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 enjoy wide open green spaces and woodlands; places to breathe. It's part of the quality of life that Enfield enjoys that singles it out above other neighbouring boroughs. But it is under serious threat.
The Green Belt was introduced two generations ago to limit ‘urban sprawl’ and provide a ‘green lung’ for the many thousands of people living in built up areas. 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. 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 built new homes but sees many opportunities to develop previously built land – the so-called "brownfield site" – before new ground is cut in the Green Belt. Like many councils in London, Enfield resists higher rise housing but this stance is incompatible with quality of housing standards and a rising population, and preservation of the green belt. The green belt is an easy victim in this impasse, and FERAA campaigns to resist it.
Greenways and cycle paths – the healthier route
In response to environmental issues Enfield Council is introducing across the borough specially designated motor vehicle-free Greenways, which will connect various parts of the borough and on which cyclists can safely ride. This initiative will have the twin benefits of keeping cyclists off very busy roads, thereby improving road safety, and making cycling a more pleasant and healthy means of personal transportation. This is to be applauded, but the policy needs to be seen through to its logical conclusion.
FERAA strongly supports the extension of cycle paths and improving the safety provisions along existing routes. FERAA wants policies that encourage cycle use for all groups – students, commuters and mature residents. We see a strong latent preference amongst commuters to cycle to the station, of which there are a number in the Borough. This will only succeed if paths are secure and well maintained, and cycle lockup facilities at stations are up to the mark, with lockable boxes. So far the Council has not planned the whole cycle experience to its natural conclusion, although it is now having to overcome the poor legacy of the previous administration which was antagonistic to policies that encouraged cycling!
Amenity sites – waste disposal a growing issue
As a result of the Council's rationalisation programme, the Carterhatch Lane recycling centre in the north of the borough has been closed. This has left only one site in the south, Barrowell Green, serving the whole borough. FERAA is not persuaded by this move, because the gain to the council's operating budgets is offset by the cost of many households having to travel further to make disposals. FERAA doubts there is any net gain in such moves – just the shifting of costs from one sector to another!
It also ignores the likely public response – to dump materials inappropriately at the expense of the environment. Eventually the borough will have to collect such discarded waste to avoid areas becoming rubbish black spots.
The environmental loss is self evident when residents in the northern wards have to drive across the borough, violating the council's declared aims to improve the quality of air and reduce traffic congestion.
New homes – pressure on resources
Enfield Council's long terms plans for development are notably lacking supporting infrastructure. This is not unique to Enfield. Like many councils, Enfield lacks the resources to build new schools, roads, sewage facilities, etc. So all significant housing and retail developments must have an accompanying fully funded infrastructure section included before building can be permitted.
Retail developers are keen to build new "sheds" across the borough, but less interested in helping with the on-costs. If this issue is not properly addressed, the quality of life in the borough will suffer unacceptably. Retailers like to use the attraction of "creating jobs" to defend their proposals but this benefit cannot be allowed to skew developments. Projects must be sustainable end to end.
Estimates of population growth in the borough over the next 20 years seem to average 25,000 persons requiring some 11,000 new homes. This influx can be expected for many reasons but there are no corresponding projections for increased employment in the borough that in any way accommodate this potential labour force. Unemployment outside the borough is also not seen to offer a solution, so the prospect of a higher dependency on benefits is clear.
The ramifications to housing policy in the borough are serious. The temptation for future administrations to reach into the green belt to permit low cost housing for this influx will have harmful repercussions for all residents.
FERAA's stance is that existing residents have rights which have to be respected in dealing with future planning pressures. The local authority has to be held to account: we expect it to be a responsible guardian of the streets, the fields, the woodlands where we live, work and relax. Accommodation of the inheritance and natural environment cannot be discarded in the face of population pressures.