Council offered £1million to approve ‘unsafe’ tower block

Letter obtained under FOI Act reveals planning agent’s attempt to sway decision on Brimsdown scheme days before meeting, reports James Cracknell

The plans for the Station Tavern site and (inset) some cash
The plans for the Station Tavern site and (inset) some cash

The planning agent promoting a 21-storey tower block in Brimsdown offered to pay Enfield Council £1million “in addition” to the usual community contributions made by developers proposing large schemes.

In a letter sent to Enfield Civic Centre just days before a planning committee meeting at which the Brimsdown scheme was deferred by Labour councillors against the advice of the council’s planning department, the developer’s agent wrote that “we are prepared to make an equivalent monetary offer to be discussed, negotiated and agreed” adding in brackets that the sum “could be 1 million pounds”.

It is normal for developers of large schemes to make financial contributions to local planning authorities to support necessary upgrades of local infrastructure and to provide affordable housing, but this is usually done via Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) payments agreed as part of a planning application. In his letter – obtained by the Dispatch via the Freedom of Information Act – planning agent Murat Aydemir proposes that the £1million offer would come “in addition” to CIL and that he believed the council would “greatly benefit from a substantial monetary contribution”.

Conservative planning committee member and former council leader Michael Rye told the Dispatch the £1million offer was “highly unusual” and should have been flagged to the committee when the planning application was debated by them five days later.

At that meeting, committee members were repeatedly warned that the plans for 100 homes plus retail and office space on the site of a derelict pub in Green Street, next to Brimsdown Station, would be unsafe – and were given twelve reasons to reject the application by planning officers. These included serious concerns over fire safety and the safety of children playing on the tower’s proposed rooftop play space.

However, went it came to the decision, seven Labour councillors voted against the motion to refuse planning permission and later agreed instead to give the developer more time to address the concerns raised, voting to defer the scheme. This was a second deferral, following the first in July.

Of the Labour councillors on the committee, only Doug Taylor voted to reject the application, alongside all four Tory members. After the vote, Conservative Jim Steven, visibly angry, said he was “not happy with the vote” and suggested the outcome had been “twisted”.

Two days after the October meeting, a leaked email shows that Murat Aydemir, who works for developer Yen of London Ltd’s appointed planning agents IntelliArch Ltd, invited planning committee chair Sinan Boztas to meet to discuss the application with him, alongside head of planning Brett Leahy. The council has not answered questions from the Dispatch about whether any meeting subsequently took place and what was discussed.

Cllr Rye, who told October’s meeting the committee “would not be able to look itself in the face” if it did not reject the Brimsdown application, said of the newly-revealed letter offering the council £1million: “This is a highly unusual letter and should have been reported to the planning committee.”

The council has been asked to comment on who at the planning department was made aware of the £1million offer, whether any councillors were made aware, and why it was not disclosed at the committee meeting. It has not provided any response.

Murat Aydemir has been asked about why the offer was made, what the offer was aiming to achieve, why the suggested £1million was not included as part of the scheme’s CIL or Section 106 contributions, and what discussions he has had with councillors outside of the two committee meetings. He has not provided any response.

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