Plan for 58 homes on brownfield site in Enfield’s Green Belt approved

A pond plant nursery in Clay Hill will be demolished to make way for the affordable housing scheme, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Anglo Aquatic Plant in Clay Hill and (inset) the plans for 58 homes
Anglo Aquatic Plant in Clay Hill and (inset) the plans for 58 homes

Plans to build 58 affordable homes on Green Belt land in Clay Hill have been approved “in principle”.

Outline proposals for the development at Anglo Aquatic Plant, a wholesale supplier of pond plants located at 30-32 Strayfield Road, were approved by Enfield Council’s planning committee on Tuesday (5th).

Existing units will be demolished to make way for the scheme, which will also provide refurbished office space. Half of the affordable homes will be for social rent, with the remaining half classed as ‘intermediate’ housing.

The plans were opposed by several local groups over their impact on the Green Belt, road safety fears and other concerns, with The Enfield Society, Crews Hill Residents’ Association, Enfield Roadwatch and the environment forum among those who objected.

But civic centre chiefs claimed the proposed affordable homes, community allotments, biodiversity enhancements and other factors constituted “very special circumstances” that provide an exemption to the prohibition of building on the Green Belt under national and local policies.

Local resident Daniel Ishack told the committee he felt the safety aspects of the proposal had been “totally ignored”. Pointing out that the scheme would lead to an increase in road traffic, he warned there is “not a single pavement” on Strayfield Road and there could be accidents as people access a proposed bus stop near the development.

Hannah Dyson, Conservative ward councillor for Whitewebbs, echoed these concerns and warned over the impact of “300 more people” on a part of Enfield “that already has traffic and infrastructure issues”.

Claiming there was no indication that alternative sites had been properly considered, Cllr Dyson said the development would “put at risk one of the most important areas of Green Belt land in the outer London area”.

Emma Hardy, the developer’s planning agent, said the site was currently “almost entirely covered by buildings and hardstanding”.

She claimed the proposals would “reduce the footprint of buildings by three-quarters” and nearly halve their volume, while the removal of storage tanks and other containers would “further improve Green Belt openness”.

Emma said a raised footway would be created from the site to connect with the existing footway on Clay Hill, while the increase in vehicle movements could be “safely accommodated” at the junction.

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Mike Hoyland, the council’s senior transport manager, said road safety had been considered in “quite a lot of detail”, with officers requesting a footpath, give way signs, lighting and other measures.

Officers also pointed out that the developer would make financial contributions to local health and education provision to reduce the scheme’s impact.

Apart from the access arrangements, all other detailed design aspects of the scheme will be considered by the committee at a later stage.

Conservative committee member Mike Rye branded the proposals a “bogus application”, claiming they were “a gateway to breach policy [on the Green Belt]” as there was “no certainty” that the offer of 58 units of affordable housing would be delivered.

Cllr Rye claimed that if the plans were approved, there would be nothing to stop the applicant coming back with “entirely private housing” further down the line.

In response, Sharon Davidson, the council’s planning decisions manager, said the affordable housing would be secured through a legal agreement, known as a Section 106, and any changes would result in a different scheme that would have to come back to the committee as a new application.

She said: “The Section 106 obligation controls the quantum of affordable housing. You couldn’t come in with reserved matters that showed 10% affordable housing because the obligation requires 100%.”

Bektas Ozer, a Labour member, claimed the committee was “quite generous” in granting planning applications for the borough’s eastern corridor, but it was “the complete opposite” in the west.

He added that the housing crisis could not be the responsibility of the east of the borough alone, comparing the “polarisation” between the two areas to the effects of the Berlin Wall.

Enfield Council’s position on the scheme is that it represents inappropriate development that would harm the Green Belt, but the ‘very special circumstances’ outweigh these considerations.

Brett Leahy, the council’s director of planning and growth, told the committee that the developer considers the site to be previously-developed land within the Green Belt, so a new development would be “acceptable in principle”.

He said this opinion had been “well reasoned” and would be considered at a public enquiry if the developer appealed against a decision to refuse permission.

Cllr Rye moved to defer the application to consider refusing the scheme on the grounds that special circumstances allowing development on the Green Belt had not been met. He won the support of fellow Conservatives but was voted down by Labour members.

The application was then approved, with Labour members voting in favour and the Conservatives against. It will now be referred to the Greater London Authority, which has the power to confirm the committee’s decision, overturn it, or order changes to be made to the plans.

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