Enfield Council’s Cabinet has agreed in principle a series of decisions that, subject to call-in, will see its £6bn flagship Meridian Water development brought to market in phases seeking multiple partners and no longer via land sale after it terminated talks with Pacific Century Premium Developments (PCPD), a major developer of mixed use real estate across Asia, for the opportunity. CoStar News catches up with new Council Leader Nesil Caliskan to find out how the long-mooted project is finally going to get off the ground.
Enfield Council’s Cabinet last night signed off what it terms a clear direction for the “accelerated delivery of Meridian Water with Council control”.
The decision formalises the Labour administration’s vetoing of an eight-year drive to bring in a single master developer for the giant project.
CoStar News revealed in October of last year that the regeneration scheme would need a new development partner – seven years after the 10,000 home project was first touted – after Barratt withdrew.
Enfield Cabinet then agreed in response that it would approach the reserve bidder Pacific Century Premium Development to open discussions on Meridian Water.
In March CoStar News revealed that the council was “minded” to terminate talks after it wrote to PCPD saying it would go to Cabinet on 22 March recommending talks were terminated with any final decision unlikely before after the May local elections.
New Council Leader Nesil Caliskan, who was voted in on a platform focused on major housing delivery with the Meridian Water scheme at its heart, and her Cabinet have rubberstamped plans that will now see:
• Development partners sought for the first two housing sites, delivering nearly 1,000 new homes, with procurement for the site around the new train station to begin immediately after the summer through the GLA’s London Development Panel.
• A development partner sought for the first major employment site, with a new employment strategy endorsed to “secure jobs and meanwhile uses to ensure early use of Council-owned land”.
• The bid for £120m of government funding through the Housing Infrastructure Fund will be progressed to connect all parts of Meridian Water to the new train station and improve the frequency of train services.
• Further land acquisitions agreed.
The decisions mark the end of the procurement process for a single ‘Master Developer’, in favour of the Council taking the “lead responsibility for setting strategies, working up the masterplan and deciding the optimal phasing plan for delivery”.
Cllr Nesil Caliskan, Leader of Enfield Council, said in a statement: “Today marks a watershed moment in the delivery of Meridian Water. Meridian Water is back on track and the way we are delivering is genuinely new for a local authority.
“Going forward we will be in control and we will be the custodians of the place Meridian Water will become; investing council money and resources to ensure that local people are the principle beneficiaries of the new homes and jobs that will be created.
“We will select development and other partners to work with the Council to bring forward specific parts of the regeneration, whether that is for housing delivery, new employment spaces or meanwhile uses, and we will hold the vision for Meridian Water and oversee its delivery.
“I am pleased to say that we are also ready to accelerate delivery and will bring forward the first housing site, which will see hundreds of private and affordable homes built around the new train station. A second housing site and a site for a major employment hub will then follow.
“Meanwhile, we are progressing our detailed business case for the Housing Infrastructure Fund which, if secured in full, will see £120m of government funding to connect all parts of Meridian Water to the new train station and improve the frequency of train services.
“We are also working on a dedicated employment strategy which will bring high quality jobs, life and some exciting uses to Meridian Water, very early in the development.
“The Cabinet and I are absolutely determined to create a legacy to be proud of in the Borough, whilst also delivering a return on the Council’s investment, and I look forward to making further announcements as we rapidly secure real benefits from the Meridian Water regeneration.”
Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development, James Murray, said: “Meridian Water is one of the most important regeneration projects in London, with the potential to provide thousands of affordable homes and job opportunities for local people. I am pleased that the Council Leader, Cllr Nesil Caliskan, has expressed her commitment to delivering much needed new and genuinely affordable homes.
“I welcome the new direction Enfield Council has set out for how these benefits will be realised, with direct control and investment by the local authority. We are working, on behalf of the Council, to secure government funding from the Housing Infrastructure Fund for Meridian Water, and with the new train station opening in May 2019, the future looks very promising.”
The council has also set eight principles to guide how it plans for and delivers the project:
The new Meridian Water Station will open in May 2019 taking passengers south to Stratford London and London Liverpool Street and north to Stansted and Cambridge.
Following the Cabinet decisions, three development sites are being brought forward, with the first site being offered via the GLA’s London Development Panel immediately after the summer.
The sites will be offered on the basis of a Development Agreement rather than a sale of the land, allowing the council to “retain control, for example to ensure the quality of design and build, and prioritise sales of new homes to local people first”.
The sites are:
• Site 1 is at Willoughby Lane, which has an outline planning consent in place for 725 homes. The site is currently being remediated by the Council and is adjacent to the new Meridian Water Station which opens in May 2019.
• Site 2 is the Leeside Road Gas Holder site. This site will be included in an outline planning application for the wider area, which the Council is bringing forward, linked with the Council’s bid to the Housing Infrastructure Fund, which will see workspace on the lower floors with around 200 affordable homes above.
• Site 3 is around 2-3 acres alongside the North Circular where Harbet Road meets Argon Road, which would be suitable for a new employment hub, creating around 900 new jobs.
The Cabinet also endorsed the work programmes to secure £120m of funding from the Housing Infrastructure Fund, which has already been short-listed by Homes England.
Speaking about the potential for new jobs at Meridian Water, Cllr Nesil Caliskan, Leader of Enfield Council, said: “We have seen major occupiers recently take space at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Battersea Power Station and White City and our long-term strategy includes attracting strategic occupiers to relocate to Meridian Water, where we have the potential to offer the attributes required by growth sectors in a better location than many parts of London.
“The scale of the Council’s control, vacant land and existing industrial buildings offers a significant opportunity for the Council to start to deliver on our employment vision from the outset by creating the right conditions for existing and new enterprises to be established, nurtured and grown rather than waiting for the long-term development.
“We are therefore developing a series of offers across our land ownership at Meridian Water, including bringing in some exciting meanwhile uses, the development of a cluster for fashion manufacturing and the creation of London’s largest open workspace for makers, creators and artists.”
As part of this approach, a further land acquisition was approved at 4 Anthony Way, part of which is occupied by Building Bloqs who are potential partners of the Council for the open workshop.
Since April 2014, the Council has acquired 87 acres (35 hectares) of land at Meridian Water. It owns 64% of all developable land within the red line boundary of the site and has to date committed £157m to land acquisition.
Speaking to CoStar News Council Leader Caliskan said it would be wrong to draw direct parallels with Haringey council’s decision to terminate its development partnership with Lendlease recently or a seeming trend towards, particularly Labour administrations, seeking to retain control on a phased basis of regeneration schemes.
“This is Enfield not Haringey and I can’t speak for them. What was clear is the previous approach was not in the interests of the people of Enfield. I have alway had a keen interest in development in the area and had voiced some concerns about progress previously as I was nervous about the site being handed over to one master developer.
“One problem was that it did not work for delivering homes over a long period of time. The bids were not delivering a good deal for Enfield people. This is about getting the scheme back on track in a way that will allow the construction sector to be involved and the council to take control. The strategy will move to working with different companies.
“At first we have identified three sites. The first has planning permission for 725 homes and the second site for 200 homes with 100% of these affordable.
“The third site will be the employment hub as this is about placemaking. We are already looking for partners and already in discussions with major events companies.
“When looking at PCPD’s offer there was a real risk that the majority of homes would be sold off plan to overseas buyers and that is a clear red line. And the financial model worked for PCPD but it is not a good deal for Enfield residents. We came to an amicable agreement. But the clear message from the people of Enfield is they want homes and they want to build communities themselves.