aim in the coming years.
And thanks again to all who voted.
Henry Peterson, Chair StQW Neighbourhood Forum