Green Belt housing plans approved by councillors

Public consultation now set to begin on proposal to build thousands of homes on protected land, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Enfield residents protesting prior to a council meeting debate over the future of the borough's Green Belt
Enfield residents protesting prior to a council meeting debate over the future of the borough’s Green Belt

Labour councillors in Enfield have defied calls to scrap plans for thousands of homes to be built on the Green Belt and are pressing ahead with a consultation on the proposals.

The controversial plans to build around 6,000 homes on two parts of the borough’s north-west are included in Enfield Council’s draft Local Plan, which was approved for consultation at an extraordinary council meeting held at Enfield Grammar School on Wednesday.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the school gates ahead of the meeting to demand councillors ditch the plans and “save the Green Belt”.

Opposition members from across the borough slammed the plans and claimed building on the Green Belt was unnecessary, while Labour councillors argued that the densely-populated east of Enfield should not be used to meet the entire London Plan target of providing 1,246 homes per year.

Council leader Nesil Caliskan told the meeting the borough was facing inequalities in housing, with more than 4,000 residents in temporary accommodation.

“We have to build somewhere – if it is not out, it is up,” she said. “We have heard over the last couple of years from residents and councillors that we do not want skyscrapers all over the borough.”

The leader claimed the council was using all the brownfield sites that were available and could not build on areas of land designated for industrial use. But Tory group leader Joanne Laban warned the draft Local Plan would “deliver the irreversible destruction of our borough”.

She said the council had declared a climate emergency but was proposing to “destroy the very environmental infrastructure that is required in our fight against climate change”.

Criticising the slow progress at the £6billion Meridian Water regeneration scheme, Cllr Laban said she did not believe the council had properly considered proposals put forward by residents’ groups that would deliver homes without building on the Green Belt.

Other Tory councillors lined up to oppose the plans. Stephanos Ioannou said that as a young person he understood the need for housing, but was against building on the Green Belt.

Lindsay Rawlings warned: “Once it’s gone, it’s gone – we will never be able to get back the green space that both Enfield and London need as their lungs.”

Members of independent group Community First, made up of seven councillors who quit Labour, also slammed the plans – including the Green Party member Charith Gunawardena.

Cllr Gunawardena claimed part of the cabinet’s preferred option included 19,000 homes provided in urban areas, without building inappropriate tower blocks – but this was not included in the public consultation document.

Ayfer Orhan, who represents Ponders End and quit the Labour Party last month, said: “The administration’s failure to develop and build 10,000 new homes at Meridian Water is no reason to savage the Green Belt.

But Labour councillors defended the plans. Hass Yusuf, who represents Chase ward – where homes could be built near Crews Hill Station – said it would be “exciting” to see “a new little village around the station”.

Mahtab Uddin said the council had a “care of responsibility to provide quality homes, reduce inequalities and provide more opportunities”.

Newly-elected Jubilee councillor Chinelo Anyanwu said 70% of the proposed housing sites were on brownfield land.

Deputy leader Ian Barnes claimed the Conservative government was “ripping apart the planning system” and telling councils to build on the Green Belt, with housing secretary Robert Jenrick recently waving through a development near Bradford.

Following the debate, all the Labour councillors voted to approve the draft Local Plan for public consultation. The Conservative and Community First groups voted against.

A twelve-week consultation on the draft Local Plan will be launched later this month. Details will soon be available on the council’s Let’s Talk platform at https://letstalk.enfield.gov.uk/