Council set for showdown with mayor over new homes

Sadiq Khan warns Enfield Council against building on Green Belt, reports James Cracknell

Save the Green Belt sign

Parts of Enfield’s Green Belt have already come under threat from development, such as this field next to Enfield Road (credit Google)

Enfield Council could be heading for a showdown with the Mayor of London over the fate of the borough’s Green Belt.

The Labour-run council is considering building on Green Belt land as it struggles to meet a new target of building 1,876 homes in Enfield per year – with only 550 being built at present.

Last month councillors rejected a call by opposition Conservatives to ban any new homes from being built on the Green Belt, which has been protected against development since 1947. But the next day, after being quizzed during Mayor’s Question Time about whether he would block attempts to build on Enfield’s Green Belt, Sadiq Khan said: “If it is the case that their Local Plan is in breach of our policies I will object. It’s important to protect the Green Belt.”

A draft document outlining the objectives of Enfield’s new Local Plan, which will guide planning policy in the borough over the next 15 years, states there are “strong sustainability arguments in favour of developing some Green Belt land”. The railway station at Crews Hill is used as an example of an area that “has the greatest potential to act as a hub for sustainable growth”.

However, local plans drawn up by councils must comply with policies in the London Plan, which is decided by the Greater London Authority (GLA) and currently contains a commitment to protect the Green Belt.

Enfield residents will soon be able to have their say on the document, with a public consultation set to be launched this month.

Presenting an opposition motion calling for the Green Belt to be protected, Conservative Group deputy leader Edward Smith told last month’s full council meeting: “Crews Hill has been mentioned as a possible location for building on the Green Belt. Building on gardens will be made easier than in the past and building high-rise blocks in town centres will also be easier. This consultation will be a fishing expedition to get support for this basic thesis.

“But we think the main reason for the lack of housing built in Enfield over the last ten years is down to the failures of the council.”

Meridian Water in Edmonton was frequently brought up in last month’s debate, with two deals with developers having fallen through in the last year and no new homes having yet been built there, despite the council pledging to build 10,000.

Cllr Smith said: “Large regeneration schemes have moved at a snail’s pace. When will the council get a grip on Meridian Water?”

Council leader Nesil Caliskan admitted that building the number of new homes required by City Hall had proven difficult. She said: “Previous housing targets were challenging, but were moderate in comparison to these new targets. We are now expected to deliver 1,900 homes per year. A step change is obviously needed.

“We will be seeking the views of all residents and stakeholders, in a 12-week consultation, before we come to a decision. We are asking people to suggest sites for new homes and come up with ideas.”

Enfield has the fourth largest area of Green Belt land in London, with 37% of its total land falling under the designation. According to new figures released by charity Shelter, Enfield also has the seventh-highest rate of homelessness in the UK.

Cllr Caliskan said: “We value our green spaces just as we value those people in Edmonton, where one-in-four children live in poverty, largely down to the fact they cannot afford their housing costs.”

Concerning a potential clash with the GLA over building on the Green Belt, the council’s deputy leader, Daniel Anderson, said: “This is not a done deal. We are in a process of consultation.”