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The Federation of Enfield Residents' & Allied Associations

The Federation of Enfield Residents' & Allied Associations

Green Belt

Pressure on resources from unsustainable population growth

  • In 2016 Enfield announced it had to accept population growth from (then) current 324,000 to 400,000 residents by 2031 and begin preparations to invite developers to house them. This was predicated on the GLA’s assessment of Enfield’s capacity and derived from national projections of population growth. These projections have now been updated and reduced slightly in a draft new local plan to cover the extended period to 2036.
  • These figures in turn derived from the London Mayor’s Plan which projects a population increase from 8.5m now to 10.7m by 2041. FERAA finds that premise totally improbable, for many reasons not the least being that there is no chance supporting infrastructure – transport, housing, hospitals and schools – could be expanded in that period to maintain even the current pressed quality of life in the Capital. This we hold to be unsustainable and therefore highly unlikely to occur.
  • FERAA feels justified in contesting the Enfield projections which we hold are disproportionate to Enfield, are based on straight line trends which are highly unlikely to mature. We also suspect politically influence behind these projections in that Enfield council appears to welcome the opportunity to build to such targets, for its own revenue purposes, each extra residence yielding an average of £2000 pa in council tax.
  • Enfield Council’s long terms plans for housing development are notably lacking supporting infrastructure. This is not unique to Enfield. Like many councils, Enfield lacks the resources to plan new schools, roads, sewage facilities, etc. – some of which are not within its direct control, but it has a duty to identify such needs and press for a resolution. For instance, even a wholesale shift to bus usage from cars cannot by definition economically support these population trends.
  • FERAA asserts all significant housing and retail developments must have an accompanying fully funded infrastructure section attached before building can be permitted; treating infrastructure as an afterthought and eking out development funds (S106 etc) to relive intolerable or dangerous overloading is not proportionate or sustainable.
  • Fundamental to Enfield’s past development strategy has been that local improvement schemes and regeneration would be funded by industry – mainly retail. With the retailing industry now resizing its estate needs and reducing retailing space, this underpinning has been removed. Development in Enfield will in future face real resource constraints, and financial support for regeneration will fall to insignificance; this, in turn will encourage Enfield council to undertake more projects on less favourable terms, too often with harmful impacts.

Green Belt – lungs of the borough

  • The green spaces in Enfield that form part of the Metropolitan Green Belt are seen as crucial by the many thousands of people who need and enjoy wide open spaces and woodlands, places to breathe and recreate. Enfield has 124 such facilities. They are a bedrock to the quality of life that Enfield enjoys that singles it out above other neighbouring boroughs. But it is under serious threat and FERAA is pressing for safeguards.
  • The Green Belt concept was established nationally in 1947 through subsequent planning acts with the specific aim of limiting ‘urban sprawl’ and provide a ‘green lung’ for the many thousands of people living in built up areas. Air pollution was a major concern even then, but from coal not petrol, and green belt was one defence against pollution’s impact on health. Today the pressure is from other fossil fuels and is even more acute.
  • But developers continuously apply pressure to permit easing of green belt restrictions. Councils, too, want to see development if only to increase the tax base, although the argument used publically is more emotional – it’s to house needy newcomers. Enfield’s store of Green Belt is concentrated in the north, mainly in Chase Ward, so we see pressure most applied here.
  • FERAA recognises the need to build some new homes but sees many opportunities to develop previously built land – the so-called “brownfield sites” – and considers the case for developing in the Green Belt totally unproven. The Mayor of London’s strategy towards the green belt is to deny permission to invade it unless a very special case can be made and all alternatives exhausted. FERAA will be on guard to ensure LBE does not abuse this provision.
  • Some planning constraints must be amended if green belt is to be protected. Like many councils in London, Enfield has to permit a higher density of building in future and residents will have to accept some change in urban outlook, where appropriate but especially around transport nodes. The Mayor of London has pronounced himself against building on green belt, but he is also pressing for a faster rate of house building – FERAA urges best use of existing developed and is far from persuaded this is happening.
  • Realising how precedent can lead to slow attrition of assets, FERAA resists the current LBE argument that “just a little” incursion into green belt, especially land that is not attractive, is a good response to growth pressures. Re-designating unbuilt land is not only more profitable for the developer, it yields more for the council. Being the gate keeper of our green belt could be a temptation too far; local authorities are always in search of more revenue – the constituencies clamouring for larger public handouts are never satisfied.

FERAA’s stance

FERAA holds that current residents have rights which have to be respected when considering future development plans. There is no justification for strategies that degrade areas of the borough for opportunistic and local / political gains. Residents have to hold the local authority to account: we expect it to be a responsible guardian of the streets, the fields, the woodlands where we live, work and relax. The cultural inheritance, amenities and natural environment cannot be discarded in the face of external population pressures.

We hold the preservation of the Green Belt within the Borough to be one of the highest environmental objectives any administration can undertake. We see very little scope for “swaps” which almost inevitably substitute inferior land leading to the degradation of the green belt stock; in time degraded unbuilt land will be pressured for release to development, a final loss to the community. Green Belt must not be so eroded as to permit reclassification as de facto brownfield.

FERAA

9/2019