Councillors from all political parties warned that proposed changes to the planning system risk undermining local democracy.
The Labour, Conservative and Community First groups criticised the Government’s Planning for the Future white paper and its potential impact on Enfield at a meeting of the full council on Wednesday.
Unveiled in August, the Government’s proposals would see planning applications based on pre-approved ‘design codes’ in areas earmarked for growth given automatic outline permission.
While residents would have a say in the development of design codes and the location of ‘growth’, ‘renewal’ and ‘protection’ areas, the changes could lead to less scrutiny of individual applications by councillors and members of the public.
Council leader Cllr Nesil Caliskan (Labour, Jubilee) told the meeting the administration supported streamlining the planning process and welcomed a focus on good design in creating beautiful places.
But she criticised the “simplistic” view that the planning system was holding up housing delivery.
Cllr Caliskan said: “Perhaps the biggest criticism of the planning proposals is that they undermine local democracy, because we will see an increased national control mechanism over local planning. It really goes to the heart of democracy – having a local voice.
“We do not want the opportunity for residents to engage on planning proposals to be rolled back, because we know that residents in Enfield are really passionate about planning issues and have strong views about how they want our borough to be shaped and grow in the future.”
Cllr Mike Rye (Conservative, Town) said the Conservative group agreed with “a significant part” of the leader’s comments.
He added that most planning applications were approved by committees, and the blockage in housing delivery was caused by developers failing to “build out” schemes.
Cllr Rye criticised the proposed design codes and the division of areas into growth, renewal and protection as “blunt instruments”.
But he said the Conservative group would abstain on the council’s response, as it did not place a strong enough emphasis on protecting conservation areas.
Cllr Rye added: “We have written separately to the minister to indicate our very strong concern about the white paper and feel the Government needs to listen carefully.
“We do not wish to see local democracy undermined, and planning committees’ work up and down the country is a very valuable tool to allow local residents to have their say on developments, big or small, that have a real impact on their lives.”
Community First leader Cllr Dinah Barry (Winchmore Hill) said her group welcomed the focus on good design but deplored the removal of key opportunities for residents to participate in the planning process.
“The erosion of democracy is a major concern,” she added. “Community First has great respect for the work of Enfield’s many residents’ organisations – they are knowledgeable, thoughtful and deserve to be listened to.
“We want far greater emphasis put on engaging all local communities, with organisations such as Civic Voice encouraged and enabled to support communities that don’t have the time or experience to make this contribution to local life.”
Labour and Community First voted in favour of the council’s response to the Planning for the Future white paper, which can be viewed in the reports here