Housing campaigner Al Sims is sceptical about the new homes and jobs planned for Meridian Water
Enfield Council’s £6billion redevelopment scheme at Meridian Water will affect everyone in the borough, but some of the claims being made about it are misleading and public concerns are being ignored.
Meridian Water is an ambitious plan to “build 10,000 homes and create 6,000 jobs” on publicly-owned land around Ikea and the newly-opened railway station. The council will need to borrow huge sums of money to fund this development. How will the massive loans needed to finance Meridian Water be serviced in the short or medium term? As borrowing costs rise, investment in other areas such as care services, schools, parks and bin collections will be affected, while land may need to be sold to bridge the funding gap.
It is also misleading to say 6,000 new jobs will be created. Some jobs will come from employers relocating from elsewhere in Enfield – so not strictly “new” jobs. Since there are currently 2,600 people employed at Meridian Water, many jobs will be lost to provide space for housing. And according to the council’s own employment strategy report, only 1,500 of the new jobs will be guaranteed for local people.
Meanwhile, the council’s area action plan suggests the site is not even big enough to accommodate 6,000 jobs and 10,000 homes without increasing housing density. There are already issues with the very high number of homes planned and people being squeezed on to the site – the density levels proposed are six times higher than other urban areas in Enfield. High densities can work, but only if balanced by easy access to parks and open spaces.
The amount of parkland being created at Meridian Water is a tenth of what’s needed, and the surrounding wards already have a deficit of parkland. Promotional pictures of Meridian Water focus on the picturesque reservoirs and waterways but don’t show the number of people who will use the parkland, or the huge electricity pylons, nearby Edmonton incinerator, and busy North Circular road.
Meridian Water is a great opportunity to use public land for public good and to build affordable homes for key workers such as NHS staff, teachers and care workers. Unfortunately, it looks as if the majority of homes will be unaffordable to key workers and property prices will be as much as 50% higher than the rest of Upper Edmonton. The development’s financial viability assessment says the new homes should be targeted at “affluent young professionals” and, despite the council leader’s claims to the contrary, it also suggests housing will be sold overseas.
Given these issues, it’s perhaps no surprise the council is trying to silence public concerns. A recent planning committee meeting where plans for Meridian Water were approved was held behind closed doors. The council said it excluded the public from attending because of the Covid-19 pandemic, despite ten councillors and officers attending the meeting in person back in March. The council refused residents’ requests to postpone the meeting for two weeks so that it could be viewed online, and while the council’s lengthy statement of support was read out, residents were given only 48 hours to submit their written statements, which were not even read out.
Meridian Water will affect everyone in Enfield for decades, so residents deserve clarity and proper engagement – and new housing that meets the needs of local people.
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