A plan to build 78 flats in Enfield Town has been criticised for failing to provide enough affordable housing and its potential impact on heritage.

The plan by HPJ11 Developments to build two blocks up to five and six storeys high in Church Street failed to win permission during a planning committee meeting on Tuesday.

The scheme had been planned for the site of the former Metaswitch building, which lies within Enfield Town Conservation Area and near several listed and locally listed buildings. The building was left vacant after the technology firm – since bought by Microsoft – move to a newly-built home in Genotin Road.

Read more: Tower block refused permission over lack of family homes and heritage concerns

Planning officers at the council judged that the public benefits of the scheme would outweigh the “less than substantial harm” caused to the conservation area. Andy Higham, head of development management, told the meeting the “pressing need for housing” should be given added weight because of the council’s consistent failure to meet its homes target.

The scheme would have provided just seven affordable units, or 9 per cent – significantly below the council’s target of 40 per cent for new developments. A report by planning officers stated that the developer’s agreement to reduce the size of the blocks had affected the scheme’s financial viability and the amount of affordable housing that could be provided.

An image of the proposed scheme (Credit: Maccreanor Lavington/Miller Hare)

An image of the proposed scheme (Credit: Maccreanor Lavington/Miller Hare)

But councillors were unconvinced by the argument. Community First’s Cllr Daniel Anderson said: “What we have seen is something that goes very much against the council’s underlying principles, and I struggle to support any development which seeks to weaken the position or in some ways undermine the position of what our policies are.”

Conservative committee member Cllr Maria Alexandrou said she could not understand the reason behind the “huge drop” in affordable housing – from 35 per cent under the previous plans for 91 homes to 9 per cent for the 78-home scheme.

Nick Grant, of planning agent Iceni Projects, told the meeting the development would introduce buildings “of high architectural interest that positively contribute to the conservation area”. Despite his assurances, councillors remained concerned over the impact on heritage, including views from the New River Path.

Labour committee member Cllr Doug Taylor said he would have liked a heritage officer to have been present at the meeting, warning he was “extremely concerned” the committee would make a decision without having a “full discussion” of the scheme’s impact. 

Echoing the concerns over affordable homes, he also called for more detail on the viability assessment and proposed deferring the scheme to a future meeting to allow the information to come forward – but a majority of councillors voted against his proposal.

Planning officers’ recommendation to grant planning permission was rejected after Conservative committee members, plus Cllr Anderson and Cllr Taylor, voted against. Officers will now draw up formal reasons for refusal based on councillors’ comments, which will be voted on at a future planning committee meeting.