Green Belt development sites to be reviewed by cross-party group

Rare agreement between Labour and Tories on way forward for Local Plan, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Farmland between Crews Hill and the M25 is earmarked for housing
Farmland in Crews Hill was earmarked for housing in the draft Local Plan last year, despite currently being designated as Green Belt

Labour and Conservative councillors in Enfield have agreed to hold a cross-party review of the borough’s draft Local Plan and examine the merit of proposals to allow development on the Green Belt.

A petition signed by more than 4,000 residents calling for a renewed discussion on the document, which will shape development in Enfield up to 2039, also won the backing of councillors from both parties during a full council meeting on Wednesday.

The cross-party review was proposed by the Tories in light of opposition to Green Belt development from City Hall and national government, but was backed by councillors from both sides.

When it was first published last year, the draft Local Plan sparked controversy over proposals to allow more than 6,000 homes to be built on what is currently Green Belt land to help meet housing targets. Feedback from a twelve-week public consultation will now inform a revised version of the document that will be examined by a government planning inspector.

In this year’s local election, the Green Belt became a key dividing line, with the Conservatives making their opposition to development a focus of their campaign. Labour ultimately lost eight seats to the Tories but retained control of the council.

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Action for Enfield’s Future, a coalition made up of a range of local organisations, called for a further debate to allow councillors, including the 29 who were newly elected in May, to have their say on the plan’s proposals.

Carol Fisk, a representative of the coalition, presented the petition to Wednesday’s council meeting. She said residents “understood that the Local Plan would influence Enfield for decades to come” and that a “public and open debate about a plan of such significance” was “vital”.

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The petition, which was signed by 4,231 people, called for another twelve-week consultation to allow councillors to discuss the plan with residents before holding a debate on the next version of the Local Plan at a full council meeting. It asked for the debate to be followed by a roll-call vote in which each councillor’s vote is recorded.

Council leader Nesil Caliskan told the meeting she welcomed the petition and was happy for the administration to accept the actions it detailed, adding that she had previously made commitments to hold another debate on the plan. 

A view from Vicarage Farm, one of the Green Belt sites earmarked for thousands of new homes by Enfield Council
A view from Vicarage Farm, another of the Green Belt sites earmarked for thousands of new homes by Enfield Council

The petition’s demands were agreed by Labour and the Conservatives. The Conservative group then called for a cross-party group to be set up to review the Local Plan, to look again at proposals to allow building on the Green Belt, and to give “careful consideration” to where taller buildings may be acceptable.

Opposition leader Alessandro Georgiou said the proposals tabled by his group were a “serious attempt to find a way forward on the Local Plan deadlock”, although he insisted that the Conservatives would “never vote to build on our beautiful Green Belt” and that the group’s policies on tower blocks had not changed.

Cllr Georgiou said the Conservatives were willing to work with the administration to find sites that were “ripe for development that both this council and the residents of the borough would be happy to see development on”.

Cllr Caliskan pledged to establish a cross-party group “quickly” and agreed to review the Green Belt and tall buildings proposals, although she insisted she did not recognise that there was a deadlock over the Local Plan.

The leader claimed, however, that there were not enough brownfield sites to accommodate the 25,000 homes the council needed to deliver over the Local Plan period. Reiterating her previous comments that residents did not want skyscrapers across the borough, she suggested some Green Belt sites, such as car parks and garden centres, were suitable for development.

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