Berkeley Homes has submitted plans to substantially redevelop the former Middlesex University Campus at Trent Park, in the borough of Enfield.
The scheme proposes substantial demolition of newer buildings on the education campus, while key listed buildings are to be retained in the new scheme. A residential-led scheme with 262 homes is proposed, of which just 18 would be affordable homes.
The scheme would create an exhibition and museum space in the Mansion House on the site, while the Orangery and swimming pool would be restored to create a gym facility. In total, 232 new homes would be built within the grounds, in a mix of 128 houses and 134 apartments in blocks of up to four storeys high. Much of the existing landscaped public space would be restored as part of the project.
The scheme sits within the larger Trent Country Park, with Trent Park golf course to the southern boundary of the development site.
The country park itself was part of Henry IV’s hunting ground, Enfield Chase, in the fourteenth century. The estate changed hands many times, coming to be owned by Sir Philip Sassoon in the early 20th century. In the Second World War, the site was used as a prisoner of war camp, before turning to educational use. Middlesex University sold the site in 2012 for a reported £30.9 million to a Malaysian medical college, though that organisation went into administration, presenting Berkeley with the opportunity to acquire it in 2015.
Local campaigners the Trent Park Museum Trust campaigned for several concessions, including the creation of a space that would tell the story of the site’s wartime role. While used to incarcerate German officers, the premises acted as a secret listening post, recording their conversations. Among those supporting the initiative was comedienne Helen Lederer, whose grandfather worked there. She commented of the revisions to initial plans: “It will now be museum instead of all being luxury flats, which is a huge triumph and of interest for the future. Younger people aren’t always necessarily interested, but they will find it if its there.”
Berkeley also agreed to a request that the new development is not gated, but has open access, and also committed to provide a shuttle bus to the development along its long access drive from Cockfosters.
While the proposal appears to offer a very low affordable housing provision, this is due to the developer exploiting the Vacant Building Credit. This effectively reduces the affordable housing commitment, due to a financial credit calculated for vacant buildings that are brought back into use.
Should permission be granted, Berkeley predicts it would start the development in 2017, and take more than six years to complete the project.
LPA Perspective: This project feels like a missed opportunity. Yes, it will create a smart suburb with heritage surroundings, with homes that will probably be snapped up at very high prices, simply because such a location rarely comes available around the M25 in London’s suburbs. But there are plenty of shortcomings, from a lack of cycle paths to very little attention giving to creating a low energy project.
It appears as if the planners, blindsided by the demands of negotiating the retention of key heritage assets on the site, are somehow allowing a scheme that is a decade behind the curve. This is a site that is a long walk from local public transport, with the danger that everyone entering and leaving the development will do so by car. Provision has been made for parking cycles, but there appears precious little thought given over to encouraging this greener form of transport, which would be all the easier when planning a development like this from scratch.
At the same time, Berkeley’s consultants contend that the site is too spread out for a district heating system; and their is only lip service paid to renewal energy sources. Instead, in a throwback to a previous decade, each house gets a gas boiler.
We are fast approaching the point where solar PV installations, and battery storage, are becoming financially far more attractive – creating a situation where individual homes could become largely self-sufficient in energy. This scheme was a golden opportunity to push for a greener alternative to that which is before Enfield planners.