Warning as local housing target missed

New homes being built in Linwood Crescent, Enfield
New homes being built in Linwood Crescent, Enfield

Existing housing targets are not being met, while bigger targets are due to be introduced, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Developers could find it easier to have housing schemes approved in Enfield after the council failed to meet its annual construction target.

The average number of new homes built per year in the borough over the past three years was 438 – just 55% of the 798 annual target set out in Enfield Council’s existing Local Plan. A new, higher homes target for the borough published in the London Plan, finalised this month, requires Enfield to build 1,246 homes per year, but this will still need to be agreed by councillors later as part of its new Local Plan.

Under the government’s housing delivery test, councils that fail to meet 75% of their housing targets in the previous three years fall into a category of “presumption in favour of sustainable development”. According to a new council report, it means applications for new homes “should be considered with more weight by planning committees and the planning service”.

It also means developers are more likely to be successful at planning appeals and “to submit speculative applications which are not policy compliant and are less likely to meet our design quality aspirations”.

The report adds: “In short, it erodes the ability of the planning service and local councillors to control development for housing and is likely to lead to a mix and quality of housing beneath our needs.”

Joanne Drew, the council’s director of regeneration and housing, presented the report to the regeneration and economic development scrutiny panel this week. She told councillors: “The supply target is increasing, and as that increases, we need to step up the delivery to achieve the targets or move towards the targets into the future.”

The council is working on an action plan focusing on seven key themes to increase housing delivery, Joanne explained.

Labour councillor Mahmut Aksanoglu asked how the council would bring empty homes back into use, how the planning process could be sped up, and how developers could be encouraged to build out schemes once permission has been granted.

Joanne said there are around 3,000 empty homes in the borough, and the council aims to bring 60 per year back into use. She added that officers had introduced two planning committees per month and were encouraging developers to engage with the council at an earlier stage to draw up schemes that are likely to be approved.

Conservative councillor Edward Smith flagged up a “disturbing” line in the report stating that failing to increase housing delivery “is likely to bring the council to the attention of the government”.

Cllr Smith asked what intervention the government might make, adding that many problems would be avoided if the council made more progress on the 10,000-home Meridian Water regeneration scheme.

Joanne said the interventions tended to be “light touch”, such as commissioners being placed within the organisation.

Council leader Nesil Caliskan said that in the past 18 months there had been “progress like never before” at Meridian Water, with the first site under construction and planning permission granted for subsequent sites. The leader stressed the importance of completing the new Local Plan to ensure the government does not step in and take direct control of housing delivery.