New public spaces for Enfield Town revealed

Investment welcomed by Enfield Town Business Association, reports James Cracknell

The council's vision for 'Saddlers Mill Square' in what is currently the junction where Little Park Gardens meets Church Street
The council’s vision for ‘Saddlers Mill Square’ in what is currently the junction where Little Park Gardens meets Church Street

Plans to revamp Enfield Town by creating new public spaces have been welcomed by a body representing local businesses.

Enfield Council revealed it wants to create a “plaza” outside Enfield Town Station, improve the entrance to Town Park by opening up a link through Library Green, and install a new public square by closing a side road to traffic.

It comes two years after the council was awarded £6million by Transport for London’s (TfL) ‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’ fund, which supports schemes that make town centres “cleaner, greener, and more pleasant places to live”. Since then a series of workshops and consultation events have been held to gather ideas on how to use the money.

Mark Rudling, town centre manager for Enfield Town Business Association, welcomes the investment and says traders are broadly supportive. He told the Dispatch: “It will certainly help to make the town centre a more inviting place and that is the way forward for town centres in particular after Covid-19, when people have been buying more online.

“We have got to do our very best to make our town centre a more inviting and pleasant to be. Businesses are welcoming the investment.”

The plans for the station plaza would see the existing taxi rank moved further along Southbury Road to make space for a new seating area with planting, which the council claims would create a “stronger visual connection” to the town centre.

How the new plaza outside Enfield Town Station could look, with references to the poetry of John Keates
How the new plaza outside Enfield Town Station could look, with references to the poetry of John Keates

Enfield Town Station was built on the former site of Clarke’s Academy, once attended by poet John Keats, and the council wants to celebrate this heritage by engraving lines from his poems around the plaza. A section of the original facade of the school, currently in possession of the V&A Museum, could also be incorporated.

A new public square could also be created at the junction of Church Street and Little Park Gardens. Tentatively dubbed ‘Saddlers Mill Square’ in reference to a local stream that flows underground, the proposal has drawn some negative reactions from residents since it would mean closing the junction to vehicles, which currently use it to access Enfield Grammar School.

Library Green will be opened up and made more accessible, while the area around the fountain – dubbed ‘Fountain Island’ – will be made greener through new planting and become “more welcoming”.

An Enfield Town Residents Association spokesperson was sceptical about what benefits the new public spaces would bring and said: “While investment in the town centre is welcome, it is difficult to see the proposals will have much impact in terms of attracting more visitors or encouraging them to stay longer.

“This is public money that is being spent and while there has been much work to generate these ideas there has been no real assessment of the likely impact on footfall and spend. The proposals have to be seen within the context of other ongoing developments – Deutsche Bank was already proposing a new square within the shopping precinct before these plans were developed. What, then is the need for yet another square?

“Our real fear is that this significant amount of public investment will have very little benefit for shops and shoppers, which should surely be the main aim.”

Temporary measures to allow alfresco dining in Enfield Town for three local cafes were recently brought in by the council to boost trade for businesses struggling since the pandemic, although this is not part of the council’s long-term revamp.

The council hosted a series of webinars to introduce its proposals for Enfield Town at the start of July. Final detailed plans, including changes likely to see town centre roads narrowed and cycle lanes installed, will be published by the end of the year. Another consultation will then follow in 2022 before works begin in 2023.

A council spokesperson said: “During the past fortnight, the council has visited businesses and residents in the town centre to explain the proposals and to gather feedback on potential future loading provision. This is just one part of the extensive engagement process for the project. Changes to parking and loading arrangements are likely, but the details are yet to be confirmed.

“While it is only a proposal at this early stage, the council has been exploring plans to create a new public square just off the high street, using ideas developed in community co-design workshops last year. Motor vehicle access to the grammar school and Little Park Gardens car park would remain, but via a slightly different route.

“Creating new public places and enhancing the look and feel of existing spaces will contribute towards a healthy town centre for residents and visitors.

“The launch of the recent alfresco dining on Fountain Island is an example of the more immediate action the council is taking.”

In another move by the council to try to boost trade, a street food and culture festival, ‘A Month of Sundays’, will take place every Sunday in August at different locations across the borough. The first event is on Sunday 1st August in Enfield Town. It is free to attend and will feature hundreds of food businesses as well as local performers and entertainers.

For more information on the plans for Enfield Town:
Visit
letstalk.enfield.gov.uk/enfieldtown

For more information on A Month of Sundays:
Visit
amonthofsundaysenfield.co.uk