An issues paper prepared by the Opposition Group is attached for the Council to consider.
The Council rules relating to Opposition Business are also attached for information.
Councillor Smith introduced the issues paper, prepared by the Opposition Group.
1. Issues highlighted by Councillor Smith were as follows:
· The Local Plan, which was about to go out on consultation, was an important document which would shape the future development in the borough until 2036. If we got it wrong, there would be consequences.
· His feeling that the Labour administration believed that the borough’s population was due to rise substantially, increasing housing need, leading to the need for more building. His concern that the administration were proposing to allow building on the green belt in areas such as Crews Hill, to increase back land development and to permit high rise blocks in town centres.
· The view that building on green belt land would not conform to the Mayor of London’s draft London Plan. Opposition members queried therefore why such proposals had been included in the consultation document.
· It was felt that the main reason for the housing shortage was due to Council’s failures, including delays to large regeneration schemes such as Meridian Water and even to the small housing site schemes.
· Concern about the possibility of enormous fines if the Meridian Water Station development was not completed by May 2019.
· Fear that these new proposals, if they went ahead would change, for the worse, the character of Enfield for ever and would damage Enfield residents’ quality of life.
2. Councillor Caliskan, the Leader of the Council, responded on behalf of the Majority Group highlighting:
· The Council were required to update the local plan under the National Planning Policy Framework. Under the new plan, Enfield would need to increase house building targets to 1,900 properties per year, up from the 798 currently required and in contrast to the Government’s figure of 3,500. Many more houses were needed.
· She argued that there was no point questioning population growth figures or thinking that migration would be reduced because of Brexit, as most migration was domestic; people would continue to come to London whether Brexit happened or not. All predictions indicated that population would continue to grow.
· Without a good plan, it would not be possible to control or shape development in the borough. Over the past 15 years the average price of houses in the borough had increased from £160,000 to £460,000, and average rents by £400. Too many people could not afford the cost of housing. Over 3,000 people were on the temporary housing register. Half of all council housing had been lost since 1979. New development was essential. Work was also needed to tackle climate change, to improve infrastructure, to enable society to grow and prosper.
· The local plan was due to be published as part of the start of a 12-week consultation, at the options stage. The Council was seeking the views of the public, before finalising the plan for submission. It was a call for sites and a call for ideas from residents and other stakeholders.
· The designation of land as Strategic Industrial Land (SIL) was an issue, but the Labour administration had already assembled 66% of the land at Meridian Water with a view to help to address these problems. The administration were working with the GLA and were fully committed to providing 50% affordable homes on the site.
· Meridian Water on its own, however, could not accommodate all the homes needed and other sites would be required. The Council were looking at the possibilities from brownfield sites, around town centres, but also places near transport hubs.
· To put things in perspective forty percent of the borough was green belt, the transport hub identified on the green belt equates to 5% of this. The Leader felt that it was right to value green spaces that is we must have a local plan that controls growth and allows good growth. We must also value the people living in Enfield and consider that one in three children were living in poverty in Edmonton and many people could not afford housing. The Council’s aim was to enable the creation of affordable high quality and attractive developments. This last was also the purpose of the design panel.
· This was a local plan, for local people, to be shaped by local people, to enable growth in Enfield so that everyone could fulfil their potential.
3. Other issues highlighted during the debate were as follows:
a. The need highlighted by the members of the Opposition Group:
· To acknowledge that it had been a Conservative administration that had started work on Meridian Water, but that 8 years later no bricks had been laid, was down to the Labour administration.
· To acknowledge that the Labour administration should have appealed against the GLA designation of strategic industrial land at Meridian Water in 2014.
· To understand that many people were concerned about building on green belt land. The Mayor of London had a zero-tolerance policy to building on it and the opposition believed that these proposals would put the Council on a collision course with this policy.
· To recognise that the green belt was valued as it made Enfield an attractive place to live and work. It was the lungs of Enfield. A means of improving air quality. It should be protected. It prevented urban sprawl and should assist urban regeneration.
· The view that sites for housing should be prioritised along the route of the Cross Rail 2 rather than in the Green Belt.
· Concern that currently only 550 houses were being built a year due what the opposition saw as a failure of the Labour administration. Concern about poor people living in terrible conditions with rogue landlords because of housing shortages.
b. The need highlighted by members of the Majority Group:
· To acknowledge that the local plan was at the first stage of a consultation process and it was important that residents were given the opportunity to express their views on all the possible options so that the Council could get the plan right. There would also be further opportunities for engagement before the plan was finally agreed in 2021.
· To recognise that there was a desperate shortage of really affordable housing in the borough and that every option had to be explored. Housing demand outstripped supply. Over the last 5 years only 550 houses had been built per year and this needed to be increased to 2,000 – 3,500. It was inevitable that the Green Belt land would be considered, as it made up over a third of the borough.
4. At the end of the debate Councillor Smith summed up on behalf of the Opposition Group as follows:
· Councillor Smith reiterated the recommendations in the opposition business paper. He felt that there should be an independent review of the council’s poor performance, a comprehensive strategic review on population growth after the European Union negotiations had been concluded, that the draft local plan should be revised to prohibit any development in the green belt and that it should be kept under review in the light of housing projections and improvements to housing delivery.
5. Councillor Caliskan then summed up on behalf of the majority group responding to the recommendations in the Opposition Priority Business Paper:
Councillor Caliskan said that she had read the paper and listened to the debate but felt that the opposition were only interested in developing a Local Plan for the few, at the expense of the many, that they were fear mongering about the green belt, spreading inaccurate information about the local plan which was at the consultation stage. The Opposition had ignored the evidence of the desperate need for more housing, whether Brexit happened or not. The local plan needed to represent a step change. There was a need to be ambitious, but also holistic, to look at everything. Without a local plan, there would be uncontrolled development. This administration wanted good growth.
Following the debate, the Opposition requested a vote on the Leader’s response. The vote was held with the following result: