Enfield Town flats slammed over drop in affordability

Church Street scheme only offers 9% affordable housing, reports Simon Allin

View from Church Street of the plans for 78 flats on the site of the former Metaswitch building

A plan to build 78 flats in Enfield Town has been criticised for failing to provide enough affordable housing and for its potential impact on heritage.

The plan by HPJ11 Developments to build two blocks up to five and six storeys high in Church Street failed to win permission during a planning committee meeting on Tuesday.

The scheme had been planned for the site of the former Metaswitch building, which lies within Enfield Town Conservation Area and near to several listed and locally listed buildings. The building was left vacant after the technology firm – since bought by Microsoft – moved to a newly-built home in Genotin Road

Planning officers at the council judged that the public benefits of the scheme would outweigh the “less than substantial harm” caused to the conservation area. Andy Higham, head of development management, told the meeting the “pressing need for housing” should be given added weight because of the council’s consistent failure to meet its homes target.

The scheme would have provided just seven ‘affordable’ units, or 9% – significantly below the council’s target of 40% for new developments. A report by planning officers stated that the developer’s agreement to reduce the size of the blocks had affected the scheme’s financial viability and the amount of affordable housing that could be provided. 

But councillors were unconvinced by the argument. Community First’s Daniel Anderson said: “What we have seen is something that goes very much against [the council’s] underlying principles, and I struggle to support any development which seeks to weaken the position […] or in some ways undermine the position of what our policies are.”

Conservative committee member Maria Alexandrou said she could not understand the reason behind the “huge drop” in affordable housing – from 35% under the previous plans for 91 homes to 9% for the 78-home scheme.

Nick Grant, of planning agent Iceni Projects, told the meeting the development would introduce buildings “of high architectural interest that positively contribute to the conservation area”. Despite his assurances, councillors remained concerned over the impact on heritage, including views from the New River Path.

Labour committee member Doug Taylor said he would have liked a heritage officer to have been present at the meeting, warning he was “extremely concerned” the committee would make a decision without having a “full discussion” of the scheme’s impact. 

Echoing the concerns over affordable homes, he also called for more detail on the viability assessment and proposed deferring the scheme to a future meeting to allow the information to come forward – but a majority of councillors voted against his proposal.

Planning officers’ recommendation to grant planning permission was rejected after Conservative committee members, plus Cllr Anderson and Cllr Taylor, voted against. Officers will now draw up formal reasons for refusal based on councillors’ comments, which will be voted on at a future planning committee meeting.