Councillors demand more family-size homes at Meridian Water

Planning committee debate preceded vote to approve the project’s first 300 homes, reports James Cracknell

Vistry Partnership's plans for the first 300 homes at Meridian Water include a new park area
Vistry Partnership’s plans for the first 300 homes at Meridian Water include a new park area

Councillors have raised concerns over the number of family-sized homes proposed at Meridian Water.

During a planning committee debate over the latest application to come forward as part of Enfield Council’s flagship redevelopment project, councillors complained that only one-in-four of the 300 homes proposed had three or more bedrooms.

But the committee later approved detailed plans for the first phase of the ‘Meridian One’ development in Willoughby Lane after being told by council officers that they did not have the power to alter the proposed mix of housing on the site, since minimum levels had previously been agreed as part of an outline application four years ago.

The decision means construction can now begin on the very first homes to be built at Meridian Water, a decade after the council began drawing up its £6billion plans for 10,000 homes across the 85-hectare industrial zone straddling the River Lea.

Tuesday night’s committee debate began with a speech by Matt Burn, of campaign group Better Homes Enfield, who said: “There are not enough homes with three or more bedrooms. The evidence that more are needed is overwhelming.

“Enfield is around 3,000 homes short of meeting its core policy target for three-plus bedroom homes, but is well ahead of the target for one or two-bed homes.

“Edmonton has very high levels of overcrowding in the private rented sector, which is linked to serious health issues. Thousands of children are living in temporary accommodation in Enfield.

“The average waiting time for council homes with three-plus bedrooms is five or six years, with many families waiting more than ten years. The wait is almost twice as long as for homes with one or two bedrooms.

“If the council can’t build more three-plus bed homes on a site like this, on the council’s own flagship development, then where will these homes be built? Who is going to build them? And more importantly, when will these homes actually get built?”

Sarah Parkinson from Vistry Partnerships, the council’s appointed developer for Meridian One, explained that the ‘affordable’ housing provision for the whole development had been increased from the outline plans approved in 2017 and would be brought forward, so that most of the cheaper homes are built in the first phase.

She said: “We are committed to delivering significantly greater numbers of affordable homes, moving to 50% across the entire Meridian One site, including a greater number of London affordable rent homes.

“We are committed to the early delivery of affordable housing, with 272 of the 300 homes – 91% [of the first phase] – being affordable. The affordable rent homes, once built, will be handed over to the council, while a registered housing provider will take on the shared ownership homes.

“The original application allowed the forward delivery of market housing, but our revised approach sees the delivery of affordable housing first. This application will deliver a range of dwelling sizes to meet housing needs.”

Of the 272 ‘affordable’ units, 154 will be shared ownership and 118 will be for rent. Of the 300 homes in total, 75 will have three or more bedrooms, representing 25%.

Council officer Sharon Davidson told councillors this housing mix “exceeded” what was originally agreed in 2017 when the plans were first approved and that councillors only had the power now to alter the scheme’s layout, design and landscaping. However, she said there may be another chance to increase the number of family-sized homes in the second phase of the scheme, if Vistry Partnerships submits a full planning application.

Community First councillor Daniel Anderson remained unconvinced and said: “I am not sure how we have arrived at what is deemed to be appropriate levels of housing mix.”

Labour committee member Hass Yusuf said: “We do need more family-size units because that is what many pressure groups and residents are concerned about.”

Tory councillor Maria Alexandrou said: “How are on earth are we going to solve this? We need to build homes for families.”

Kate Anolue, a Labour member, said: “We have large families in Edmonton and we really need to make sure we address this.”

Conservative Mike Rye added: “It is a missed opportunity and a huge disappointment.”

In the vote on the plans following the debate, seven councillors voted in favour, with one against and three abstentions.