This scheme is a colossal mistake

The 29-storey tower planned for Colosseum Retail Park in Southbury
The 29-storey tower planned for Colosseum Retail Park in Southbury

Alan Sims from Better Homes for Enfield laments the recent approval of a 29-storey development

Enfield Council’s planning committee recently approved a controversial high-density housing scheme. But it is not clear why they approved it.

It will see 26 different blocks built at Colosseum Retail Park, on the corner of the A10 and Southbury Road. Five of the blocks will be towers of between 16 and 29 storeys, while 21 will be between six and 15 storeys. We have some significant concerns about the development.

This scheme will be one of the most densely populated areas of London. One justification given for building high-density neighbourhoods is to increase the number of affordable homes in the capital. However, only 8% of the flats in the first phase will be at London Affordable Rent levels. This is way below the 28% required by planning policy and lower than many other developments in London.

Almost 600 children will live at the development, but not enough play space will be provided within the scheme, meaning children will need to cross the A10 to use Enfield Playing Fields. At the committee meeting, a council planning officer described the A10 as a “monstrous road” but claimed it was acceptable for children aged eleven or older to cross it to reach the park.

Evidence shows that accident rates (including those near crossings) are highest among children aged 12-15 years. We are concerned that the needs and safety of children have not been properly considered or incorporated into the design, and think it is unreasonable to expect children of any age to routinely cross a busy dual carriageway.

The scheme will not deliver enough family-sized homes, something we have long been calling for and recently highlighted in our report, Needs Not Numbers. Only around 240 of the 1,800 flats will have three or more bedrooms, a fraction of what is required by policy and of what is needed in Enfield borough. This means families may end up living in flats that are too small for them, as already happens in high-density schemes in other boroughs, such as Tower Hamlets.

Families living in overcrowded homes are at an increased risk of infectious diseases and respiratory problems, and many say their living conditions affect their mental health. Recent experiences of Covid-19 are a timely reminder of the importance of having enough space to live in.

The shops currently at Colosseum Retail Park (B&Q, Dunelm, and KFC) will be demolished and 140 jobs will be lost. Residents and tradespeople will need to travel further afield to shop for DIY and building supplies. A popular bingo hall, Buzz Bingo, will also be demolished. The club has 11,500 active customers and its loss will have a disproportionate negative impact on parts of the community that rely on the bingo hall as a social outlet, namely older women.

The five councillors on the planning committee who voted against the scheme gave detailed reasons for their decision during the planning meeting, with one councillor describing the scheme as “somewhat bonkers”. However, it is unclear why five other councillors voted to approve the scheme, because they didn’t explain their reasons.

Committee chair Sinan Boztas, a Labour councillor, said that the committee had not previously approved developments with such low levels of affordable housing, so it is unclear why he then decided to vote it through. Four other councillors, also all Labour, voted in favour but did not speak at all during the three-hour discussion, so we do not know their reasons for approving the scheme. We think that given the scale of the development and the issues raised above, that each of the councillors who approved the scheme should issue a statement to explain their decision.

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