Bid to build on Bush Hill Park tennis courts rejected

Planning committee turns down proposal for new flats in Abbey Road, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

The courts in Abbey Road that Bush Hill Park Tennis Club wants to build new homes on (credit Google)
The courts in Abbey Road that Bush Hill Park Tennis Club wants to build new homes on (credit Google)

A plan to build flats on disused tennis courts in Bush Hill Park has been turned down by Enfield Council amid concerns over the financial justification for the scheme and its impact on a conservation area.

Bush Hill Park Bowls, Tennis and Social Club’s bid to build eight flats on two of its tennis courts in Abbey Road was refused by the council’s planning committee on Tuesday, 3rd August.

The application, which sparked more than 100 objections from residents, had been deferred by the committee in June to allow the club to provide more information about the justification for the loss of the courts.

Claiming there had been a lack of income for a while, the club said the funds raised from the sale of the land would be used to improve the five courts that are in use and other facilities on the site. Council officers recommended the scheme for approval, writing in a report that they were satisfied with the evidence.

Planning decisions manager Claire Williams told the meeting: “The site has been optimised by providing eight new dwellings for the borough, including family homes, and would not result in any adverse harm to the character and appearance of the [Bush Hill Park] conservation area, neighbouring residential amenity or highway safety.

“The scheme will also result in improvements to the facilities of the tennis club, which will be a betterment for the local community.”

But Conservative committee member Mike Rye disagreed, saying images provided by the applicant showed the flats would be out of character with the conservation area.

Maria Alexandrou, another Conservative member, listed a range of concerns raised by residents. She said the borough needed more three and four-bedroom houses rather than flats, pointed out membership at the club had risen since 2017, and suggested building on the courts would undermine the council’s efforts to tackle obesity and keep people active.

Labour committee member Doug Taylor suggested deferring the scheme again to give the applicant another chance to address the concerns. He said he was surprised that three tennis courts would apparently remain “unusable” under the plans.

Cllr Taylor said: “I would suspect that the residents might wonder – although they have not said this – whether they are going to be released for development in the future.”

When presented with a document detailing the financial justification for the scheme, Cllr Taylor claimed none of the items had been costed, and the capital expenditure was two-thirds of the total receipt. “It does beg the question as to what happens to the rest,” he said.

Community First’s Daniel Anderson disagreed with the call to defer the application. He said: “We deferred it once, we asked for a number of answers to questions, [and] many of those have not been resolved. If questions can’t be given answers, why do we believe they are going to be answered again?”

Cllr Anderson also objected to the lack of affordable housing on the scheme, despite officers pointing out that the council’s policies do not require affordable homes for developments of fewer than ten units.

Cllr Taylor withdrew his motion to defer the application. Nine committee members then voted to refuse the scheme because of the lack of clarity on the three unused tennis courts and how the funding would be allocated, along with a concern that the proposed three-floor buildings would not fit in with the conservation area. Two councillors abstained.