Enfield Council’s role at Meridian Water, March 2017

"In some ways it would have been nice to be able to sit back, wait for the private sector to swoop in and then just rely on our role as planning authority to influence the nature of the scheme.  But that was never going to happen at Meridian Water."

Peter George, Enfield Council’s Assistant Director for Regeneration and Planning, explains why the Council’s role at Meridian Water provides a model for others to follow.

We saw here a site with enormous potential – next door to the amazing Lee Valley Regional Park, with water flowing through it, fantastic road connections and on the West Anglia Main Line.  However the area was in multiple site ownerships, with low land values and a requirement for new infrastructure.

At a time when Enfield and London are in clear need of new homes and job opportunities, it would have been easy to put this in the ‘too difficult’ box and accept defeat.  But we didn’t do that.  Instead we asked ourselves what it would take to make this happen and we have stayed focussed on that agenda ever since.

 

Take controlled risk

The first thing we have done is accept that we will take risk to unlock regeneration.  We are acting more like the private sector in taking decisions that too often public bodies shy away from.  And we are putting money on the table, aware that investment now will generate returns later and ensure we shape the regeneration from the earliest stages.

Secure infrastructure investment

We have organised the delivery of the new rail station on the development site itself, relocated from the current Angel Road station.  We have been actively involved in securing this outcome and took on the design of the station itself, working with Network Rail, to ensure it perfectly met the needs of the regeneration programme and Masterplan design.  The station will open in 2019 connecting to Stratford London in 17 minutes, London City Airport in 22 minutes, London Liverpool Street in 24 minutes and Heathrow in 43 minutes.

Have a vision

Meridian Water will be a truly unique proposition within London, but what does this mean and what are the key ingredients?  We have commissioned a Meridian Water Placebook which will clearly articulate what will define Meridian Water in the years to come.  We have also appointed our own design team to prepare a Masterplan for the entire site and to prepare the detailed design for Phase one, the first 725 homes around the new station.  We have undertaken the site preparation works ourselves in advance of handing the site over to our development partners later in 2017. 

Buy land

We have been assembling the site ourselves for more than two years, completing multiple site acquisitions, totalling 23 hectares and we now control almost half the developable area.  This provides project certainty, enables the scheme to be delivered far faster than relying on a CPO and purchasing land early ensures that the Council is maximising returns ahead of selling land on to Barratt London on a phased basis.

Keep control 

We are delighted to have attracted world class development partners in Barratt London, part of the UK’s largest homes builder and SEGRO, the specialist provider of high quality workspaces.  But we remain in control of the overall regeneration. Specifically, the Council will be taking the lead on the strategic vision, masterplanning, speed of delivery, much of the infrastructure coordination as well as owning all of the retail and meanwhile uses.  

Develop strong meanwhile uses 

We know that Meridian Water will take time to deliver.  But we have the land and the opportunity now.  So we have developed something that we think will be very special in the form of ‘Meridian Works’.  Meridian Works will be a series of places and spaces tailored specifically towards small businesses, start-ups and freelancers in a major boost to the ‘maker’ economy of London and helping signal the new opportunities for major occupiers at Meridian Water. The first phase is the creation of Europe’s largest open workshop for makers, creators and artists, which together with a rooftop bar and restaurant overlooking the canal will create a genuine destination, opening in early 2018.

Be innovative 

The Council has long had an ambition to provide sustainable energy and at Meridian Water we had a blank sheet of paper and potential customer base.  So we have formed our own energy company, 100% owned by Enfield Council, called energetik which will supply heating and hot water to all 10,000 homes and more beyond.  We were the first UK local authority to obtain a back to back loan from the European Investment Bank and London Energy Efficiency Fund and we are currently investing £58 million to set this up.  energetik will help reduce carbon emissions as well make money for the Council.

Don’t give up!

It has taken an enormous amount of work to finally reach the delivery stage of Meridian Water, but here we are.  In the coming months we will sign the Development Agreement, we will see the station construction works underway and we will start work on Meridian Works.  In two years from now we will have the station open, over 700 homes under construction and many crafts-people and businesses operating from the site.

 

I passionately believe the approach Enfield Council is taking to be pioneering, in the finest traditions of the public sector and I equally believe it provides a model for others to follow.  

Our residents and ratepayers will be the main beneficiaries and we also expect to make a direct financial return on our investment.  It is a true win-win and I am excited for the future.