MP slams Southgate tower blocks at planning inquiry

Bambos Charalambous joins residents in defending council’s decision to refuse planning permission for Southgate Office Village scheme, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Enfield Southgate MP Bambos Charalambous (inset) spoke out against the proposed high-rise blocks near Southgate tube (main image)
Enfield Southgate MP Bambos Charalambous (inset) spoke out against the proposed high-rise blocks near Southgate tube (main image)

An Enfield MP has told a planning inquiry that a proposed 17-storey housing development near a tube station would be “incongruous” with the surrounding area and put a strain on local services.

During an ongoing planning inquiry hearing on Thursday, 30th September, Enfield Southgate MP Bambos Charalambous criticised plans by developer Viewpoint Estates to build 216 homes at Southgate Office Village.

In June last year Enfield Council’s planning committee unanimously refused permission for the high-rise scheme, which would be sited just outside the boundary of Southgate Circus Conservation Area and be visible from the Grade 2-listed Southgate Station. But Viewpoint subsequently appealed to the government’s Planning Inspectorate against this ruling, triggering the inquiry which began last week.

Charalambous told the hearing: “The development proposed is overmassing, out of keeping with the area, would have an adverse impact on local services, and would also contribute to the problems with traffic in the area in relation to the Southgate Circus junction, which is already, at peak times, extremely busy.”

The Labour MP said he had received a “significant number” of representations in opposition to the scheme from local residents. He added: “Even though it is set back a bit down Chase Road, it would still dominate the skyline of the Southgate Circus area.

“For me, that would be incongruous with other developments in the area – particularly the iconic Southgate Station, which was designed by Charles Holden in the 1920s and 30s.”

Charalambous also said there was a need for family-sized homes in the borough and that the proposed development “would not help in solving the housing problems in the Enfield area”.

The scheme would provide 19 three-bedroom flats, with one and two-bedroom units making up the remaining 197 homes. There would be 67 ‘affordable’ homes, made up of affordable rent and shared ownership properties.

Charalambous was subsequently questioned by Christopher Young QC, a barrister representing the developer. In response the MP admitted there was a shortage of housing but maintained that the borough needed “family homes”. 

Young suggested older people living in existing family homes in Southgate could “downsize”, moving to one of the smaller flats and freeing up space for other families. The MP said he thought it was “unlikely” that older people would “give up a big house with a garden and move to a one-bedroom flat”.

Charalambous’s objection came a day after people living close to Southgate Office Village spoke out against the plans, warning the development would be too high, too dense, and put a strain on infrastructure.

The residents, who live in Hillside Grove, said they did not object to building homes on the site but criticised the scale of the developer’s plans.

Speaking yesterday morning, Kevin Long claimed the proposed scheme would “destroy Southgate” by setting a precedent for large developments in the area.

He said: “My principal objection to this development is that it is too big, both in terms of the height of the buildings and the number of housing units for this location.”

Kevin told the hearing there was no nearby building “anywhere close to the height of the proposed tower”. He added: “Southgate has a highly varied set of architectural styles. But this, I feel, is no reason to add totally uncharacteristic high-rise buildings.”

Another neighbour, Geraldine Hearne, said: “The proposal has too many flats for such a small area. The infrastructure – utilities, schools, doctors and medical services – is already stretched in this area. 

“Since I moved in less than a year ago, there have been power cuts, problems with broadband provision and water supply issues. The current infrastructure is at its limits, and I do not believe [it] will be able to cope with the amount of additional people and their needs.”

Geraldine added: “From the information I have seen, I can’t see any benefits from the site that will have a positive effect on the residents of Hillside Grove and Park Road at the moment.”

Jonny Neill claimed the Covid-19 pandemic had led to a change in the type of housing people want. He said: “There have been numerous reports of the misery of people stuck in small flats with no private outdoor space compared to the good fortune of people living in suburban homes with gardens. That is what people want now. They do not want to squeeze into chickenshed flats anymore.”

A statement submitted to the inquiry by Young and fellow barrister Sioned Davies, on behalf of Viewpoint Estates, claims the scheme “accords with the [council’s] development plan” for the area.

It argues the existing office blocks at Southgate Office Village “have no architectural merit” and that harm caused to the conservation area by the proposed scheme would be “limited”. They claim the building designs are “of high quality and respond to the surrounding area to produce a dynamic and attractive skyline”. 

Their statement also references the council’s failure to meet government housing targets and describes the delivery of 67 affordable homes as “a key and substantial benefit”. Further benefits outlined in the document include the provision of “modern office floorspace and an office hub and cafe”.

The inquiry into the scheme is due to conclude on Friday, 1st October, but a final verdict from the planning inspector is not due to be made for several weeks.