Brimsdown development wins planning permission following row over councillors being ‘denied vote’ on committee, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
Residential tower blocks up to 16-storeys high look set to be built next to Brimsdown Station after the plans were approved by Enfield Council.
Developer Stonegate Homes won council backing to build 148 flats in Green Street, on the site of two abandoned warehouses most recently used for storing radio-controlled model planes.
The flats will be contained in three blocks of up to five, twelve and 16 storeys and, while the developer has vowed to provide 48% ‘affordable’ homes, the blocks are significantly taller than the two, three and and four-storey buildings currently dominating the local area.
Members of the council’s planning committee gave the go-ahead, in a narrow vote last month, after hearing a range of concerns. The meeting was overshadowed, however, by a row over two committee members being denied a chance to vote on the plans.
Local resident Sam Nanji said the blocks would be four-and-a-half times higher than its surrounding buildings, describing the planned towers as an “eyesore” that would “significantly alter the character of the surrounding area”.
Sam also highlighted that “only 15%” of the 148 homes were going to have three bedrooms. “Why would you allow that to go ahead?” he asked.
In defence of the scheme, Gill Eaton, of planning consultants Iceni Projects, described it as a “high-quality development with a high quantum of affordable homes”. She said: “The location for this density of development is supported, and the design addresses all the local considerations, such as daylight, sunlight, overlooking and overshadowing.
“The scheme utilises a brownfield site, thereby reducing pressure on the Green Belt elsewhere in the borough, and provides modern, new, flexible commercial space.”
Gill claimed the height of the towers was what had enabled the 50% ‘affordable’ housing level to be provided.
Several committee members criticised the plans. Conservative councillor Mike Rye said the towers would be “overbearing”, while Labour member Hass Yusuf said they’d be an “eyesore”. Tory councillor Maria Alexandrou added: “We keep accepting one-bed flats. Unless we start building three-bed family housing, we are not supporting residents.”
In total, six residents formally objected to the scheme. Council planning officer David Gittens said many of the two-bedroom homes would be large enough for small families and, added to the three-bed flats, would push the family housing level “close” to the council’s target.
The plans were approved by six votes to five, but because the site is currently commercial land of “strategic importance”, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan will need to give the final go-ahead.
Following the meeting, minority group Community First criticised the council over its decision to deny group leader Dinah Barry a vote on the Green Street plans as a substitute committee member. A Labour councillor who regularly sits on the planning committee – former council leader Doug Taylor – also raised concerns separately after he was substituted by another councillor without advance warning.
A council spokesperson said Cllr Barry was unable to vote because Community First did not tell the council’s monitoring officer she would be standing in for her colleague Daniel Anderson until after the start of the meeting.
Cllr Anderson said he emailed a senior planning officer weeks before the meeting asking if Cllr Barry could substitute for him, but when she tried to join the online meeting, she was unable to do so. After calling and emailing council officers, Cllr Barry was eventually let in – but was not allowed to participate or vote on the Green Street application. Both Community First councillors said they would have voted against the plans if they had been allowed to do so – which would have resulted in a tied vote by the committee.
Cllr Taylor, meanwhile, was substituted by Ergin Erbil, a Labour councillor for Edmonton Green – but Cllr Taylor said the proposed substitution and rationale were not communicated to him in advance of the meeting, leading to “confusion” when he signed in. The substitution was made because of Cllr Taylor’s role on the board of council-owned energy company Energetik, which the council monitoring officer judged to be in conflict with another application discussed at the same meeting.
Cllr Taylor told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Unfortunately, the proposed substitution and rationale were not communicated to me in advance of the meeting, so there was confusion when I signed in. Substitutions have to be for the full meeting, not one item, and have to be agreed with the monitoring officer in advance.”
A council spokesperson said: “All requests for the substitutions of members in the planning committee need to be made to the monitoring officer by the relevant political party.
“With regards to the substitution of Cllr Taylor, in future council officers will confirm any changes to arrangements with both the members who have been substituted and the member replacing them, for the purposes of clarity.
“The first time the monitoring officer became aware of Community First’s desire to substitute Cllr Anderson with Cllr Barry was 16 minutes after the planning committee started at 7.46pm. Once this notification was received, the substitution from the group leader of Community First was agreed.”