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Row over green belt housing plans in Enfield

Labour councillors in Enfield have defied calls to scrap plans for thousands of homes on the green belt and pressed ahead with a consultation on the proposals.

Controversial plans to build around 6,000 homes on two sites in the borough’s north-west are included in the draft local plan, which was approved for consultation at an extraordinary council meeting held at Enfield Grammar School on Wednesday.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the school gates ahead of the meeting to demand councillors ditch the plans and save the green belt.

Opposition members from across the borough slammed the plans and claimed building on the green belt was unnecessary, while Labour councillors argued that the densely populated east of Enfield should not be used to meet the entire London Plan target of providing 1,246 homes per year.

Council leader Cllr Nesil Caliskan (Labour, Jubilee) told the meeting the borough was facing inequalities in housing, with more than 4,000 residents in temporary accommodation.

“We have to build somewhere – if it is not out, it is up,” she said. “We have heard over the last couple of years from residents and councillors that we do not want skyscrapers all over the borough.”

The leader claimed the council was using all the brownfield sites available and could not build on areas of land designated for industrial use.

But Tory leader Cllr Joanne Laban (Highlands) warned the draft local plan would “deliver the irreversible destruction of our borough”.

She said the council had declared a climate emergency but was proposing to “destroy the very environmental infrastructure that is required in our fight against climate change”.

Criticising the lack of progress at the £6 billion Meridian Water regeneration scheme, Cllr Laban said she did not believe the council had properly considered proposals put forward by residents’ groups that would deliver homes without building on the green belt.

Other Tory councillors lined up to oppose the plans. Cllr Stephanos Ioannou (Conservative, Southgate) said that as a young person he understood the need for housing but was against building on the green belt.

Cllr Lindsay Rawlings (Conservative, Town) warned: “Once it’s gone, it’s gone – we will never be able to get back the green space that both Enfield and London need as their lungs.”

Members of independent group Community First, made up of seven councillors who quit Labour, also slammed the plans – including the Green Party’s Cllr Charith Gunawardena (Southgate).

Cllr Gunawardena claimed part of the cabinet’s preferred option included 19,000 homes provided in urban areas without building inappropriate tower blocks – but this was not included in the public consultation document.

Cllr Ayfer Orhan, who represents Ponders End in the east of the borough, said the public had been presented with a fait accompli under the guise of a consultation.

“The administration’s failure to develop and build 10,000 new homes at Meridian Water is no reason to savage the green belt,” she added.

But Labour councillors defended the plans. Cllr Hass Yusuf, who represents Chase ward – where homes could be built near Crews Hill station – said it would be “exciting” to see “a new little village around the station”.

Cllr Mahtab Uddin (Labour, Upper Edmonton) said the council had a “care of responsibility to provide quality homes, reduce inequalities and provide more opportunities”.

Cllr Chinelo Anyanwu (Labour, Jubilee) said 70 per cent of the proposed housing sites were on brownfield land, and the remaining sites such as train links, schools and amenities should not be developed.

And Cllr Ian Barnes (Labour, Winchmore Hill) claimed the Conservative Government was “ripping apart the planning system” and telling councils to build on the green belt, with Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick recently waving through a development near Bradford.

Following the debate, all of the Labour councillors voted to approve the draft local plan for consultation. The Tories and Community First voted against.

 

 

Article originally appeared on the Enfield Independent.

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