This Blog was sent in by Carol Fisk of Enfield RoadWatch
How many volunteer groups are finding it increasingly difficult to be effective because of diminishing cooperation from Enfield Council? Enfield RoadWatch definitely is. Whereas we formerly had a collaborative and responsive relationship with several officers in Planning and elsewhere, our communications and questions now go unanswered and formerly transparent processes seem to happen behind closed doors. Of course, the Covid situation accounts for some of this – but it cannot be used as an excuse for Enfield’s dwindling democracy. The demise of the Green Belt Forum is a case in point. The forum was open to the public and was always well-attended by individuals and groups who had constructive discussions about issues relating to the Green Belt and Enfield’s other green spaces. Its replacement, the new Environment Forum, is not open, excludes most of the previous forum’s participants and has such a wide purview that green space issues will not be covered in a meaningful way.
Why is Enfield RoadWatch being pushed aside? We are a non-partisan action group that was formed several years to prevent the unnecessary development of an area of Green Belt land on Enfield Road (hence the name of our group). Since then the group’s mission has expanded to encompass the protection of all of Enfield’s Green Belt and open spaces and greenspace advocacy outside the borough. As a strictly volunteer group, we rely on the expertise and efforts of our committee and 2,000+ supporters and are proud of our achievements so far. Among them is a comprehensive survey of previously-built [brownfield] sites that should be considered before any Green Belt is released for development. Space to Build, Enfield, compiled in collaboration with The Enfield Society and CPRE-London, demonstrates ample sites to meet housing targets and was shared with the LBE Planning Department. The group’s publicity and information efforts during the first consultation of the current Local Plan revision process produced hundreds of additional responses to the consultation, proving public support for Green Belt protection. And our social media campaign Not Just a Pretty Place highlights the many benefits of the Green Belt. You would expect the Council to be happy to work with us.
Despite the current difficulties, our campaign continues. Our primary focus at present is monitoring the progress of the Local Plan revision. Green Belt can be de-designated as part of this process so we are keeping a close eye on it – whenever anything is made public. The whole process has been delayed first by the Covid-19 crisis and now by the Government’s proposed changes to the planning laws, so the next consultation on the actual Draft Local Plan won’t happen until 2021. However, we hope that information about the plan will be made public long before that.
Our other area of concern right now is the planning system reform mentioned above. The proposals are currently out for consultation. It's a radical shake-up but may not change much about the Green Belt, which is under threat now and would remain so. While Green Belt would fall into the 'Protected' category, Local Authorities would still determine whether its boundaries should change. Given the unrealistic housing targets coming from the Government, Local Authorities will still be forced to release Green Belt to meet the numbers.
Enfield RoadWatch posts information about consultations on our website, so please check there and have your say! www.enfieldroadwatch.co.uk While you are there, please join our email list to keep updated on Green Belt issues and do sign our Change.org petition which has already amassed 23,200 signatures.