Setback for Meridian Water as industrial sites remain protected

Target of 10,000 homes continues to be out of reach for Enfield Council, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Harbert Road
Harbert Road is designated as strategic industrial land (Sil)

Fresh doubts have been raised over plans to free up protected industrial land at Meridian Water to help meet the scheme’s 10,000-homes target.

Council bosses said plans to swap an area of industrial space at the eastern edge of the site with an area to the north to provide space for homes did not align with London Plan policies.

It represents a fresh setback for the £6billion scheme, which currently only has capacity for 5,000 homes because the council has so far been unable to persuade the Greater London Authority to de-designate areas of land that are protected for commercial use, known as strategic industrial land (Sil).

Council officers presented a report on Sil to a meeting of the regeneration and economic development scrutiny panel yesterday (Wednesday). Despite the key importance of the topic for the council’s draft Local Plan, the meeting was over within 45 minutes.

The report states that the “thrust” of the new Local Plan policies on Sil “seek to provide an uplift in the supply of employment space” and meet the council’s aims of an “expanded business base” including “growth sectors” such as film and TV.

Enfield Council’s plans to de-designate an area of Sil at the eastern part of the Meridian Water site, around Harbet Road, were rejected by a planning inspector in 2019. The report reveals that last year the council’s Meridian Water team responded to the draft Local Plan, calling for most of the Sil at Harbet Road to be de-designated and re-provided in an area of land immediately south of the A406, which would free up land for housing.

During the meeting, Conservative panel member Edward Smith said de-designating this Sil would allow the council to increase the number of units at Meridian Water and could even double it to meet the 10,000-homes target. He added that the “intensification” of existing Sil sites could make de-designation more likely.

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

May Hope, the council’s plan-making manager, responded that the band of land south of the A406 would provide “good access to the strategic road network” but the uses set out in the Meridian Water submission to the Local Plan were not “aligned to the uses set out in [London Plan] policy”.

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She continued: “We have fed that back to the Meridian Water team and we are working with officers on that area as well.”

May told the meeting that the council “could not afford to lose any Sil within the borough”.

Cllr Smith branded the response “disappointing” and said the council appeared to have “given up” on de-designating the Sil at Harbet Road.

In response, Brett Leahy, the council’s director of planning and growth, said it was important to put forward “sound” proposals, which would be “put under huge scrutiny” through the Local Plan examination process.

Joanne Laban, another Conservative panel member, asked whether the council could have used supplementary guidance published by the Greater London Authority in 2015 that would have allowed greater flexibility in the use of Sil if it had been “a bit quicker”.

Brett said he could not comment on that remark but added that policies change over time, and the London Plan sets out the current position in which the council has to operate.

Tories also quizzed officers on how the council’s plan for 25,000 homes to be built in the borough by 2039, as set out in the draft Local Plan, had been affected by the government’s recent announcement that housebuilding targets would be advisory rather than mandatory.

Controversially, the Local Plan proposes de-designating some areas of Green Belt land to meet the housing target, with the administration claiming there are not enough brownfield sites to meet demand. The council recently revealed plans to raise £800million by selling off Green Belt land.

Civic centre bosses gave no indication that the 25,000-homes target would be revised, however. They claimed the “standard method”, a government formula used to determine an area’s housing need, would still provide the basis for the Local Plan, regardless of the proposed changes to the wording of policies.

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