Agenda item

Opposition Business - Inappropriate Development

An issues paper prepared by the Opposition Group is attached for 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 Opposition Group were alarmed at the proposals for high rise, high density developments on sites in Enfield including at Cineworld and at Cockfosters Tube Station which they felt were out of keeping and would strain the amenities of these areas. 

·         Clarification of planning guidance on housing densities following the publication of the Mayor of London’s Local Plan is necessary to make clear to developers the Council’s position.

·         There is acknowledgement that there is a huge need for more affordable housing, but there is a debate about where this housing should be situated and whether is should be in tall buildings.   

·         It was felt to be inappropriate to build adjacent to the green belt or near the listed underground stations. There should be a presumption against tall building and changes to the skyline.

·         Good quality building that fits in with the area should be encouraged. 

·         Area Action Plans could highlight areas which might be appropriate for high rise buildings but these should be limited.

·         The Opposition were seeking reassurance that current guidance would not be jettisoned. 


2.            Councillor Caliskan, the Leader of the Council, responded on behalf of the Majority Group highlighting:


·         That the National Planning Policy Framework established a need for all local authorities to update their Local Plans.

·         When the Council’s 2010 Core Strategy was developed, population growth and the housing crisis was not on the planning agenda to the extent that it is now.

·         Previous Council housing targets were challenging, but moderate in comparison to today’s housing challenges.

·         Enfield’s current target was 798 new homes every year, but under the new London Plan it is set to be 1,900. The government’s assessment of need is higher at 3,500. Whatever the target, there is a need to increase the delivery of housing in the borough.  

·         The emerging Enfield Local Plan 2036 has put forward 7 options to meet the borough’s growth. These will include looking at the role that existing industrial land and retail parks will have to play.

·         Meeting a minimum target of 1,900 new homes a year, increasing industrial capacity and protecting and enhancing Enfield’s character and green belt means being realistic.

·         Intensification and co-locating residential development in industrial areas, as well as building on retail parks is important – and both these approaches are included in the Local Plan. The council is taking a brownfield, town centres first approach to accommodating growth. However, this will not be enough to meet the borough’s housing needs.

·         In that context the new Local Plan will provide updated policies regarding height and density to guide development in different places across Enfield. The approach to height will be dealt with on a case by case basis across the borough.

·         There will be sites in Enfield, particularly where we have transport hubs, where development could increase density and include excellently designed taller buildings.

·         The commitment to creating safe and strong communities by providing quality homes in well-designed places should always be a priority alongside ensuring that we are planning to accommodate the growth that is projected.

·         The design of the ‘place’, the ‘neighbourhood’ matters. Therefore, whilst taller buildings will be part of the solution, the majority of sites across the borough will not necessarily be appropriate locations for tall buildings.

·         Edmonton already has high rise and high density housing. There are thousands of families who live in cramped, substandard accommodation in parts of Edmonton – where in some wards 1 in 3 children are living in poverty, largely down to the soaring cost of housing because of the lack of supply.

·         And those who are serious about tackling the housing crisis, should see development on the western side of the borough as well as the East. 

·         As regards the introduction of the permitted development rights referred to in the Opposition Paper this was a simplistic Government policy to encourage an increase in housing supply by removing the need to apply for planning permission to convert offices in to homes. This has had consequences in terms of potential impacts on jobs, quality of accommodation and the integrity and cohesion of neighbourhoods.

·         The Council applied to Government for an exemption to these changes to permitted development in 2013. This application was rejected by Government.  Since then this policy had not been actively pursued, until early this year. 

·         The Leader did support the implementation of an Article A4 Directive in Enfield withdrawing these permitted development rights. 

·         In Enfield she felt that we must be holistic in planning, be firm and clear on vision practical in delivery.

·         All of those things are necessary in order to create good growth for our borough, as opposed to sprawling growth, which would do nothing to reduce the inequalities our residents experience.

·         In the hundredth year of council housing, the Council recently launched consultation on its draft Housing & Growth Strategy which set out how the Council will deliver more and better homes to address inequality, create a more balanced housing market and help local people access a good home.

·         The Council is also committed to deliver a £41m housing investment programme, as part of a new Council housing asset management strategy, to make all our Council homes meet a standard fit for the 21st century.

·         In regard to development in Southgate, only the Southgate Village scheme has been submitted for planning permission, but it is likely that the others will be submitted in the next few months. This report is about the precedent being set by the scale and location of these proposed developments and their impact on local communities.

·         The Cockfosters and Arnos Grove Transport for London (TfL) scheme proposals are located at accessible transport hubs that are in principle appropriate for sustainable development for new homes. Much of the surface level car parking on the Cockfosters site is used by commuters from outside Enfield.  But both of these proposals are at an early pre-application stage.  

·         The Southgate Office Village scheme is the subject of a live planning application which is still in the process of being assessed and has not yet been determined.

·         As with all schemes, officers will consider local character and heritage as well as viability, the level of affordable housing proposed, the retention of jobs, local regeneration and quality of design.

·         Proper engagement with residents from developers and the Council is crucial. A comprehensive engagement approach delivered through the recent consultation stage of the Local Plan will continue with the preparation of the next stages of the New Enfield Local Plan 2036.

·         Regeneration and accelerating delivery of homes, and making sure they are of quality and affordable, is of equal importance. Homes should be of excellent design and take in account surrounding areas, not least heritage. The Leader believed that this could be achieved with appropriated located taller buildering in the borough.

·         The borough would evolve and change to accommodate significant growth.


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 was essential that the right decisions were made.  But the Opposition had grave concerns. They had been vocal in their opposition to the proposed 29 stories on the B&Q A10 site.  If permitted this would be the tallest building in the borough and would be visible from all over, altering skylines.

·         To recognise that it was important not to make the mistakes of the 1960’s and to avoid future tragedies like the Grenfell Tower disaster. 

·         To acknowledge that the Mayor of London had said that decisions on high rise schemes were a local matter. 

·         Car parks were necessary to prevent people driving into Central London. 

·         Development needed to be balanced across the east and the west of the borough. 

·         The desire to work together with the administration on bringing forward plans which would improve the infrastructure in the borough such as Cross Rail 2.

·         Too much development can change the character of an area. 

·         Large tower blocks can be isolating places to live, block sunlight and cause pressure on local health and education facilities. 

·         Concern about a lack of consultation with local residents. 

·         To acknowledge that the previous Conservation administration had carried out a lot of renovation work on the Edmonton tower blocks.

·         New developments around tube stations were unlikely to serve existing local residents. 


b.            The need highlighted by members of the Majority Group:


·         To understand that there was a need to provide housing close to transport hubs to encourage sustainable travel. 

·         Any new development should be tenure blind and include good design take account of heritage assets and provide the required infrastructure.

·         No new development should be higher than the surrounding properties. 

·         New developments should be shared around the borough and not placed in the most intensively developed areas which are often where the poorest people live. 

·         House building had been neglected in the past and there was a desperate need for more housing in all parts of the borough. 


4.            At the end of the debate Councillor Smith summed up on behalf of the Opposition Group as follows: 


·         It was important to make sure that the correct decisions are made on applications for high rise developments.  Their impact could change the character of the borough for decades.  The administration should support the existing planning guidance and be clear and unequivocal in discouraging these types of development.  Buildings should be of an appropriate scale.  He hoped members would support the recommendations in the Opposition Business paper. 


5.            Councillor Caliskan then summed up on behalf of the majority group responding to the recommendations in the Opposition Priority Business Paper:

Councillors needed to be honest about the scale of challenge the borough faced to meet future housing need.  Development was needed across the borough.  She hoped that the opposition would join with her to oppose the cuts imposed by the Government and would with her to secure additional resources for the borough to help provide additional affordable homes.  All planning decisions were to be taken by the Planning Committee on the advice of officers and a new Local Plan was in the process of being developed.  She agreed with the Opposition comments on the need for improved infrastructure and felt that Cross Rail 2 could transform Enfield. 


After the debate, the Leader’s response to the Conservative Opposition Business paper, was not agreed after a vote with the following result:


For:  37

Against: 15

Abstentions:  0

Supporting documents: