Progress continues at £6bn housing scheme

A computer generated image of how Meridian Water may look when complete (credit Karakusevic Carson Architects)

Report by James Cracknell

Plans for Meridian Water are continuing to make progress with thousands more homes winning approval, a new jobs strategy being agreed, and a big American firm signing up to work with Enfield Council.

Two major planning applications for the £6billion housing scheme – on disused industrial land in Edmonton – were granted planning permission at a council meeting controversially held in private. It means work on developing the scheme can continue despite the ongoing pandemic, with planners and developers optimistic they can avoid further delays to the scheme’s progress.

Obtaining permission for the latest phase of housing, with another 2,300 homes now ready to go ahead, plus major infrastructure work that will connect up the sprawling site, means the council can continue to strike new deals with development partners. The authority took overall control of the project in 2018 after two previous deals with potential master developers went sour, but the council still needs to work with private contractors. The latest deal agreed is with American firm Jacobs, brought in last month to advise on environmental, land and water catchment services.

Donald Morrison, a senior vice president at the Texan company, said: “Enfield Council has a clear vision to create a truly special new part of London – a place for people and businesses to thrive in an environment which welcomes surrounding communities.

“This is an exciting opportunity to support Enfield in devising smart, connected employment space, housing, park and public areas that are more responsive to the needs of the community.”

The council has been criticised, however, for debating two major planning applications behind closed doors. The decision to go ahead with the planning committee meeting came despite scores of other council meetings being cancelled.

Before the March committee a council spokesperson explained the public were being excluded “to protect officers and members that must attend these meetings” while “anyone that has a right to speak will, as an alternative, be invited to make written submissions”. An audio recording has since been made available on the council website and, following criticism, the April planning committee was held online via Microsoft Teams to allow people to watch and take part virtually.

One of the applications approved at the private meeting was the largest ever submitted by the council. It will see the creation of a “vibrant riverside community” as 2,300 homes are built over the next decade, including 920 ‘affordable’ homes – 40% of the total – as well as student rooms, a hotel, shops, offices, and a primary school. The second approved application, for supporting infrastructure, includes several connecting roads and bridges, flood alleviation work, plus the creation of a new green space called ‘Brooks Park’ adjacent to Pymmes Brook.

But committee member Mike Rye criticised the scheme’s affordable housing provision, pointing out the 40% allocation was below the council’s own 50% target. Objectors against the two applications included Thames Water, concerned about the capacity of the existing sewers, while the council is also seeking to use compulsory purchase powers to buy up disused land owned by the water company within the application area. Other objections came from Ikea (flooding concerns), Sport England (concerns over lack of sporting provision), and Metropolitan Police (concerns over crime).

Meanwhile, a new employment strategy has also been agreed, at a cabinet meeting held shortly before the government lockdown. It will see the creation of 6,000 permanent roles, all paying at least London Living Wage. Council leader Nesil Caliskan said: “We want to create a mix of employment on the site by generating high-quality, well-paid jobs.

“Meridian Water is an aspirational project that will transform the lives of thousands of local people for the better through providing secure employment.”

A new construction skills academy is also set to be built later this year, to train local people, provide on-site work experience, and host visits from local schools and colleges – with a target of 25% of all construction jobs going to local people.