Developer wins over councillors with two extra affordable homes

Plan previously dismissed for lack of affordable housing, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

View from Chase Green Gardens of the plans for 78 flats on the site of the former Metaswitch building
View from Chase Green Gardens of the plans for 78 flats on the site of the former Metaswitch building

A 78-home scheme in Enfield Town previously criticised for a lack of affordable housing has now been approved by councillors – after the developer agreed to add two extra affordable units.

The plan by HPJ 11 Developments to build blocks up to five and six storeys high at the site of the former Metaswitch office block in Church Street was given the go ahead during a meeting of Enfield Council’s planning committee on Tuesday.

Councillors rejected a near-identical scheme during a meeting in October over concerns about its impact on heritage and the level of affordable homes. The site lies within Enfield Town Conservation Area, next to the New River, and is close to several listed buildings.

Responding to the concerns, the developer subsequently agreed to increase the number of London Affordable Rent homes from seven to nine. It also committed to a “detailed planning condition and Section 106 planning obligation to secure appropriate treatment of the river frontage, in terms of the landscape design, boundary treatment, and long-term maintenance”.

In a report presented to Tuesday’s meeting, council planning officers wrote that the harm caused to heritage assets would not be enough to substantiate a reason for refusal, and that the scheme “delivers the maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing”.

Despite these assurances, committee members raised concerns over the lack of consultation on the new plans. Mike Rye, a Conservative who represents Town ward, told the meeting there had been “no reconsultation on the application before us, which has got two changes offered by the developer”.

He added: “With regard to the ward councillors, they have not been consulted that this has been brought back this evening, and that, I would expect, is a matter of common courtesy”.

Cllr Rye said the scheme had been deferred to allow reasons for refusal to be brought back and asked why they had not been tabled.

These concerns were echoed by another committee member, Derek Levy of the Community First group, who said: “What has happened is that the applicant has in fact been given a second or possibly third bite of the cherry, but the local residents have not had an opportunity to comment”.

Responding to the concerns, Andy Higham, the council’s head of development management, said the “substantive application” was the same as the one that was previously consulted on, and the authority would not go out to consultation on the changes proposed. He added: “As far as I’m aware, all notification to interested parties was sent out before Christmas.”

When Cllr Levy continued to raise concerns over the level of affordable homes, which at 11.5% is still significantly below the council’s 40% target, Andy said the size of the development had been limited to reduce the impact on heritage, and this had restricted the number of affordable homes that could be provided.

Labour’s Doug Taylor called for further consultation with community groups over the design of the frontage with the New River. Officers agreed to add the proposal to a planning condition, along with a call by Cllr Rye to minimise the visual impact of lift overruns on the roof of the building.

Following the debate, Labour and Conservative members of the committee voted to approve the application. Cllr Levy abstained.