In a recent report, Enfield Council announced that they’re intending to cut the number of employees working on the regeneration of Meridian Water from 45 to 20. One of the reasons given for letting go more than half the staff, is that the Masterplan is now complete. 
This means the Council has completed the Masterplan without consulting the public. Failing to consult local communities about masterplans is very poor practice and implies a disrespect for residents’ input and their local knowledge. 
The Government’s National Model Design Code specifically says that masterplanning needs to be subject to a community engagement exercise, and the Homes England ‘Engagement Toolkit’ says that engagement should take place at the earliest possible opportunity (i.e. before key decisions are made) and involve as many people as possible (i.e. it should be inclusive).  Schemes that fail to properly engage with local communities are often met with more resistance, and do not encourage long term support or stewardship. 
It’s very troubling that so much public money is being spent on the regeneration of publicly owned land at Meridian Water, without a published and publicly consulted masterplan. The regeneration is funded by public sector borrowing, which is reported to already be over £400 million and is predicted to exceed £500 million over the next 3-4 years.  Further funding comes from selling off existing assets (e.g. properties are being sold by the Council which could otherwise be used to house homeless families), and by prioritising funding over other areas (e.g. reduced spending on the upkeep of existing social housing stock). 
Council scrutiny committees have repeatedly tried to raise concerns about the Meridian Water scheme but have been told these would be dealt with in the new Masterplan, which would be subject to public consultation.  For instance, in 2020 councillors were told that the following would be addressed in the new Masterplan:
- Whether the number of family homes planned for would reflect the borough’s needs.
- Whether the amount of publicly accessible greenspace planned would be adequate, particularly in regard to the scheme’s density and expected population.
- Whether pylons crossing greenspaces would be placed underground.
- The impact of Covid-19 on assumptions about acceptable densities.
- Whether there was sufficient space to accommodate the employment space needed to accommodate 6,000 jobs and 10,000 homes.
It is impossible to know whether these concerns (and others) have been properly addressed in the Masterplan, because the Council hasn’t published it and any meaningful scrutiny of the scheme from within the Council was effectively shut down from 2020 onwards. 
There is significant uncertainty about this project, and the Council are making what appears to be contradictory and unsubstantiated statements about the scheme’s future. For example, they still claim the scheme will deliver 10,000 homes and 6,000 jobs over the next 20-25 years but have not explained how they will actually achieve this, given the planning restrictions which prevent the industrial land at Meridian Water from being used for housing.  The Masterplan should directly deal with this important issue, but whether it does or not remains a mystery.
In one way or another, the regeneration of Meridian Water impacts everyone living in Enfield and there are multiple community organisations and others who are very interested in its future and in the new Masterplan. For the Council to complete the Masterplan without public consultation and community engagement is entirely at odds with key principles of good urban design, placemaking and planning practice. Politicians may not know any better, but qualified planners and urban designers working at the Council should be well aware of the significant issues with the approach they have taken.
The opportunity for meaningful early engagement with local communities, collaboration and partnership forming has already been lost, and any community engagement that takes place from here on may appear arbitrary or tokenistic, given that it is obvious that the key decisions have already been made by the Council in private. Nevertheless, Meridian Water is public land and being developed with public money and the public deserve respect and must be properly consulted.
Link to download report:
- London Borough of Enfield, (2023). Restructure of Meridian Water Team. Available at: https://governance.enfield.gov.uk/documents/g14622/Public reports pack 24th-Apr-2023 Advanced Publication of Reports.pdf?T=10. (Accessed 24 April 2023)
- Arnstein, S.R. (2019) ‘A Ladder of Citizen Participation’, Journal of the American Planning Association, 85(1), pp. 24–34.
Baker, M., Coaffee, J. and Sherriff, G., (2007). ‘Achieving successful participation in the new UK spatial planning system’, Planning, practice & research, 22(1), pp. 79–93.
Lawson, V., Purohit, R., Samuel, F., Brennan, J., Farrelly, L., Golden, S.M. and McVicar, M., (2022). Public participation in planning in the UK: A review of the literature.
- Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, (2021). National Model Design Code. London. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1009793/NMDC_Part_1_The_Coding_Process.pdf. (Accessed 26 April 2023)
RTPI / Northwest, (2022). Community Engagement in Practice. Available at: https://www.rtpi.org.uk/media/11062/rtpi-nw-community-engagement.pdf. (Accessed 26 April 2023).
- TCPA (Town and Country Planning Association, (2022). The Heart of the Matter: Emerging Lessons in Long-term Stewardship. Available at: https://tcpa.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/theheartofthematter_report_16.03.22_v1.pdf. (Accessed 25 March 2023).
- London Borough of Enfield, (2023). Cabinet Report. p. 541 (Table 4: External Borrowing and the Capital Financing Requirement (CFR)). Available at: https://governance.enfield.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=107&MId=14281. (Accessed 26 April 2023).
- See for example: the sell-off of Walbrook House (2023), (https://governance.enfield.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=794&MId=14620); the sell-off of family properties and of office space (https://www.enfield.gov.uk/services/property-and-economy/council-property-for-sale). (Accessed 26 April 2023).
- See for example:
London Borough of Enfield, (2020). Meridian Water Scrutiny Workstream – Report June 2020. Available at: https://governance.enfield.gov.uk/documents/s83354/Meridain%20Water%20Workstream%20Report.pdf. (Accessed 26 April 2023).
London Borough of Enfield, (2020). Appendix to Leaders Response on the Meridian Water Scrutiny Report 15092020. Available at: https://governance.enfield.gov.uk/documents/s83821/Appendix%20to%20Leaders%20Response%20on%20the%20Meridian%20Water%20Scrutiny%20Report%2015092020%20Overview%20Scrutiny%20.pdf. (Accessed 26 April 2023).
London Borough of Enfield, (2020). Leader’s letter to Scrutiny Committee. Available at: https://governance.enfield.gov.uk/documents/s84023/Meridian%20Water%20Scrutiny%20Workstream%20Response%20Letter%2006-10-2020.pdf. (Accessed 26 April 2023).
- See for example:
Enfield Dispatch, (2021). Opposition group claims Meridian Water critique suppressed. Available at: https://enfielddispatch.co.uk/opposition-group-claims-meridian-water-critique-suppressed. (Accessed 26 April 2023).
Enfield Dispatch, (2021). Frustrations aired over Meridian Water masterplan. Available at: https://enfielddispatch.co.uk/frustrations-aired-over-meridian-water-masterplan/. (Accessed 26 April 2023).
Enfield Green Party, (2021). Meridian Water: Distorting the minutes to avoid scrutiny. Available at: https://enfieldgreens.org.uk/housing-justice/meridian-water-distorting-the-minutes-to-avoid-scrutiny. (Accessed 26 April 2023).
- See for example:
Enfield Dispatch, (2019). Concern over Meridian Water homes. Available at: https://enfielddispatch.co.uk/concern-over-meridian-water-homes/. (Accessed 26 April 2023).
Enfield Dispatch, (2022). Half of Meridian Water homes ‘won’t be built before 2039’. Available at: https://enfielddispatch.co.uk/half-of-meridian-water-homes-wont-be-built-before-2039/. (Accessed 26 April 2023).
Enfield Dispatch, (2023). Setback for Meridian Water as industrial sites remain protected. . Available at: https://enfielddispatch.co.uk/setback-for-meridian-water-as-industrial-sites-remain-protected/. (Accessed 26 April 2023).