Brexit may be a dividing line between the main candidates in Enfield Southgate, but housing apparently not so much. Plans for new homes on Underground station car parks at Cockfosters and Arnos Grove, as well as redevelopment at Southgate office village near Southgate Tube, are uniting Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrats candidates – in opposition to the proposals.
The seat, scene of Stephen Twigg’s shock victory over Tory minister Michael Portillo in 1997, stretches some six miles from south of the North Circular to Hadley Wood on the suburban fringe. It saw a surprise win for Labour again in 2017, with a 9.7 per cent swing giving local councillor Bambos Charalambous a tight majority of 4,355. And a 62 per cent Remain vote reinforces the sense of a shift away from the Conservatives, who are fielding 2017’s defeated David Burrowes, and a possible opening for Lib Dem “revoke” candidate Rob Wilson.
But housing is rising up the agenda – and it’s an issue which may spill over into the London Mayor election next year too. Sadiq Khan wants Enfield to be building 1,876 new homes a year, compared to his predecessor’s target of 798. Government inspectors have recommended his draft London Plan targets should be revised downwards, but they would still amount to more than 1,200 new homes a year compared to 1,281 homes completed over the past two years, of which 22 per cent were rated as affordable.
Transport for London land is a key element of Khan’s plans, including the Connected Living London joint venture between TfL and build-to-rent specialists Grainger, which is planning 400 homes at Cockfosters and 150 at Arnos Grove, offering tenancies of up to five years and add-ons including on-site management and communal workspace.
Proponents of the schemes argue they both address Khan’s push for higher density housing around transport links in Outer London and his transport strategy commitment for 80 per cent of trips in London to be by foot, bike or public transport by 2041.
But opponents cite loss of parking space and displacement of Tube-bound cars onto residential streets, along with concerns about impacts on the stations themselves. Arnos Grove, Cockfosters and Southgate stations are listed buildings designed by noted modernist architect Charles Holden.
Opposition in Arnos Grove is spearheaded by local Labour councillor Daniel Anderson, formerly the council’s deputy leader, whose petition calling on Khan to abandon the scheme has garnered more than 2,000 signatures.
The petition argues that the 303-space car park is an important “park and ride” facility for commuters from areas with poor transport links. Development would displace cars onto neighbouring streets, meaning more parking controls for residents, as well as increasing congestion from commuter drop-off and “doing nothing to address the borough’s lack of truly affordable housing”.
And the main party candidates agree. “Extra cars will be parked in local streets causing more traffic congestion in an already busy area. We acknowledge we have to build, but we have to consult the local population and take them with us as we build,” says Lib Dem Wilson.
The plans are about “exploiting our stations to plug TfL’s finances,” says Burrowes, the Tory. “These are very well used car parks that serve commuters and are important public transport hubs which will suffer from these misguided plans.”
Adds Labour’s Charalambous: “In principle I am opposed. We do need more housing, but it has to be in the right place.”
The candidates are at one too with Southgate District Civic Trust, which opposes the separate Southgate proposal as “overdevelopment” detracting from the nearby Southgate Circus conservation area. It would replace existing offices with a mixed development rising to a controversial 17 storeys, including 216 homes, 35 per cent of them affordable, according to revised plans.
“We accept that the scheme is for many seen as a step change in housing delivery in Southgate, but this is because new housing has not kept pace with housing need,” according to the developers’ planning advisers. “There is a housing crisis and a need for all local authorities to deliver new homes. Outer London in particular has not kept pace with housing delivery.”
Grainger similarly argues that its Arnos Grove plans “allow highly accessible public sector land to be put to better use”, promoting “more sustainable and healthy travel choices” and reducing vehicle trip numbers as well as delivering new and affordable housing.
Their surveys show 80 per cent of car park users at Arnos Grove come from Enfield or neighbouring Barnet, with just five per cent beginning their journey outside the M25. And 99 per cent were within a kilometre of a station or 640 metres from a bus stop serving Arnos Grove. “Car park users have other alternatives available to them,” they say.
The candidates may be lined up on one side for now, but it’s an argument that will continue after the election, as pressure for more housing continues to mount in Outer London areas like Enfield, where almost 40 per cent of land is protected Green Belt.
And it won’t be an easy debate for the Mayor and the council. As one resident noted after viewing the Arnos Grove plans: “Comments noted focused chiefly on the parking issues…but the remorseless march of the district into urban status as distinct from suburban was also a source of grief.”
On London intends to provide the fullest possible coverage of the 2019 general election campaign in the capital, along with other big issues for the city. The website depends on financial support from readers to pay its freelance writers. Just £5 a month makes an important difference. To donate to On London, click here. Thank you.