Artist's impression of the proposed Office Village redevelopment, adjacent to the White Hart pub
Southgate District Civic Trust (SDCT) has restated its commitment to fight proposals for a development incorporating three towers, including one 17 storeys high, close to the Southgate Circus Conservation Area, and has launched a campaign to raise money to help it argue its case at a planning panel to be held next month. Revised proposals submitted by the developer last week include a reduction in the height of the towers, but not by a large enough amount to satisfy opponents.
The revised planning application was submitted by Viewpoint Estates, who propose demolishing the existing Southgate Office Village buildings in Chase Road N14, very close to the Southgate Circus conservation area, and replacing them by a mixed office and housing development. The changes to the original application increase the number of housing units, a higher proportion of which are "affordable", and reduce the overall building height by four metres.
Planning panel to discuss the Southgate Office Village proposals
Enfield Council is convening a special planning panel to discuss the application on 21st November (7.30pm, venue to be advised).
Details of the planning application can be found on the council website at https://planningandbuildingcontrol.enfield.gov.uk/ - search for 19/01941/FUL. For an overview of the changes the most useful documents to look at first are the Planning Letter, Heritage Statement II and the Design & Access Statement Addendum Part 1 and Part 2.
The deadline for submitting comments is 12th November.
Forming a "community view"
In June SDCT organised a day-long event aimed at gauging public opinion and developing a "community view" about the proposals. A summary of the discussions at the event included the view that the proposals amounted to "overdevelopment", that 17 storeys was unacceptable to the majority of participants and that traffic and parking problems would be exacerbated. People felt it was important that future ambitions for the site were planned "in keeping with the distinctive village feel that Southgate has managed to retain". In response, Enfield Council extended the geographical spread of its notification letters and undertook to arrange the special planning panel.
The Planning Letter sent with the revised application, written by the consultancy Simply Planning, argues that it would not be possible to satisfy the concern about building heights expressed by "some sectors of the community" while at the same time meeting the demands for affordable housing made by the council and GLA and by "representations supporting the scheme from sectors of the community who would encourage provision of significant numbers of new homes and affordable housing in Southgate as they are unable to find or afford somewhere to live in the area".
"As you are aware, we have been working with officers for over two years to provide a scheme that delivers employment floorspace together with residential development and a significant amount of affordable housing. Whilst residents would prefer to see a reduction in height, this would result in the scheme being unable to deliver any affordable housing. The Council and the GLA have been clear that this is simply not acceptable. The amended scheme does however provide a reduction of 4m in height.
"We understand that that this is not the level of reduction that some objectors are seeking, but we cannot significantly reduce the height and still deliver a scheme that provides new employment floorspace and the required level of affordable housing."
Heritage aspects: The view from the cafe
Image showing how the revised Office Village development would be obscured by trees when looking from the terrace of the cafe in Grovelands Park. Historic England actually requested the view from higher up the terrace.
A key criticism of the original proposals came from Historic England, who in their submission expressed concern that the top of the tallest tower would be visible above the tree line when standing outside the Grovelands Park cafe and looking across the lake towards the mansion (the Priory Hospital).
"Such development would jar with the parkland composition around the house and would introduce the modern world into this immersive historic environment, thereby creating a high degree of harm to the significance and setting of the grade I listed house and grade II* registered park. In our view, no development should be visible in these key views from Grovelands Park views, no matter how small."
Historic England's submission hinted that the developers had deliberately chosen to simulate the view from the cafe terrace not from the top step, but from one of the lower steps, from where the building would be less visible.
The 4-metre height reduction in the new plans was made in response to this, the planners claiming that the building will now not be "distinguishable" even in winter -
"Given the depth of the building height below the tree canopy line, combined with the recessive, neutral colour of the part of the building, the proposed development would be so heavily filtered by the tree canopies when leafless that it would not be visible. It would not be distinguishable."
- but then rather undermining this assertion by concluding as follows:
"Even if, on a ‘worst case’ scenario assumption, there would be a small degree of visibility from the terrace, this would be from a localised point, in the context of 20th century changes as represented by the café and the terraces themselves, and in the context of a terrace that provides seating for the café rather than a vantage point in which to properly experience Grovelands Park Hospital, or the designed landscape in which it sites, or any other aspect of the designed landscape."
But what about the view from the station?
The height reduction is scarcely noticeable in this view - but the towers are rather better looking than the existing building on the corner of Chase Side and Chase Road
If reducing the height by 4 metres will (or possibly won't) stop people in the park seeing the buildings, this clearly isn't the case for other locations, and many people have been particularly concerned about the view of the buildings from Southgate Circus conservation area.
Unless the author of the Planning Letter is misinterpreting their view, it seems that Historic England have taken a much more relaxed attitude here:
"It is accepted that the scheme will be visible from the Conservation Area and that the proposed new buildings will be visible in the setting of the listed station buildings. Historic England consider that there will be some degree of harm to the setting of the listed buildings but that this harm is not substantial and therefore needs to be weighed against the public benefits of offering significant numbers of new homes and 64 new affordable units. The weight to be attached to the delivery of affordable housing is magnified by the lack of recent affordable house building in the Borough and particularly in Southgate in recent years."
As the simulated view for the revised scheme shows, the towers are definitely "distinguishable". However, it could be argued that the view has already been irretrievably damaged by the presence of the spectacularly ugly building with the Paddy Power betting shop.
"We are committed to fighting this development in its current form"
SDCT this week wrote to its members, saying that the changes "do not substantially address the comments raised by the community" and stating that "as an organisation we are committed to fighting this development in its current form". It has launched an appeal to members to find up to £5000 needed to employ a planning consultant to help prepare a case to submit to the planning panel.
More information about SDCT and its campaigns can be obtained by writing to .
"Civic trust continues to refuse to represent local residents' views unless they agree with their own, blocking the delivery of substantial affordable & private housing in the process, for a site not within any conservation or otherwise protected area."
I wrote in support and funnily enough was completely ignored.
Looks good. Delivers what's needed. Better than the redundant junk there now. Not a greenfield site.
The Planning Panel to discuss the Southgate Office Village redevelopment proposals was scheduled for 21st November, but has fallen foul of the "purdah" regulations and cannot take place during the general election campaign. The new date is not yet known, but is likely to be in late January.