Enfield: slow-moving Meridian Water is at last gathering speed

Enfield: slow-moving Meridian Water is at last gathering speed

Crossrail may be delayed, but next month will see at least one brand new railway station open in London as Meridian Water station in Edmonton goes into service on 19 May – the harbinger of progress at last on major regeneration plans for the Upper Lee Valley.

The new station replaces little-used Angel Road nearby. It was used by just 33,000 passengers last year, but the new station is expected to serve up to four million people as ambitious, £6 billion plans for 10,000 homes and 6,000 jobs finally get underway in a former industrial area off the North Circular, once the home of Thorn Electrical Industries and now best-known for its IKEA, whose opening in 2005 prompted a bargain-seeking customer riot.

Plans for Meridian Water have a long history. Designated an opportunity area and housing zone funding recipient by Boris Johnson, it was masterplanned by Enfield Council in 2013 as a “new waterfront eco-quarter”, exploiting its transport connections, network of waterways and proximity to the Lee Valley Regional Park, London’s largest park. It’s not been a smooth ride since. The council selected Barratt London in 2016 as preferred developer for the entire 210-acre site, but negotiations soured and Barratt pulled out in October 2017 after failing to agree terms.

“We were simply not prepared to sign up to what we considered to be a poor deal for the residents and businesses of Enfield,” the council said. Correspondence disclosed under Freedom of Information provisions suggested that Barratt’s offer was “materially different from that in the Final Tender…submitted”. Disputing that claim, Barratt cited the “central issue” as a “difference between what we share with you as an ambition or aspiration for the project and what is acceptable as an absolute contractual commitment”.

The council turned to reserve bidder, Hong Kong-based Pacific Century Premium Developments (PCPD), but discussions again foundered, with PCPD withdrawing shortly after a showdown with the new Labour administration in June last year. Council leader Nesil Caliskan confirmed “significant concerns” over commercial and financial terms.

“I have always been uncomfortable with having just one master-developer for the entire 20-year delivery period,” she said in an interview. “It became apparent that it was not a good deal for local people…There was a risk that the majority of homes built would be sold to overseas buyers, and that was not something I was not willing to sign up to.”

In a significant change of tack, Enfield is now taking control, seeking development partners incrementally rather than a single master developer. This week, Galliford Try Partnerships were selected for the first phase of 725 homes around the new station. Procurement is underway for a phase two site, to comprise 250 affordable homes plus workspaces at Leeside Road, south of the IKEA.

Sites for “meanwhile” uses are being offered and a new 10,000 capacity music venue, the Drumsheds, will open shortly, with outdoor space for a further 30,000 attendees. It will host its first event, the Field Day festival, in June.

It’s a “genuinely new” approach according to the council, though it builds on significant direct involvement to date, including the council assembling land itself, buying up two-thirds of developable land since 2014 at a cost of more than £150 million, securing planning permissions, managing infrastructure works, supplying low carbon heat through its own company Energetik, and substantially funding the new Meridian Water station.

Proceeding via development agreements rather than outright sale also keeps the council in the driving seat, says Caliskan: “Investing council money and resources to ensure that local people are the principal beneficiaries of the new homes and jobs that will be created.” The proposed deal with Galliford includes a 12 month bar on overseas sales, and a buy-back option for the council on units unsold after that period.

Spades may not be in the ground quite yet and the council is still awaiting the outcome of a £156 million joint funding bid to Whitehall to improve connectivity and train frequencies. But things are finally moving at Meridian Water.

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