Southgate towers plan approved by appeal inspector

Original decision to reject 17-storey scheme overturned, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

New tower blocks planned in Southgate (credit Viewpoint Estates)
The new tower blocks will be built adjacent to Southgate Circus Conservation Area (credit Viewpoint Estates)

Permission has been granted for a 17-storey development in Southgate town centre after a planning inspector overruled a previous decision to reject it.

The scheme planned for Southgate Office Village, which is close to a conservation area, was backed by the government-appointed planning inspector in an appeal decision report issued following an earlier inquiry. It means developer Viewpoint Estates can build 216 homes in five separate blocks at the site in Chase Road.

In June last year, Enfield Council’s planning committee unanimously refused permission for the high-rise scheme, which will lie just outside the boundary of Southgate Circus Conservation Area and be visible from the Grade 2-listed Southgate Station.

Committee members opposed the height and massing of the planned buildings, which they claimed would harm heritage assets and neighbouring properties. After the developer appealed to the Planning Inspectorate against the refusal, local residents and Enfield Southgate MP Bambos Charalambous spoke against the scheme during the public inquiry held in September this year.

But in the decision issued today (14th December), inspector Paul Griffiths found in favour of the developer. He wrote: “Bearing in mind what occupies the appeal site at present, what I regard as the excellence of the design would uplift the character and the appearance of the area. Moreover, it would cause no harm to the setting or the significance of heritage assets nearby, or further afield.”

In respect of the development’s impact on the tube station, Paul acknowledged people’s concerns, but wrote: “The height of the taller elements of the proposal is not so extreme that it would harmfully compete with the station complex.”

The inspector added that there would be “no harmful overlooking or loss of privacy” caused to neighbouring properties, and that any loss of daylight or sunlight would be within “reasonable bounds”. Because the scheme intended to be “car free”, he said that it should not lead to any additional parking pressure.

Paul said the only harmful aspect of the scheme was that its timing relative to the council’s draft Local Plan meant the opportunity to consider the site’s suitability for tall buildings had been lost . But he concluded: “To my mind, bearing in mind the parlous state of the council’s housing land supply, the harm that flows from that pales against the enormous benefits of the open-market and affordable housing the scheme would bring forward in a well-designed, contextually appropriate scheme.”

Southgate District Civic Voice, a local residents’ group that opposed the plans during the inquiry, issued a statement which said: “Southgate District Civic Voice is extremely disappointed by the inspector’s decision to allow the Southgate Office Village proposal to go ahead. We will be studying the decision carefully.

“We consider that this development will completely change the character of Southgate.

“We would like to thank all our members, the wider community, ward councillors and Civic Voice for their support during this whole process.”

Bambos Charalambous MP said: “I’m bitterly disappointed that permission has been granted for a 17-storey housing development at Southgate Office Village.

“In September, I made representations to the planning inspector to reject the appeal for planning permission.

“The proposed development is out-of-keeping with the local area, would have an adverse impact on local services and fails to meet local housing needs. It is a retrograde step for Southgate.”

Stephanos Ioannou, a Conservative councillor for Southgate ward,  said the decision was “a significant loss for the campaign and all the work put in by local groups”.

He added: “It shows, quite frankly, that legislation trumps local feelings and sets a dangerous precedent for further development in the area.”

Update (15th Dec):

Charith Gunawardena, Green Party councillor for Southgate, said: “This decision is extremely disappointing as it does not help Southgate or Enfield residents in terms of affordability and family-sized homes.

“The inspector stated that Enfield Council accepts that it cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites with the appropriate buffer. The evidence shows that at present, they can demonstrate a supply of just over two years. This has left Enfield vulnerable to this kind of development.

“Southgate has been badly let down by the governments planning policies and the council’s housing policies.”