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vicarage farm farrells housing illustration 2An artist's impression taken from Comer Homes/Farrell's "Vision for Vicarage Farm". Vicarage Farm stretches from Trent Park eastwards towards the Ridgeway and from Enfield Road northwards all the way to Hadley Road (shown as No 1 on the map below)

Developers' proposals to build up to 5000 new homes on farmland to the east of Trent Park have made it clear that concerns about the threat to Enfield's Green Belt land have not been exaggerated. The plans were revealed only a few days after a coalition of civic society groups issued a report labelling the idea of building homes on this protected land "a huge mistake" and calling on concerned residents to write to their councillors and MPs expressing their opposition.

Well grounded fears for the Green Belt

map LBE development openstreetmap 2 450pxMapData (c) OpenStreetMap and its contributors - click to enlarge
This map was included in the Enfield Society's summer newsletter and is reproduced with permission. The dark green line is the boundary of the Green Belt. The orange/brown areas are some of 28 sites that have been listed as "potentially developable".

For many months civic sector organisations in Enfield have been warning about a potential threat to the borough's Green Belt.Two recent developments have confirmed that these fears have been well grounded.

  • A Freedom of Information request has revealed that Enfield Council is conducting a review of the Green Belt at a time when it is not obliged to do so.
  • A recently produced Strategic Housing Availability Assessment identified 28 sites on Green Belt land as having potential for housing development.

These and other warning signs prompted a front-page story in the Enfield Society's summer newsletter under the headline How Safe is our Green Belt?, illustrated by the map reproduced above, followed a few days later by a report entitled Enfield's Green Belt is at Risk, published by Enfield Climate Action Forum's Land Use Group, with input from the Enfield Society, Enfield RoadWatch, CPRE London and Better Homes Enfield.

We didn't have to wait long to discover how real the threat is. To quote the Enfield Society,

"Just as the ink was drying on our latest newsletter—with its lead item on threats to the Green Belt—news has reached the Enfield Society that Comer Homes Group, in association with Savills and Farrells, have produced very detailed plans for a massive expansion of housing on Vicarage Farm.

"Farrells’ proposal calls for “between 3000 and 5000 quality homes”. As was pointed out in our Press Release this week, building on the Green Belt will do nothing for Enfield’s shortage of affordable family homes, and the inclusion of the ‘quality’ descriptor appears to substantiate this point. These will not be cheap homes."

Building on the Green Belt would create disbenefits without helping solve Enfield's housing problems

In their report, the coalition of environmental and civic society groups argue that houses built on Green Belt land would not be the affordable homes that the borough needs and would only benefit developers and wealthier people. New housing should instead be built on "brownfield" sites - and according to previous research there is enough brownfield land available for building on.

The report says that the list of disbenefits of building on the Green Belt is long:

"Climate mitigation would be jeopardized, ecological recovery threatened. Our air would be dirtier. There would be less wholesome local food to eat. Wildlife would disappear. Local people would have fewer places to enjoy the outdoors. Significant health and wellbeing benefits would be lost. The list goes on ..."

28 vulnerable green belt sites in enfield
The 28 Green Belt sites listed in the Strategic Housing Availability Assessment (for details of the sites see this document on the Enfield RoadWatch website)

The authors argue that another reason why the council should take housing on Green Belt land off the agenda is that it would reduce its capacity to regenerate other parts of the borough:

"Funding cuts mean council officers have limited capacityand resourceto deal with and respond to planning issues-their time would be much more effectively used ensuring brownfield sites such as Meridian Water are appropriately developed.Getting into what would almost certainly be tricky, expensive,and prolonged legal battles about the Green Belt will, apart from anything else,be inefficient and distracting,and will ultimately slow down housing delivery.

"Furthermore, allowing even the potential to build on the Green Belt would distract from the re-use and the intensification of Enfield’s brownfield land. The development of Enfield’s brownfield land needs to be prioritised for development in order to drive innovation and efficient use of this land, to make the best use of existing infrastructure, and to help ensure that these areas benefit from regeneration and investment."

Help secure Enfield's Green Belt for future generations

The report concludes by urging residents and the council to take action:

We need to secure Enfield's Green Belt for future generations. It would be tragic indeed to squander it just as millions of Londoners, in the wake of the pandemic, have rediscovered its life-saving value.

For these reasons we urge our communities:

    • To contact their MPs and local councillors and hold them responsible for the protecting the Green Belt and promoting the benefits for everyone and asking them to make sure that Enfield's brownfield sites are used more effectively for sustainable house building.
    • To respond to the Local Plan consultation and Meridian Water Masterplan consultation this summer, which will be an opportunity for the local community to tell the council what they think of their plans for Enfield.

We also urge Enfield Council to:

    • Thoroughly investigate and prioritise brownfield sites for housing.
    • Commit to using brownfield site more effectively, which means the Council must do more to ensure private developers build the type of housing Enfield needs and developments on publicly owned brownfield land are used more effectively to respond to shortages of particular types of housing.

Finally, we urge the Government to improve funding for affordable housing, in order to ensure that brownfield sites can be fully optimised to build the type of affordable housing Enfield needs.

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