Environmental charity slams council’s ‘misleading’ Green Belt rationale

National Park City Foundation complains Enfield Council using it as ‘bargaining chip’ in Green Belt housing plans, reports James Cracknell

National Park City Foundation founder Daniel Raven-Ellison
National Park City Foundation founder Daniel Raven-Ellison co-wrote a letter to council leader Nesil Caliskan complaining the charity had been “used as a bargaining chip”

Enfield Council has denied claims it used the name of a London environmental project to “mislead” people about its Green Belt homebuilding plans.

National Park City Foundation last week wrote to council leader Nesil Caliskan in a letter, copied to all councillors, heavily criticising the way the council had used the charity’s London National Park City (LNPC) concept as “a bargaining chip to justify loss of Green Belt”.

The charity’s chair Paul de Zylva and founder Daniel Raven-Ellison claimed the council had “misread” LNPC as a project only focused on parks and green spaces rather than the whole of London. They wrote: “It is therefore misleading for Enfield [Council] to refer to London National Park City in writing or verbally as part of justifying its proposals for the loss of Green Belt.”

LNPC is mentioned several times in the council’s draft Local Plan, first published last month and now out for public consultation until mid-September. It includes a new policy called “Rural Enfield – a leading destination in the London National Park City” which sets out plans for placing part of the borough under the LNPC banner “to bring many sustainable rural activities together to create a unique and exemplary destination” and adding that it “has the potential to achieve a net increase of 25% green cover in Enfield”.

LNPC is also mentioned in a section of the draft Local Plan outlining how 3,000 homes could be built on current Green Belt land at Crews Hill. It states: “In order to support its emergence as a gateway to the London National Park City and the green and rural north of Enfield for new and existing residents, development at Crews Hill should incorporate high-quality public realm and green links to surrounding landscapes.”

In their letter to Cllr Caliskan, Paul and Daniel wrote: “Serious application of London National Park City thinking can and should lead elected members, officers and others to make better decisions, but it cannot make up for political decisions which require the loss of green space.

“Enfield and all local authorities in London should be examining the entire urban fabric and avoid using National Park City as a bargaining chip to justify loss of Green Belt and green space.”

A council spokesperson issued a statement yesterday denying this was how LNPC had been used by the council in its Local Plan. They said: “Enfield Council is a keen supporter of the National Park City concept. Its principles underpin many of the policies in the draft Local Plan, helping us develop an exciting and ambitious vision for both rural and urban areas in the borough.

“This includes transforming many largely forgotten and neglected rural parts of the borough into accessible and vibrant destinations for Enfield’s residents, where they can enjoy nature, recreation, sporting excellence and eco-tourism.

“We reject any suggestion we have linked the National Park City concept with the draft Enfield Local Plan preferred option to release a limited section of the Green Belt to provide needed employment space and deliver essential affordable housing.

“Over the next 20 years Enfield will need to increase its housing by 20% – 25,000 homes – and find 56 hectares of additional industrial/logistics space just to meet its statutory duties.

“The council has made every effort to look at brownfield first, but insufficient urban land means a stark choice between packing people into small units in dense towers with a lack of access to open space and supporting infrastructure, or using a small amount of rural areas for high-quality affordable housing with access to gardens and extensive public space.”

The spokesperson added the council would be willing to meet with National Park City Foundation, but Paul told the Dispatch today that he had yet to receive a reply from them. The charity’s chair said his “door was open” and added: “We don’t have any problem with Enfield Council mentioning London National Park City but we don’t think it is right that it should be used as part of making the case to erode something [Green Belt] we don’t think should be eroded.

“It is there in black and white – it’s interesting if they have rejected it [the letter] before speaking to us. I suspect they need to read their own policies.”

Carol Fisk, from the Enfield Road Watch group campaigning to protect the Green Belt, said the row between the council and National Park City Foundation was “symptomatic of the shoddy reasoning behind the plan”.