News

Cut-price Meridian Water homes ‘raise questions’ about project’s viability

Fears first new homes for sale are struggling to sell as some have their prices slashed by up to £33,500, reports James Cracknell

The Meridian One sales office
The Meridian One sales office

Slashed prices on the first new homes for sale at Meridian Water are “massively disappointing” and “raise questions” about the viability of Enfield Council’s flagship housing project.

This is according to a senior Conservative councillor – originally involved in early discussions about Meridian Water under the previous Tory civic centre administration over 13 years ago – who says it is “insane” that the Edmonton housing project has not been developed faster.

The first new private sale homes were put on the market nearly a year ago, in September 2022, but many remain unsold and have now had their prices reduced. The cheapest studio flat available at Meridian One, the first phase of Meridian Water, originally went on sale for £322,000 but is now listed at £299,500 – representing a 7% price drop.

The most expensive flat listed, which has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, was originally listed for £512,000 but is now going for £500,000. There have been at least three other price drops on flats at Meridian One, with the biggest being a reduction of £33,500.

Meridian One comprises 977 homes in total, of which half will be sold on the open market. The first are due to be completed by the end of this year. On the sales website, promoted by the council’s development partner Vistry Partnerships, there are currently ten flats listed for private sale, with four said to be “reserved”.

Lee Chamberlain, the opposition Conservative group’s housing spokesperson, says he is now very concerned about the financial viability of the council-led housing project, where 10,000 homes are slated to be built in total over the next 25 years.

Cllr Chamberlain told the Dispatch: “I was involved in the early discussions around the project when the Conservatives ran the council, before Labour came in, and to be in this situation now 13 years later is insane – not delivering a fully-formed project is very disappointing.

“I am very concerned to see this situation, within months of putting the homes on the market, of having a fire-sale approach. It means they must have badly miscalculated the prices at the beginning.

“These prices need to be reinvested in the next phase of the project, so if they are not forthcoming then it raises questions about the next phase and having to do it with less money.”

The Dispatch recently revealed that Enfield Council’s debt ranked as the tenth-highest in England, with some £400m of the £1.1billion spent on Meridian Water. Work on future phases of the project have had to be delayed because of rising costs.

Cllr Chamberlain said: “Speed is of the essence – you have to get on and get them delivered and they haven’t. The council can spin it however they like but 13 years is an unfeasible amount of time for any development project.

“I was hoping we would see things moving because we have a lot of issues with housing shortages – but they can’t get these homes sold. The price shift raises questions about the whole financing of the project and how viable it is going forward.

“It is massively disappointing to see the prices being reduced.”

It is not just Conservatives criticising the council’s handling of the project, however. Alan Sitkin, a former Labour cabinet member with responsibility for Meridian Water prior to the 2018 local election, has also criticised how it has been led over the past five years by council leader Nesil Caliskan – writing in a comment piece for the Dispatch last year that the first phase “was primed to finish by early 2020” under the previous leadership.

Matt Burn, a local housing campaigner with group Better Homes Enfield, added: “As I see it the council has been very optimistic/risky in its commercial strategy. They’ve borrowed huge amounts of money on the expectation (gamble) that both residential and commercial property values would increase, interest rates would remain low, and property would sell fairly easily. They appear to have been caught out on these assumptions.

“The problems have been exacerbated by the time they’ve taken to complete Meridian One. I think Alan Sitkin called this right in the Dispatch – too much time taken with tinkering, not enough getting on with it and getting the money back in.”

Enfield Council declined to comment for this article. Vistry Partnerships was also approached for comment.