The 29-storey scheme on retail park site was described as “bonkers” and “monstrous”, reports James Cracknell
A “skyscraper” set to become the borough’s tallest building has won planning permission – despite councillors criticising the scheme as “too tall” and “unaffordable”.
Colosseum Retail Park’s redevelopment, on the corner of Great Cambridge Road and Southbury Road, is planned in two stages and could see 1,800 homes built in total. Details for the first phase, including the 29-storey tower and 444 homes, were approved on Tuesday by Enfield Council’s planning committee.
Every committee member who aired their views at the meeting raised concerns, including over the scheme’s height, density, and failure to meet ‘affordable’ homes targets. But in the vote, councillors were split, with five in favour and five against. Committee chair Sinas Boztas cast the deciding vote to grant permission. Controversy has since arisen over why one committee member – who confirmed they’d have voted against the scheme – was barred from attending.
Council planning officers recommended councillors approve the scheme, arguing the site of retailer B&Q was a good location for large-scale development and would make a significant contribution to borough housing targets. Officer Graham Harrington claimed the scheme’s ‘affordable’ homes provision of 30% was justified because the developer would not make enough profit otherwise. He said: “The [council’s] 40% target is subject to viability. The acid test is the ‘maximum reasonable amount’. Officers have to negotiate with applicants – we have scrutinised the viability appraisal […] and are satisfied it is the maximum reasonable amount.”
Cllr Boztas said: “I have been on the committee for some time and, for applications of three or four hundred flats, we have never had [approved] less than 40% affordable housing.”
Conservative committee member Mike Rye slammed the plans, including demolition of the retail park’s bingo hall which he said was popular with elderly people. “I don’t think the re-provision [of these facilities] will meet the loss of Buzz Bingo,” said Cllr Rye. “The height and density causes me concern. The 29-storey tower will be a monstrous scar on the landscape.”
Planning officers admitted the development would be visible from Forty Hill Conservation Area, but that the visual harm “was less than substantial”. Another concern was the mix of home sizes, with more than half the proposed flats in the first phase being one-bedroom or studio dwellings. Just one-in-eight of flats in phase one will have three bedrooms. In the whole scheme, 40% would be studios or one-beds, 50% would be two-beds and 15% would be three-beds.
Maria Alexandrou, another Conservative committee member, said: “We need more family homes in Enfield, so why are we looking at something that has 40% one-bed flats?”
The first phase will see B&Q demolished to accommodate four buildings of 29, 18, nine and six storeys, with the smallest described as a “work hub”. The second phase – still subject to detailed planning permission at a later date – will see furniture shop Dunelm demolished alongside Buzz Bingo and KFC, with additional homes planned that could take the total number built on the 4.2-hectare site to between 1,587 and 1,800. Council planning officers acknowledged the scheme “exceeds 350 units per hectare, the definition of ‘higher density’ development”. Labour committee member Hass Yusuf said: “The whole project is too dense. A 29-storey development is bonkers.”
A petition was signed by 271 local residents, while formal objections were also submitted by Buzz Bingo and two local groups; Enfield Town Residents’ Association claimed the plans would “inevitably result in severe negative impacts on health, anti-social behaviour and crime”, while Bush Hill Park Residents’ Association argued the Grenfell Tower disaster showed the danger of “fires over a certain height”. Sport England also objected over a lack of leisure provision. Two other local groups, The Enfield Society and Enfield Road Watch, backed the plans because “densification in this area is more sustainable than building on green belt”.
The scheme’s developers, American firm Blackrock and London-based NEAT Developments, committed to financial contributions totalling £18million, going towards improving local infrastructure and public services. This includes £650,000 to Transport for London for boosting public transport and “enhancement” of Southbury Station.
Ben Wrighton, from planning agents Turley, said: “It is a retail park without merit. We’ve been working with council officers for three years and the committee will note the relatively few number of objections for a scheme of this scale.”
Brian Reynolds, from NEAT, admitted the scheme had “more in common with Meridian Water” than the local area but added: “Yes, they are tall buildings, but they will allow over half the total area to become open space, creating a great place to work, rest and play.”
In the end, five councillors voted in favour (all Labour) and five against (three Conservative, two Labour). Four of the five in favour hadn’t contributed to the three-hour public debate of the application and the fifth to vote in favour, Cllr Boztas, had been highly critical of the scheme – describing it as “more like a skyscraper”.
Former council leader Doug Taylor said at the start of the meeting that he’d been advised he would need to declare his position on the board of council-owned energy company Energetik as a conflict of interest, because the scheme includes a proposed connection with Energetik’s district heating network. It meant he could not vote on the plans.
Former deputy leader Daniel Anderson, who recently quit Labour to join breakaway group Community First, joined the committee two weeks prior to the meeting but said he’d been denied a chance to take part because the council hadn’t arranged for him to be trained. Cllr Anderson told the Dispatch: “I read the report and had numerous concerns, as were expressed by other members of the panel. Having watched the meeting I remained unconvinced and would have voted against.”
A council spokesperson said: “Daniel Anderson became a member of the committee after a recalculation of the political balance of the council’s committees. The council requires any member to have undertaken training and regrettably it wasn’t possible to arrange it prior to the committee. Community First could have had an appropriately trained substitute, if they had one.”