Matt Burn from campaign group Better Homes Enfield gives his reaction to the council’s draft Local Plan
Enfield’s new draft Local Plan aims to build 25,000 homes across the borough over the next 20 years.
The council says it wants to build these homes “to help ensure that people who grew up in the borough will have the opportunity to remain” and “to provide a variety of housing options to meet the needs of everyone, regardless of income, age and ability”.
Around 19,000 homes would be built in urban areas, including homes in tower blocks, and 6,000 on the Green Belt. Many residents are concerned about the impact this will have. However, concerns need to be balanced against the acute shortage of affordable housing in Enfield, particularly affordable family housing.
Given what is at stake, it is important to ask whether the new Local Plan will achieve the council’s objectives and deliver the housing Enfield needs. Unfortunately, it won’t. Over 20 years, the new Local Plan will build 25,000 homes but only around 6,500 are likely to be ‘affordable’ for local people. Enfield currently needs at least 10,000 affordable homes, so the new Local Plan will not meet the current need in Enfield, let alone the need over the next 20 years.
A lack of affordable housing will mean that many families will have to move away from Enfield to access cheaper housing, even if this means longer commutes or moving away from family and support networks.
Families that stay in Enfield may have little choice but to live precariously in housing they struggle to afford or in housing that is too small for them; overcrowding is already a problem in Enfield and is linked to poor health.
A key problem is the way most affordable housing is funded. Currently, a large number of fully priced – and therefore expensive – homes need to be built in order to generate the funds to build a relatively small number of affordable homes. Current planning policy says 40% of homes built on new developments should be classed as ‘affordable’, although many developments are approved by the council where the level of affordable homes falls well below this target. The government needs to increase funding so that far more affordable homes can be built, without having to build so many unaffordable ones.
Another problem is that the council has missed opportunities to build the affordable family housing Enfield needs, especially at Meridian Water, its flagship development. The draft Local Plan includes an acceptance that Meridian Water will not deliver 10,000 homes in the next 20 years, with only 5,000 being allocated to it. The implication is that this project may never achieve its stated aim of 10,000 homes.
The public statements from the council about helping to stop “skyscrapers” do not seem to reflect what’s in the Local Plan and could give the public a false impression that building on the Green Belt will mean tall towers are not needed.
Politically, I am left wondering why a Labour-run council is not making more noise about the challenges the government has created – why is it not taking this opportunity to shout about a lack of funding for affordable housing and what this means for Enfield?
If there was more government funding, and if the council could make better use of its opportunities, there’s a good chance Enfield could build the affordable housing it needs without large-scale development of the Green Belt and without tall tower blocks.
The draft Local Plan is open to public consultation until Monday 13th September. Residents can take part via the council’s website:
For more information about Better Homes Enfield: