High-rise tower blocks at Meridian Water given go-ahead

Planning committee hears concerns over flood risk and fire safety but votes to approve 30-storey scheme, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Detailed plans for phase 1b of Meridian One, the first part of the wider Meridian Water redevelopment in Edmonton (credit Hawkins/Brown)
Detailed plans for phase 1b of Meridian One, the first part of the wider Meridian Water redevelopment in Edmonton (credit Hawkins/Brown)

Detailed plans to build hundreds of homes at Meridian Water – including tower blocks of 24 and 30 storeys tall – have been approved by councillors.

The second part of the first phase of the Edmonton regeneration scheme (phase 1b) was given the go-ahead during a meeting of Enfield Council’s planning committee on Wednesday, despite calls to defer the application in order to address “major issues”.

It marks a significant departure from previously-approved outline plans for the phase 1b site, with the total number of homes increased from 425 to 676. The tallest building, the 30-storey tower, is more than double the size of the largest block approved in the outline application for ‘Meridian One‘ in 2017, the first phase of the £6billion council-led regeneration scheme.

The increase will raise the overall number of homes provided in this first phase from 725 up to 977. Part of the justification for increasing the number of homes is to boost the level of affordable housing across Meridian One from 25% to 50%, bringing the total affordable units to 491. Phase 1b also includes health facilities, leisure centres and commercial space.

But despite this increase in affordable housing, which will comprise a mixture of London Affordable Rent and shared ownership properties, multiple concerns were raised during the committee meeting over the risk of flooding, fire safety, open space provision and other issues with the scheme.

Housing campaigner Matt Burn, from campaign group Better Homes Enfield, called for the application to be deferred to address the issues.

Enfield Council’s draft Local Plan, which recently underwent a round of public consultation, states that each phase of Meridian Water must meet a 30% open public space target as a minimum, but Matt claimed only around 11-16% of Meridian One would now be “permanent, open public space”.

Matt also warned over design changes to ground floor layouts, including “convoluted” routes to service areas and possible access issues for disabled Blue Badge holders. He said the plans stated that the distance residents needed to carry rubbish would exceed 30 metres.

Both the 24 and 30-storey tower blocks included in the new plans would also only have single staircases, Matt highlighted, which is an aspect of high-rise buildings that has received criticism from industry experts following the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017. However, single staircases remain permitted under building regulations in England.

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Sarah Parkinson, planning and communications director at Vistry Partnerships, said the plans were “compliant with building regulations” in terms of waste management and access to waste storage. She added that Vistry took fire safety “extremely seriously” and had worked “extremely hard with officers and with building regulations to make sure we are fire safety compliant”.

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Sarah continued: “Vistry have worked hard with the council to provide a range of housing to meet council housing needs, including almost half of the affordable rent tenure being three and four-bedroom homes, and we have provided community space and parkland to meet residents’ needs.”

Despite her assurances, committee members also raised concerns over the proposed scheme. Conservative councillor Mike Rye called for the application to be deferred, claiming “major issues” on a “major site, where hundreds of people are going to live” had not been resolved.

Cllr Rye pointed out that plans to reduce the risk of flooding had not yet been signed off by the Environment Agency. Part of the site next to Pymmes Brook is in a flood zone three area, meaning it is at high risk of flooding. Other parts are at low or medium risk.

Cllr Rye added that there did not appear to be “proper provision” for sporting facilities on site, despite the number of young people who would be living in the development.

The size and the mix of units was “not policy compliant,” Cllr Rye said, which was a “huge disappointment”. The planning report admits that the mix of dwelling sizes is not in line with council policies, with only 17% of the homes on phase one containing three or four bedrooms.

Responding to the concerns, planning officer Karoline Grebowiec-Hall said the level of play space in the whole of the first phase at Meridian Water would be “appropriate for children’s needs” and added that there would be a “managed solution” around the location of waste facilities.

Karoline said the required mix of units at the affordable and intermediate tenures was being met, although she admitted there was an underprovision of family-sized units at market tenures and said that “given the constraints of the site, all opportunity for locating family-sized units has been given over to affordable rent”.

Addressing the fire safety issues, officers said the buildings would contain sprinklers and that the plans were supported by the Health and Safety Executive. London Fire Brigade had been consulted, they added, but had made no comment.

On flood risk, Brett Leahy, director of planning and growth, said the Environment Agency supported the council’s approach to the site. The agency has indicated that remaining flood risk issues can be resolved, and if it raises an objection the plans will be brought back to the committee.

Planning reports reveal that a review of the financial viability of phase 1b, taking into account “rising construction costs and associated market conditions” concluded that it was “in deficit”. Officers said this meant the developer was unable to make the full contribution towards education provision, but they added that the education department had confirmed there were enough existing school places to accommodate the scheme.

Following the debate, Cllr Rye moved to defer the application. His Conservative colleagues and Labour councillor Gunes Akbulut voted in favour of deferral, but the remaining Labour members voted against. Three Conservatives then voted against approving the application, while Cllr Rye and Cllr Akbulut abstained. The remaining Labour members voted to approve, passing the motion to grant permission.

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