Council leader denies money was wasted on failed search for Meridian Water master-planner
Talks with a Chinese firm over the construction of thousands of new homes collapsed after it emerged they wanted to sell them to overseas buyers.
The new leader of Enfield Council, Nesil Caliskan, said the proposed Meridian Water deal went sour because the company told councillors it would market the new homes abroad.
Meridian Water in Edmonton is one of the largest redevelopment sites in London with 10,000 homes planned there over the next 10-15 years, but the £6billion project has been dogged by delays. Last year the top choice for a master developer, Barratt, pulled out, leaving the council to negotiate instead with its second choice, Pacific Century Premium Developments (PCPD).
Councillor Caliskan took over the reigns at the council in May after ousting former leader Doug Taylor following the local election. She told the Dispatch: “When I became leader all options were on the table. I spent a couple of weeks looking at the deal. I wasn’t convinced, but we gave them a chance.
“PCPD made a presentation and it became obvious there would be overseas sales. When I asked about it, they said new homes would be marketed in Enfield for the first month, nationally for the second month, and after that the whole world. It was unacceptable.”
Cllr Caliskan also said the firm only seemed interested in creating low-skilled jobs. “Coupled with the fact they talked about building luxury homes – I didn’t think it was okay.”
The council confirmed in July that talks with PCPD had ended and that it would now take an entirely new approach to Meridian Water, with no master developer being sought. Instead, the council would retain overall control of the scheme and enter into negotiation with developers on a site-by-site basis.
Three sites, providing around 1,000 new homes and 900 new jobs in total, are now being taken forward by the council – with the first homes built as soon as possible after the opening of Meridian Water’s new railway station, currently scheduled for May 2019.
The council has also been shortlisted to receive a £120million housing infrastructure grant from the government to fund a series of infrastructure works including a new road, flood defence scheme, cycle and pedestrian links, and a boost to local rail services.
“We need to make the area connected,” Cllr Caliskan explained. “We need to look at the whole project and show the market we have a plan and that we will deliver it. We will have a phase-by-phase approach, giving many more companies a chance to bid for sites, and also generating greater financial returns for the council.”
Cllr Caliskan dismissed suggestions that suddenly ditching talks to find a Meridian Water master-planner, which had lasted several years, meant starting from scratch. Opposition Conservative councillors claimed £3m was “wasted” on legal fees and advice during the failed procurement process. But the council leader pointed to progress made with land acquisition and said: “We have done a lot of the foundation work, building up knowledge of the sites, cleaning up the land – these are things we would have to pay for anyway.”
Since 2014 the council has acquired 35 hectares at Meridian Water, at a cost of £157m, and now owns 64 percent of the land earmarked for development.
Cllr Caliskan also said the council was exploring the potential for key players from the film and music industries to provide employment at Meridian Water during the early phase of works. “We could just rent it out to a chicken factory and make some money, but we are trying to get people to live here. We will get it right.”
The council’s aim for any new housing development in Enfield is to provide 50 percent ‘affordable’ housing, and Cllr Caliskan says this also applies to Meridian Water. “My number one priority for the borough is reducing inequality, and Meridian Water will play a part in that.”
Find out more about the plans for Meridian Water: