Sadiq Khan blasts council over Green Belt plans

Mayor outlines opposition to new housing on rural parts of borough, reports James Cracknell

Labour mayor Sadiq Khan has hit out at Labour-run Enfield Council over its Green Belt plans
Labour mayor Sadiq Khan has hit out at Labour-run Enfield Council over its Green Belt plans (credit GLA)

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has issued a damning verdict on Enfield Council’s plans to reduce the size of the borough’s Green Belt – describing the move as “unjustified” and “premature”.

As part of an official submission from City Hall to the council’s draft Local Plan consultation, which ended this month, the mayor’s office wrote a letter that slammed proposals for removing 186 hectares of land from the borough’s Green Belt, on which the council hopes 6,430 homes will be built.

Lucinda Turner, the mayor’s assistant director of planning, pointed out that the London Plan – agreed earlier this year – made clear that “exceptional circumstances” were required to “justify the de-designation of Green Belt” and that “it is the mayor’s opinion the exceptional circumstances required […] have not been established”.

She further criticised the council for not prioritising construction on brownfield land and wrote: “The fact that the draft plan demonstrates it has a land supply to meet almost all of its growth needs, it is considered that the intention to release Green Belt land is premature.”

Lucinda also claimed that the release of Green Belt in Enfield was not only unnecessary at this stage, but “risks undermining brownfield delivery and viability” because developers would be incentivised to make larger profits on the previously undeveloped land, which is cheaper to build on than brownfield.

City Hall does not have the power to block the adoption of the council’s Local Plan, which can only be approved by the government, but by highlighting how it conflicts with his London Plan the mayor could make it difficult for a planning inspector to rule in the council’s favour.

The council argues that in order to meet its new, higher target of 1,246 new homes per year – having consistently failed to meet its previous, lower target – it must make use of the borough’s extensive Green Belt by releasing 6% of this land for new housing, or else rely on building tower blocks in unpopular locations. Council leader Nesil Caliskan said previously that “we have to build somewhere – if it is not out, it is up” and that “we have heard from residents and councillors that we do not want skyscrapers”.

The areas of Green Belt selected for removal by the council for homebuilding include most of the land surrounding Crews Hill (3,000 homes), including Crews Hill Golf Course; Vicarage Farm in World’s End (3,000), including previously undeveloped land on both sides of Enfield Road; pasture and grazing land close to Hadley Wood Station (160); and The Dell opposite Enfield Crematorium (270), between the New River and the A10. Two other Green Belt areas – land west of Rammey Marsh and Holly Hill Farm, east of M25 Junction 24 – are earmarked for industrial uses.

Mayor Khan committed to preserving the capital’s Green Belt during his successful re-election campaign this year and argues construction there likely wouldn’t provide the housing London needs.

The letter to the council from City Hall also included comments from Transport for London (TfL), with planning manager Josephine Vos writing: “We have major concerns about some of the growth areas identified in rural parts of the borough which are less well connected by public transport.

“The high level of investment in active travel and public transport required may not be realistic or viable in the long-term. There is a real risk that these areas could become car dependent, have poor access to key services, and put further pressure on the road network.”

Reacting to the rebuke from City Hall, Joanne Laban, leader of the opposition Conservatives at Enfield Civic Centre, said: “I welcome the mayor’s robust response on this issue. The administration should be ashamed for taking the easy route and proposing to allow development on the Green Belt.

“The mayor said quite clearly that the Labour administration can deliver the level of development required without the loss of Green Belt and criticises it for not taking a ‘brownfield first’ approach.

“It is therefore time the Labour administration woke up to the fact residents, as well as the mayor, do not support its plans. The Labour administration must listen to the community and the mayor and drop its plans to allow development on the Green Belt.”

Peter Jeffrey, chair of Crews Hill Residents’ Association, said: “All the points we raised in our submission to Enfield Council have been fully addressed by the mayor of London. He has effectively binned it and told the council to draw up a new plan that does not smash through his new London Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework by advocating large-scale house building in the Green Belt.

“The council can’t say it wasn’t warned, but we can’t be at all sure how much regard the council will have for either the mayor or his rebuke.

“Everyone knows how important the Green Belt’s environmental contribution is to improving the air that the people of the borough breath so, for goodness sake, don’t cover the green fields with concrete and chop down all the trees and add thousands more vehicles to already heavily-used narrow roads.”

A council spokesperson said: “We have received lots of feedback and comments from many local residents and stakeholders as a result of our extensive communications and engagement campaign to gather views on options, decisions and approaches put forward in the recent draft Local Plan consultation.

“We will now robustly process and carefully consider all feedback and comments received which will help inform the next version of the draft Local Plan. We will continue to consult and engage with all parties as we further develop our approach.”

Read the Mayor of London’s letter to Enfield Council in full: