The borough of Enfield could become a key Green Belt battleground after development for new housing was mooted in the council’s latest local plan document. Consultation on the plan, the blueprint for development in the borough up to 2036, opened this week and runs until 28 February next year.
Some 37 per cent of Enfield is designated Green Belt land and therefore strongly protected under regional and national planning policy. But with a new homes target of 1,876 a year, raised by London Mayor Sadiq Khan from 798 annually under Boris Johnson, the council’s draft proposes a fresh look at Green Belt boundaries.
The plan highlights land around Crews Hill station, 30 minutes from King’s Cross, known for its horticultural nurseries and more recently its garden centres. “There are strong sustainability arguments in favour of developing some green belt land,” the plan says. “The existing settlement around Crews Hill station has the greatest potential…The surrounding area…could provide a highly accessible location for a new residential suburb.”
The plan will not be adopted until 2020, but political battle lines are being drawn with City Hall in the spotlight as well, according to reporting by the Enfield Independent and new community newspaper Enfield Dispatch.
“You can’t trust the Labour council with the Green Belt,” says Conservative opposition leader Joanne Laban, while Labour’s cabinet member for property and assets Ahmet Oykener has defended the draft plan. “We will always prefer to meet Enfield’s housing needs by building on brownfield and town centre sites, but our Local Plan also needs to consider other options,” he says.
“Our Local Plan options include looking at a tiny section – approximately five to seven per cent – of Green Belt land and considering whether it may be suitable for quality and affordable homes for families. We will consider all the responses to the consultation before we work up and develop our preferred options.”
Mayor Khan was brought into the Enfield debate last month when quizzed by Tory London Assembly Member Andrew Boff. “If it is the case that their local plan is in breach of our policies, then I will do what I normally do, which is to object to it,” the Khan told the Assembly.
The Mayor has set himself firmly against Green Belt development, reiterating his position in one of his first statements after his election: “It is vitally important we protect our city’s precious green spaces and that must include opposing building on the Green Belt.”
And in one of his first planning decisions, Khan blocked plans for a new stadium for Cray Wanderers football club, community pitches and 28 homes on Green Belt land in Chislehurst.
Notwithstanding that decision, Cray Wanderers, the oldest football club in London, is now celebrating after a revised application, less obtrusive and with 100 per cent affordable housing, won City Hall approval last month.
While the new application had significant support plus backing from Bromley council and local MP Bob Neill, the Green Belt will continue to be controversial.
A surprising 22 per cent of London is designated Green Belt. As London School of Economics planning expert Alan Mace has written, “This creates real problems in boroughs such as Enfield where development is concentrated in the poorer parts of the borough to the east. Meanwhile green belt more or less stops development in the richer west of the borough.”
Mayor Khan’s re-election in 2020 looks straightforward. But with his commanding 27 point lead over Tory rival Shaun Bailey falling to nine per cent in Outer London, Green Belt planning decisions could still have a significant part to play.
The image used with this article is from Alasdair Rae’s excellent Green Belt Atlas.