Petition calling for fresh Local Plan debate signed by 4,000 people

Coalition of local campaign groups claims to have met threshold to force a council debate, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

The view from Vicarage Farm, one of the Green Belt sites earmarked for thousands of new homes by Enfield Council
A view from Vicarage Farm, one of the Green Belt sites earmarked for thousands of new homes by Enfield Council

Campaigners calling for a new debate on Enfield’s draft Local Plan are confident their petition has gained enough signatures to trigger a debate among councillors.

Action for Enfield’s Future, a coalition of local campaign groups, announced that the petition had exceeded 4,000 signatures – well above the threshold needed to allow them to present a deputation to a meeting of the full council.

While Enfield Council still need to verify the petition to ensure names and addresses are valid, the campaigners are confident of success, as the petition had gained almost 4,200 signatures by the end of August – 1,000 more than the 3,124 needed to trigger a debate.

The council’s new Local Plan will provide a framework for development in the borough, earmarking potential sites for housing to meet a target of building 25,000 new homes up to 2039. When the first draft was published last year, it included controversial proposals to allow more than 6,000 homes to be built on what is currently Green Belt land.

A twelve-week public consultation was held on the draft plan last summer, which will inform a revised version that is due to undergo a further round of technical consultation before being examined by a government planning inspector. Before that happens, Action for Enfield’s Future wants a fresh debate to allow councillors, including the 29 who were newly elected in May, to have their say and vote for or against the revised plan in a roll call.

The campaign now involves five local groups – Enfield Road Watch, Enfield Climate Action Forum (EnCaf), The Enfield Society, Friends of Whitewebbs and Better Homes Enfield. Carol Fisk, vice chair of Enfield Road Watch, said campaigners were “really pleased with the response”.

After the online petition was affected by technical difficulties when it launched in spring, the council granted an extension to the deadline for collecting signatures. “We had about 30 volunteers who were going out banging on doors getting responses from local people,” Carol said. “So in some ways I think the paper petitions are even more significant, because each one is a response from someone having talked about the issues.

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“Given that we had a handicap at the beginning, and the extension was in August when people were away, we are really pleased that we have got more than 4,000 signatures.”

Building on the Green Belt is not the only concern raised by the campaigners. Others include the impact of tall buildings, the design of developments, housing affordability, heritage, and fears the council will not do enough to address the climate emergency.

Action for Enfield’s Future says the approval of the Local Plan “should be conducted with full transparency, proper consultation and collaboration between residents and their elected representatives”. The petition calls for a twelve-week period between publication of the revised plan and the full council debate to give people enough time to consider the proposals and provide feedback to their ward councillors.

The council has not yet confirmed a date for when the revised plan will be discussed. In June, a council spokesperson said there would be “an opportunity for members to debate the next draft of the plan at full council before it is approved for submission to the secretary of state for examination”. The council did not comment further in response to the news that the petition threshold had been exceeded.

Update (7/9):

Campaigners have been told via email that their petition will be presented to a meeting of the full council on Wednesday, 21st September. They will be given five minutes to present the petition at the meeting, which will be followed by a discussion among councillors lasting up to 15 minutes. After the debate, councillors will decide whether or not to take the action the petition requests.

Update (12/9):

Campaigners have been informed that the presentation of their petition has been moved to a full council meeting on Wednesday, 12th October, because the meeting scheduled for 21st September will now be ceremonial in nature.

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