Affordable housing block approved by councillors at fourth time of asking

The 100% social-rent housing scheme had previously been rejected for being too “ugly” but has now won approval from Enfield Council’s planning committee, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

The Gilpin's Bell in Fore Street and (inset) plans for the tower (credit HTA Design LLP)
The Gilpin’s Bell in Fore Street and (inset) plans for the tower (credit HTA Design LLP)

Plans for an 18-storey tower block providing 100% social-rent homes have been approved to help meet the borough’s soaring demand for low-cost housing.

Developer Social Capital Partners won permission to demolish The Gilpin’s Bell pub in Fore Street, Angel Edmonton, and build 110 homes plus commercial space that could be used to provide a replacement public house.

The proposals were presented to Enfield Council’s planning committee for the fourth time on Tuesday (5th) after previous versions of the scheme were rejected. The most recent plan was turned down in January last year over fears it would harm Fore Street Conservation Area and other heritage assets, with councillors describing the scheme as “ugly” and “monolithic”.

Since then, the borough has faced soaring homelessness and an acute shortage of affordable rented accommodation, meaning hundreds of families have been forced to live in hotels and other bed-and-breakfast accommodation. Faced with a £20million hole in its budget caused by additional spending on temporary housing, the council has started moving homeless families away from London and the south-east of England.

Andy Higham, the council’s head of development management, told Tuesday’s meeting that the changed circumstances, plus comments made on the plans by the Greater London Authority (GLA), meant the committee should review the application before making a final decision.

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Although London mayor Sadiq Khan did not use his powers to intervene following the latest refusal, the GLA warned the failure to provide the homes would “have an impact on the implementation of the London Plan”.

The GLA also strongly supported the housing offer, including the provision of 20% family-sized units. It welcomed changes to the tower’s design and said the heritage impacts “could be acceptable on balance when weighed against the public benefits of the scheme”.

The developer has also changed the housing offer from London Affordable Rent to lower-cost social-rent homes – which will be set at 60% of local rents – and included a second staircase to provide an alternative fire escape route.

Andy told the committee: “Taking these factors into account, it is officers’ recommendation, based on these circumstances, and given the likelihood of an appeal against any refusal, that planning permission should be granted.”

The council officer also pointed out that although the site is not in an area deemed suitable for tall buildings in the council’s development plan, the GLA said it was broadly policy compliant given its location in a district centre and the presence of tall buildings in the locality.

He told councillors the GLA’s comments would need to be addressed if the developer appealed to the planning inspectorate against a refusal.

Conservative committee member Mike Rye, who previously opposed the scheme, welcomed the changes made by the developer and said he suspected the benefit of the tower “does just about outweigh the reasons for refusal”, although he expressed “regret” that it had not been made “five to six storeys” smaller.

The development will be largely car free, with the exception of four parking bays for disabled residents that will be provided along Clive Avenue. Although officers pointed out that this was policy compliant, committee members asked officers to see if more could be provided given that at least 10% of the flats will be wheelchair accessible.

After adding an extra condition to explore the possibility of providing more disabled parking spaces, the committee unanimously approved the plans.

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