Final draft of Local Plan voted through by Labour councillors despite fierce opposition

Tensions were high during a three-hour debate at Enfield Civic Centre as Conservatives slammed plans to build thousands of homes on the Green Belt while Labour councillors blamed government for the housing crisis, reports James Cracknell

Council leader Nesil Caliskan (inset left) and opposition leader Alessandro Georgiou (inset right) clashed over where to build new homes in Enfield
Council leader Nesil Caliskan (inset left) and opposition leader Alessandro Georgiou (inset right) clashed over where to build new homes in Enfield

Councillors have agreed to begin the final phase of consultation on Enfield’s new Local Plan following a marathon three-hour debate over the Green Belt, tower blocks and the housing crisis last night (Tuesday 19th).

Conservative members – cheered on by a packed-out public gallery at Enfield Civic Centre – took turns to attack the Labour administration’s move to build thousands of homes on the Green Belt, while Labour councillors – sometimes jeered by the watching residents – focused on the urgency of the borough’s housing crisis and their claim that the Tory government was responsible for it.

The predictable outcome saw the vote at the end of the evening fall along party lines, meaning the Local Plan has been approved for a final round of consultation thanks to the Labour majority at the civic centre.

The six-year process of drafting, amending and approving the Local Plan could now be just a couple of months away from concluding, with a six-week statutory consultation set to be followed by an examination carried out by the government’s Planning Inspectorate, which will assess whether it complies with the law.

As well as setting out where 34,000 homes should be built in the borough over the next 17 years, the Local Plan also sets out space for employment, burials and recreation.

Tuesday night’s debate began with an introduction by council leader Nesil Caliskan, who said: “The availability of a decent home significantly improves life chances, and for me that is why I decided to run as a councillor and as council leader.”

Cllr Caliskan said the facts showed that more homes were needed as the borough’s population continues to grow, and this meant “a clear choice” between “packing residents into dense towers” or “using rural areas for homes with gardens and public space”.

She added: “We want to keep what makes Enfield great, while making our borough fit for the future.”

The areas of Green Belt set to be ‘de-designated’ include Crews Hill, where 5,500 homes are set to be allocated, and Vicarage Farm, which has been dubbed ‘Chase Park’ in the Local Plan and allocated 3,700 homes. An area of Green Belt in Hadley Wood is also earmarked for 160 homes.

Mike Rye, the former Conservative leader of the council, led the opposition group’s arguments against the document and said: “The Local Plan does not respect Enfield, the people of Enfield, or the heritage of Enfield.

“It will lead to the destruction of Enfield as we know it. Large chunks will be concreted over – and that is completely unacceptable.”

The initial draft Local Plan was published in June 2021, prior to a consultation which drew some 7,000 responses. There was then a two-and-a-half year gap before the revised version was published in December 2023.

This month’s long-awaited Local Plan debate was itself delayed by two weeks after the council decided to publish supporting evidence in response to repeated demands by opposition councillors and campaign groups.

“The delays suggest it is not as well constructed as the council leader tries to suggest,” said Cllr Rye, later adding: “It is fag packet stuff.”

As well as the new homes helping to tackle the housing crisis, Labour councillors also emphasised the Local Plan’s proposals for 304,000sqm of commercial floorspace and 40,000sqm of offices to be created in Enfield, providing 16,000 new jobs, and said the plan provided significant support for the creative sector – especially the borough’s growing film industry.

Chinelo Anyanwu said: “This Local Plan shows our commitment to seeing this borough thrive.”

But Tory group leader Alessandro Georgiou was unimpressed. “Only someone who hates the borough as it is would vote for this document,” he said. “They want nothing but a concrete, grey landscape.”

Cllr Gerogiou added that “the 7,000 comments from the public” during the 2021 consultation “have been ignored” while London mayor Sadiq Khan and local MPs Feryal Clark and Bambos Charalambous had all criticised the council’s Local Plan.

In response to the criticism over building homes on the Green Belt, Labour councillors pointed out the Local Plan would see a 25% increase in publicly accessible green space, largely achieved by converting council-owned farmland into woodland.

“It will turn Enfield into the green lungs of London,” said Destiny Karakus.

They also claimed that brownfield sites in the borough could not provide all the housing needed. Susan Erbil said: “The opposition have taken to scaremongering while we get on with delivering a cleaner and greener borough.”

Conservative Joanne Laban countered: “They have gone down the lazy route of declassifying Green Belt, rather than developing brownfield.”

Rick Jewell, Labour’s cabinet member for environment, argued: “We have a national housing crisis and brownfield alone is not sufficient. We’ve got 6,000 families on the housing waiting list and 3,000 in temporary accommodation, while private renters spend 45% of their income on rent.

“There is a crisis – but they [the Tories] are against every major housing development in the borough.”

But Conservative councillors pointed out that the borough’s single largest housing development – Meridian Water in Edmonton – had so far only delivered 20 homes against a target of 10,000.

Hannah Dyson said: “The failure to build homes at Meridian Water means the council is now having to build in the Green Belt.”

Several Labour councillors spoke about how they had met residents struggling to find housing.

Nicki Adeleke said: “They are stuck in temporary accommodation, or they are forced to move out of the borough, leaving behind their friends, families and social networks.

“There are 6,000 families on the waiting list but we have not had any extra money for new council homes from the government. While the government is letting Enfield down, we are stepping up.”

Josh Abey said: “Enfield is in the depths of a housing crisis […] we don’t want to carry this disastrous situation in the future. The Local Plan will help Enfield to move past this grim period of the housing crisis.”

And Eylem Yuruk added: “The desperation, worry and urgency is evident when I hold my ward surgeries.”

But Conservative councillor Andrew Thorp said the evidence provided for building on the Green Belt did not stack up and that the “exceptional circumstances” needed to justify de-designation were not proven.

“It is not only the evidence they have ignored,” said Cllr Thorp, “but the residents they serve – 3,000 came to our meetings and every single one was against the plan.”

Edward Smith also pointed out that despite the council leader’s claim to choose building on the Green Belt rather than in dense tower blocks, the Local Plan would allow high-rise schemes in several town centres, including 13-storey buildings in Enfield Town. “We are not exaggerating when we say Enfield Town will be completely changed,” he warned.

James Hockney said: “They present a false choice of building on the Green Belt, or building skyscrapers. But they have decided to do both.”

And David Skelton added: “If you want new housing, you have to take people with you and not ignore people’s views.”

As the debate wore on, tensions in the room threatened to spill over, with Tory councillor Elisa Morreale forced to apologise for saying the Labour administration was “murdering” the borough, while a resident in the public gallery was reprimanded by the mayor for telling the council leader to “shut up”.

Cllr Caliskan eventually brought proceedings to a close and said: “Not once have they [the Tories] told us how they would deal with the housing crisis.

“We will stand up for the residents of Enfield.”

The six-week Local Plan consultation begins on 28th March. For more information on how to take part:

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