Council reveals plan to build thousands of homes on Green Belt

Green Belt ‘released’ in effort to meet new higher housing targets, report James Cracknell and Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Vicarage Farm in World's End
Vicarage Farm in World’s End, part of the Green Belt allocated for housing by Enfield Council

Enfield Council is planning for thousands of homes to be built on Green Belt land in a bid to meet new higher housing targets, a draft strategy plan confirms.

The authority’s newly-published draft Local Plan shows that Crews Hill and an area of farmland in World’s End – now being dubbed ‘Chase Park’ – would see between 6,000 and 8,000 homes built between them. A developer, Comer Homes Group, has already set out its vision for up to 5,000 homes at the 140-hectare Vicarage Farm, between Enfield Road and Hadley Road.

It was only last month that a coalition of campaign groups in the borough issued a report warning that it was not necessary to use the Green Belt to meet housing targets and that any homes built were not likely to be affordable to local people.

Talking to the Dispatch after the council’s publication of its draft Local Plan this week, one local campaigner said it looked like it had “been written by developers”.

Other housing allocations listed in the Local Plan include 350 homes at Palace Gardens Shopping Centre in Enfield Town, where a developer last year revealed its controversial high-rise scheme; 400 homes at North Middlesex University Hospital; 1,217 homes at Joyce Avenue and Snells Park Estate in Angel Edmonton; 1,173 homes at Edmonton Green Shopping Centre; more than 4,000 homes across a series of retail park sites in Southbury; and nearly 500 homes on the car parks of Arnos Grove and Cockfosters tube stations.

Merdian Water, the council’s flagship redevelopment project long touted as being able to deliver 10,000 homes, is listed in the draft Local Plan as having an estimated capacity of 5,000 homes.

Councillors are due to debate the plans at a council meeting on Wednesday next week. If agreed, it will then go out to a public consultation over the summer.

Carol Fisk is vice-chair of local campaign group Enfield Road Watch, set up to oppose a previous plan to build on Green Belt land in Enfield Road ten years ago – plans that now appear to be revived. She said: “It looks like the Local Plan has been written by developers.

“We are going to do everything we can to make as many people as possible aware of it and to get them to respond to the consultation.”

City Hall’s new London Plan, finalised at the start of this year, set Enfield a housing target of 12,460 homes over the next decade, or 1,246 per year. The borough’s annual rate of homebuilding in the last three years has been 438, just over half of the previous target, prompting the government to introduce a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ in the borough.

Crews Hill, which has a railway station but is currently only home to a few hundred people, has been targeted as a potential site for more housing, despite its position in the Green Belt. The new draft Local Plan states: “Crews Hill is a centre of food growing and horticulture so consideration needs be given to safeguarded areas where authorised activity has taken place to accommodate new garden centres and food growing plots to offset those lost to development.

“The precedent for glasshouse architecture related to horticulture offers the opportunity for new forms of architecture which not only offer innovations in home-growing and energy-efficient living, but also enable new home‐work integration of a variety of jobs not restricted to office based jobs.”

A separate document published by developer Comer Homes reveals its plans for the Vicarage Farm site, just to the east of Trent Park, which the council has earmarked for 3,000 homes but the developer states could accommodate up to 5,000. It says: “The landscape and topography of the site provide an opportunity to create a wonderful place to live that is sustainable and adds significantly to Enfield and its environment.

“Vicarage Farm is already surrounded on three sides by development. The location and topography of the site enables development with reduced visibility, thus reducing the effect on the countryside.”

A report written by council officers ahead of next week’s meeting states: “The release of some of this land would (normally) be considered of high or very high harm to the Green Belt.”

Building on Green Belt is opposed by newly re-elected London mayor Sadiq Khan. The Greater London Authority responded to the council’s draft Local Plan by “indicating that Green Belt boundaries should only be altered where exceptional circumstances are fully evidenced and justified”.

Council leader Nesil Caliskan said: “Enfield is one of the most unique boroughs in the whole of London. Its mix of green open spaces and waterways rub shoulders with the urban fabric of the borough.

“It is a growing borough and our residents face a housing affordability crisis. To support our economy and provide more homes we need to make difficult choices about where growth can be placed.

“But to complement this we are enhancing the natural landscape in the borough, improving its biodiversity through rewilding, planting over half a million new trees and ‘greening’ our streets through initiatives like green roofs and walls.

“The draft Local Plan also guards against the development of inappropriate skyscrapers as well as looking at options for providing more affordable family homes – which we know our residents want and need.

“Meanwhile government planning changes threaten our wider Green Belt and our ability to control how new developments in Enfield are designed and shaped.

“Ultimately, we need a place that is more equal for all, delivering more housing and better and fairer outcomes across the board.”

Update (3rd June):

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “The mayor is committed to protecting London’s Green Belt and any plans to de-designate parts of it must be considered against his new London Plan. We will look at the borough’s draft Local Plan in closer detail.”