The council leader has defended the handling of a housebuilding scheme that suffered a string of setbacks and delays.

Conservative Group leader Cllr Joanne Laban criticised Enfield Council for its alleged mishandling of the 140-home small sites programme after its completion was once again pushed back by several months.

She claimed a cabinet report stated that the delays were due to the collapse of a contractor, Climate Energy, but did not acknowledge the council’s own failings.

The Tory leader also criticised the decision to scrap plans to offer some of the homes at private rents and to sell them off at market value instead.

Speaking at the council’s overview and scrutiny committee yesterday (Tuesday, February 19), Cllr Laban said: “The small sites development has not been Enfield Council’s finest hour.

“It has been going on for more or less the entire time I have been elected.

“Yes, Climate Energy went bust, but it was nearly a year before there was a project to move this forward.

“The main cause always goes back to Climate Energy, when it was not the sole reason.”

The Tory leader said some of the problems were “down to us not getting our act together”.

She added that the failure properly to cover up some half-built homes, which meant they suffered weather damage and had to be knocked down, was not the contractor’s fault.

Changes to the small sites scheme’s tenure mix mean homes that would have been sold for private rent will now be offered to would-be homeowners.

Cllr Laban said: “We know getting on the housing ladder is not easy, and private rented accommodation for many people is the only option.”

But council leader Cllr Nesil Caliskan defended the council’s handling of the housing scheme and said it had protected affordable housing.

She said: “This report is very much about saying we need to get this project back on track.

“In terms of the decision to change from private rented to private sales, the very clear reason is in doing so we were able to protect the percentage of property we had committed to at the affordable category.

“Without moving to private sales, what we would be risking is a percentage of affordable property for that development. That is something I was not willing to compromise on.”

Cllr Ahmet Oykener, cabinet member for property and assets, denied that the council had been at fault over the delays.

He said: “Our primary objective has been after the failure of the private sector, how can the council rescue this project?

“We are now on site and building. We are doing what we said we would do.

“Yes, it has taken a lot of time, but it was not the council’s failure – it was the private sector’s failure.”

Cllr Caliskan denied the move to market sale – which does not change the amount of affordable housing on offer – set a precedent for future housing developments.

Cllr Laban had challenged the small sites report and called for it to be referred back to cabinet for reconsideration.

But the committee decided not to send the report back to cabinet, and the small sites scheme will continue as planned.