Labour councillors refuse to reject ‘unsafe’ tower

Proposed scheme next to Brimsdown Station deferred for a second time by Enfield planning committee, reports James Cracknell

The plans for a 21-storey next to Brimsdown Station (credit Yen of London Ltd)
The plans for a 21-storey next to Brimsdown Station, which now include a rooftop children’s play area (credit Yen of London Ltd)

Labour councillors have voted not to reject a proposed 21-storey tower that a planning report said “fails to incorporate features which reduce risk to life”.

Enfield Council’s planning committee was repeatedly warned last night (Tuesday 18th) that the plans for 100 homes plus retail and office space on the site of a derelict pub in Green Street, next to Brimsdown Station, would be unsafe – and were given twelve reasons to reject the application by planning officers.

However, went it came to the decision, seven Labour councillors voted against the motion to refuse planning permission and later agreed instead to give the developer more time to address the concerns raised, voting to defer the scheme.

Of the Labour councillors on the committee, only Doug Taylor voted to reject the application, alongside all four Tory members. The remaining Labour members, including substitute Bektas Ozer who represents Brimsdown ward and was again appearing as a substitute committee member, voted against refusing planning permission. Conservative Jim Steven, visibly angry, said he was “not happy with the vote” and suggested the outcome had been “twisted”.

It means the application has been deferred for a second time, following the first deferral in July. At that meeting, planning committee chair Sinan Boztas insisted the application be brought back to the committee within three months. Last night, however, Labour councillors complained that the developer had not had enough of a chance to address the serious issues and should be given another six months to do so – despite the council’s director of planning warning them it needed a “substantial redesign” to become policy compliant.

At one moment during the debate, there were audible gasps in the room when Labour committee member Mohammad Islam appeared to suggest he had been contacted by the applicant. He said: “We received communication from the applicant that his communications weren’t responded to on time.”

This comment prompted Elizabeth Paraskeva, the council’s principle lawyer for place, to ask Cllr Islam to slowly repeat what he had just said. Cllr Islam said he was referring to the communication between Enfield planning officer Gideon Whittingham and the developer’s planning agent, which “was not clear”.

Earlier in the meeting, Gideon had presented a slide laying out a timeline of communication between the planning department and the applicant. Brett Leahy, director of planning and growth, also interjected to say he had personally overseen the communication on this application, adding: “It is important we stick to the planning matters.”

In setting out his reasons to recommend refusal, Gideon had said that although the developer had made some changes to the application since July, these changes had made it worse. One such change addressed the lack of children’s play areas by providing such space on the tower block’s roof. When one committee member asked whether children would be safe to play at the top of the 21-storey tower block, Gideon said the council “would require details to show the space could be used safely” but that these details had not yet been provided.

One of the key criticisms raised at the July planning meeting regarded the lack of a fire strategy for the scheme. While the developer has since submitted a fire safety statement, Andrew Marsden, the council’s building control manager, said it “does not comply with code” and added: “The statement raised a number of concerns and deficiencies in terms of fire safety, primarily that the strategy states the staircases will interact with non-residential areas.

This story is published by Enfield Dispatch, Enfield's free monthly newspaper and free news website. We are a not-for-profit publication, published by a small social enterprise. We have no rich backers and rely on the support of our readers. Donate or become a supporter.

“The staircases discharge into a single lobby. The exit routes are not protected from the lobby. It could lead to a situation where a single fire disables both staircases.”

Andrew also said it was “critical” that a building taller than 50 metres have a back-up power supply for emergency lighting, but that the fire safety statement “did not refer” to such provision.

Gideon told the committee that new information had been provided by the developer regarding the project’s financial viability, specifically regarding how the scheme’s affordable homes would be paid for. But this showed the development would lose £13.7m and, even if all 100 homes were sold at market rate, it would still lose £9.3m.

This, Gideon said, made the council planning department question “whether the affordable housing could actually be provided”. He added: “They have not mitigated the problems – and have in fact compounded them.”

As councillors began to debate the Green Street scheme, however, it became clear that several Labour members did not want to reject it.

The Station Tavern
The Station Tavern public house has been closed for five years

Elif Erbil, the committee’s vice-chair, said the derelict Station Tavern pub “has been unoccupied for years and years” and the development “would be beneficial” for Brimsdown. She added: “There is going to be a Costa Coffee which would be amazing.”

Cllr Islam defended the rooftop play space for children, saying it was “not unusual” and added: “It is a large application and we want to see more employment and more houses.”

Salvio Daniele from Intelliarch Ltd, the agents acting on behalf of developer Yen of London Ltd, had earlier outlined the benefits of the scheme and claimed the twelve reasons for refusal had all been “addressed”. He said the scheme was “within the upper Lea Valley opportunity area” where new homes and jobs are prioritised and said there was “no equivalent site that can be used in Enfield” for the amount of office space the development would provide.

The four Conservative members of the committee, plus Labour’s Doug Taylor, were unconvinced. Lee Chamberlain, noting that he often had to return footballs that were kicked into his garden by children in neighbouring gardens, asked what would happen if a child kicked a football off the top of a 21-storey building, where it would “reach terminal velocity”.

Cllr Rye added: “I am frightened a child could go over the edge […] It is a dreadful application and this committee couldn’t be able to look itself in the face if it doesn’t reject this application.”

Another Tory member, Peter Fallart, said: “I am deeply concerned about fire safety – I don’t feel it is safe.”

Cllr Taylor said: “They would have to lose £13m to build this scheme and achieve the [affordable] housing quota, so it is unlikely it could be done.”

Prior to the unsuccessful vote to refuse the application, director of planning Brett Leahy warned: “While there are twelve reasons for refusal, the one that concerns me most is the fire safety issue. There are serious concerns with fire safety and the building needs to be redesigned to address the deficiencies raised – it is a serious matter and in my view a key reason for refusal.”

After the vote to defer, planning officers agreed to continue negotiations with the developer and bring the scheme back to the committee in around six months.

No news is bad news 

Independent news outlets like ours – reporting for the community without rich backers – are under threat of closure, turning British towns into news deserts. 

The audiences they serve know less, understand less, and can do less. 

In celebration of Indie News Week, Public Interest News Foundation's Indie News Fund will match fund all donations, including new annual supporter subscriptions for the month of June.

If our coverage has helped you understand our community a little bit better, please consider supporting us with a monthly, yearly or one-off donation. 

Choose the news. Don’t lose the news.

Monthly direct debit 

Annual direct debit

£5 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else, £10 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else and a print copy posted to them each month. £50 annual supporters get a digital copy of each month's paper before anyone else.  

Donate now with Pay Pal

More information on supporting us monthly or yearly 

More Information about donations