Sites across Enfield, Waltham Forest, Haringey and Hackney could deliver up to 20,000 homes as part of mayor Boris Johnson’s City in the East aspirations.
The land forms the Upper Lea Valley region of the planned growth that will see the centre of London move gently east over the next two decades and add 200,000 homes to accommodate 600,000 Londoners, providing 280,000 jobs. “There is developer interest, there are significant public land holdings being brought forward for delivery and there is strong local and strategic leadership to deliver the long heralded City in the East,” said mayor Boris Johnson, introducing the plan late last year.
While acknowledging the shortfall in substantive action in previous plans, such as the development of the Thames Gateway, Johnson says it will be different this time. “The GLA is working with its partners to deliver a suite of Opportunity Area Planning Frameworks that form a credible spatial plan. They will provide the narrative for the delivery of London’s largest remaining contiguous development opportunity within its current boundaries – The City in the East.”
Back in 2004, planners thought the Upper Lee Valley would provide space for 700 homes, with 10,000 jobs. Now, with London’s growth accelerating, the aspirations are much higher.
One way that new sites for development will be provided, is by displacing existing heavy industrial uses in the Lee Valley. In much the same way as happened in Stratford, ahead of the Olympics, so industrial occupiers in Tottenham Hale, Haringey and Meridian Water and Ponders End, Enfield, will be encouraged to migrate north, nearer to the M25.
Development Infrastructure Funding Studies carried out in summer 2015 reported the need for new primary schools and secondary schools, and GP health provision in Tottenham Hale and Meridian Water.
Other infrastructure upgrades are planned by Thames Water at the Deephams Sewage Works, and the Edmonton Eco Park is planned to become a centre for a District Heat and Power Network.
Additional DIFS work has been commissioned to review gas, electricity and telecoms utilities provision in the Upper Lee Valley, with its report due shortly. This will help identify the levels of new development that can be supported, as well as spotting those areas where there might be funding gaps between what needs to be spent, and likely CIL and section 106 income.
There are five specific development areas in the Upper Lea Valley, with the most northerly being Ponders End, where a masterplan proposed 1,100 new homes. At the southern end of Enfield borough, Meridian Water should deliver 5,000 homes and 3,000 jobs. Further sites are within the Lee Valley housing zone; Northumberland Park and High Road West, in the north of Haringey borough, will provide 4,500 and 1,600 homes respectively; Tottenham Hale district centre should provide space for a further 5,000 homes and 4,000 jobs, while a further 2,500 homes are pencilled in under a masterplan for Blackhorse Lane.
At Meridian Water, Enfield adopted a masterplan in 2013, and has already pushed forward a new train station, primary school, district heat network and bridges over the waterways in the site. The council is in the process of selecting a development partner to work with for up to 20 years, to deliver the homes in the plan: shortlisted are Barratt with Segro, Berkeley Homes, and PCPD with Wilmott Dixon.
At Northumberland Park, Haringey is working up detailed masterplan options for the area, which will probably be consulted on later in 2016. A February 2015 strategic framework report by architects Fletcher Priest noted the council owns a large proportion of the land in the area, while the adjacent Tottenham Hotspur football ground is seeing major investment and development. The regeneration will densify housing, and four scenarios were generated for the area, ranging from minimal intervention to a wholesale redevelopment of parts of the area.
Johnson, as current mayor, has been pushing hard to bring momentum to the City in the East project. In the launch document, he noted: “London’s growth is driving a renewed interest in the east, and the potential exists to plan for it as part of the city rather than apart from the city. This
plan is necessary to efficiently manage the allocation of commercial, industrial, retail and housing land across the wider east of London and to consider relationships beyond the GLA boundary into Thurrock and Dartford. Importantly, we have the opportunity to achieve a better fit between transport plans and spatial plans and to use the GLA’s and borough’s land holdings to speed up delivery.”
LPA Perspective: The City in the East is a set of aspirations, not a grand project. Add up the numbers and there’s an impressive total. But break it down, and there will be dozens of masterplans, followed by hundreds of schemes, which all need to win over locals through consultation, before passing through the planning process. Boroughs will need to find, sign up with, and then actually get on with private sector development partners.
At least mayor Johnson did, in his opening document, acknowledge the failures of the Thames Gateway, which “always seemed to lack any coherent idea about its purpose”. And there is now a clear admission that new infrastructure is needed: Enfield’s Meridian Water, for example, is seeing vital bridges, stations and schools going in, ahead of any argument about who will pay for them.
As with any long term aspirations, there are going to be plenty of bumps in the road. Johnson is out the door this year, and his replacement may or may not grasp the City in the East idea with similar gusto. And there is an upcoming review for many boroughs’ core strategies as well as the London Plan – but then these latter items could simply add to the figures – and the pressure on the City in the East to deliver.