Enfield Council submits ‘investment zone’ bid for Edmonton

Meridian Water and Joyce and Snells redevelopments could be fast-tracked but Edmonton MP warns of ‘wild west’ for developers, reports James Cracknell

Plans for Meridian Water and (inset) Prime Minister Liz Truss

Enfield Council has launched a bid for parts of Edmonton to become an ‘investment zone’, the Dispatch can reveal.

The move by the council is being seen as an attempt to hasten construction at Meridian Water, its £6billion flagship housing development, which has incurred multiple delays and spiralling costs.

Investment zones are one of the key policies introduced by the new Conservative government led by Prime Minister Liz Truss, with the zones promoted as a way to boost growth by reducing planning regulations and introducing tax breaks for businesses operating inside “liberalised” local areas.

Although the full details of what investment zones will offer have not yet been set out by government, local authorities have been invited to submit “expressions of interest” for their areas this week.

It is understood that Enfield Council submitted its bid for two different parts of Edmonton – Meridian Water and the Joyce and Snells estates, which are due to be redeveloped.

The bid by the council has not been debated by councillors but has been cautiously endorsed by the leader of the opposition Conservative group, Alessandro Georgiou. He told the Dispatch: “We need to review the details of the bid but I would say it is good to see the council welcoming good Conservative policy on investment zones.”

However, Cllr Georgiou said the move to create an investment zone would not have been necessary if the council had made faster progress on the 10,000 homes it has promised to deliver at Meridian Water, only 300 of which have started construction to date.

He added: “The fact that they have had to bid for it proves there has been nothing but failure at Meridian Water under this Labour council.”

On the government’s website, an FAQ page on investment zones describes them as “designated sites where businesses will benefit from time-limited tax incentives and streamlined planning rules to deliver investment, create jobs and build the homes that communities need”.

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Edmonton MP Kate Osamor has been critical of the policy but said she would not “stand in the way” of the council’s bid. Kate has written to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, demanding a series of guarantees that the zones will not lead to reduced thresholds for affordable housing or other existing regulations, and has also insisted they be backed by local people.

In a statement, the Labour MP said: “Any investment zone in Edmonton must preserve building safety regulations, environmental protections and increase access to social housing.

“There is the potential for investment zones to turn into a wild west in which residents are cut out of decision-making and property developers are given free rein to maximise profit at the expense of community need. That must not be allowed to happen in Edmonton.

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“There should be no ‘investment zone’ in Edmonton without first securing the backing of local residents. Any ‘investment zone’ must improve local services, increase affordable housing stock and ease the cost-of-living crisis for my constituents.”

Although Enfield Council has been leading on the redevelopment of Meridian Water since 2018, large parts of the 82-hectare site remain under private control by industrial land owners and retailers such as Ikea. Rising inflation has recently led to the council pausing work on some development to try to contain spiralling costs. Work on the first 300 new homes is continuing and is due to finish next year.

The council wants its investment zone to also cover the Joyce Avenue and Snells Park estates, which have been earmarked for a £770million redevelopment where 2,900 homes could be built in place of the 795 on the two estates currently.

The Greater London Authority is understood to have discussed the investment zone bid with Enfield Council before it was submitted. London was initially listed as one of the 38 areas of England which would be encouraged to submit investment zone bids, but it is not known whether any other London boroughs have made expressions of interest.

Update (14/10):

Enfield Council leader Nesil Caliskan said:  “Enfield Council is committed to delivering better homes, jobs and opportunities for local people and communities. This is more important than ever as residents struggle to cope with rising inflation, the cost-of-living crisis as well as the housing crisis.

“Enfield Council has submitted a bid for the Meridian Water and Joyce and Snells developments to become an investment zone as we will always pursue opportunities to unlock government funds that could enable us to address the pressures faced by the economy and deliver more affordable housing and jobs for local people.   

“The government has indicated that successful bids will not only unlock funding for vital infrastructure but will make it more financially viable to build faster – meaning we would be able to speed up the delivery of the quality housing and jobs our residents so desperately need.

“Throughout this process we will ensure that there will be no compromise on quality if our bid is successful.  The government has not been forthcoming with the specific arrangements around planning yet – but we will be in constant dialogue with the government as they confirm details to ensure that regulations are in place to protect the interests and ongoing involvement of local people.  

“If ‘investment zone’ status is achieved this will not alter the high level of engagement and consultation that takes place with local residents for our Meridian Water and Joyce and Snells developments.  All Enfield Council housing developments are designed around the needs of Enfield’s residents and for the benefit of local communities.”

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