Campaign group submits long list of complaints while £87 charge for hard copies also slammed by councillors, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
Housing campaigners branded the consultation on Enfield Council’s draft Local Plan “not fit for purpose” after highlighting a list of “serious” issues with the documents provided.
In a letter to council bosses, seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, campaign group Better Homes Enfield claimed the consultation was “not being conducted positively and in good faith” and was instead being “managed in order to achieve the council’s desired outcome”.
Separately, political opposition group Community First slammed an £87 charge the council is asking residents to pay to obtain a hard copy of the 413-page draft Local Plan and suggested the authority was “restricting access” to those who are able to download it from the consultation website.
The twelve-week consultation on the Local Plan, which sets out how the council will meet its housing and employment targets over 20 years, ends on Monday, 13th September. It includes controversial plans to build more than 6,000 homes on current Green Belt land as part of a programme the council claims will address the borough’s “acute housing crisis”.
Better Homes Enfield first wrote to the council in July to warn it that “key information” was missing from the original consultation documents, while other important documents were added to the evidence base weeks after the consultation started “without notification or correspondence with people signed up to receive updates”.
The group claimed “key elements” of the plan were inaccurate and pointed out that one document said the borough could deliver “at least 50%” of housing on Green Belt sites as ‘affordable’ homes, despite a separate viability study stating that the figure was “up to 50%”.
There were also complaints from Better Homes Enfield that the use of jargon, acronyms and “poorly drafted” questions – as well as the “sheer volume of information” – was “overwhelming and off-putting”.
The letter continued: “The nature and extent of the issues we have encountered are serious, and it is our firm opinion that the Local Plan consultation documents in their current form are not fit for purpose.
“It is also our opinion that the consultation is not being conducted positively and in good faith. It appears to us that […] the consultation process is being managed in order to achieve the council’s desired outcome.”
In response a council spokesperson said the consultation was “intended to be a listening exercise”.
Further criticism of the consultation came last week from Community First councillor Daniel Anderson, who said there was “absolutely no justification” for charging a resident an “extortionate” £87 for a copy of the draft Local Plan.
The former deputy council leader said he was contacted by local resident Derek Honnor, who asked for a hard copy of the Local Plan having already requested one from the council on three separate occasions. When he contacted the council, Cllr Anderson was told Derek would have to pay £72, plus a further £15 postage for a paper copy.
Cllr Anderson said: “The Local Plan is the most important council document for a generation and has already generated huge debate, not least with the outline intention to build over 6,000 new homes in designated Green Belt areas. To effectively restrict access to those who are computer literate and able to download it is a disgrace.”
Cllr Anderson added that the council could have printed off several copies of the plan and made them available to residents free of charge, or simplified the documents.
A council spokesperson said: “Substantial costs would have been incurred to produce hard copies of the 413-page Enfield Local Plan, which is why the document was posted on the council’s website. The practice of posting online is in line with other reports the council publishes. The council is committed to spending wisely to provide value for money for its residents.
“Copies of the Enfield Local Plan are available to view at hub libraries in the borough.
“The council is inviting residents and local organisations to provide their thoughts and views on the draft Enfield Local Plan through a public consultation. The consultation is intended to be a listening exercise and is about gathering opinions on the issues. We are expecting to receive thoughts from a wide range of people and are particularly interested in hearing from local groups.
“The council is very much in listening mode and will continue to maintain an open and impartial approach to planning for the future development needs of the borough.”
To take part in the Local Plan consultation before the closing date on 13th September: