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Amid continuing criticism from some civil society groups, Enfield Council has issued a defence of the abolition of separate consultative panels covering green belt issues, conservation and public transport and their merging into a new Environment Forum.

The winding up of the Green Belt Forum, Conservation Advisory Group (CAG) and Public Transport Consultative Group was agreed at the council's annual meeting on 1st July. These subject areas will now be covered by a new Environment Forum, which in addition will discuss the vitally important subject of the council's policies to take action on climate change.

The changes have been strongly criticised by Southgate District Civic Voice (SDCV) and by Enfield Road Watch Action Group, who fear that it will not be possible for civil society representatives on the new forum to adequately scrutinize and contribute to council policies. For example, SDCV say that a single representative on the new forum will not have the same degree of subject expertise that their separate representatives had on the old panels.

A statement posted on the Enfield Council website claims that the new forum, meeting monthly, will be a "huge step forward to help the Council progress with its priorities relating to green and open spaces, the built environment and sustainability" that "will allow for more coordinated and borough-wide policy development by the Council in environmental and sustainability matters." It will be made up of five councillors and representatives from 21 conservation groups, Transport for London, the Train Operating Companies and local bodies with an interest in the natural and built environment.

Writing in the Enfield Voices Facebook group, Francis Sealey, who is co-convenor of the Enfield Climate Action Forum (EnCAF), has accused the council of "hand picking" a few groups out of the many in the borough that are active in the areas covered by the Environment Forum:

"The success or not of Enfield’s climate change strategy will depend on how it involves the community from the bottom up, but sadly its new Environment Forum does not do that and excludes many groups including many set up to specifically address climate change.

"This has been the approach of Enfield Council all along, to involve only those it wants and to exclude others. It certainly will not engage the wider community. Thank goodness for the Enfield Climate Action Forum (EnCAf) that was set up to do just that - a forum that consists of not 21 hand picked organisations but 60 and growing and to include any who wish to join.

"You will see it excludes Roadwatch, Better Streets [for Enfield], Extinction Rebellion, Divest Enfield and many others."

As well as established groups, individual residents have voiced their concerns to their councillors. For instance, a Winchmore Hill resident wrote to her councillors, saying that "It is a sad day when local community organisations such as the Southgate District Civic Voice and Enfield Road Watch Action Group have less say in the vital decisions made affecting Enfield. These organisations have monitored environmental matters in Enfield for many years and have made their voices known on many occasions to the benefit of the community."

Ian Barnes, deputy council leader but also a Winchmore Hill councillor, replied that "I believe that the new Environment Forum will be an excellent opportunity for a multitude of groups to cross-pollinate ideas in one over-arching forum which brings together many environmental concerns. The groups are diverse and wide-ranging."

Statement from Enfield Council on the new Environment Forum

Published on: 21 July 2020

The new Environment Forum is a huge step forward to help the Council progress with its priorities relating to green and open spaces, the built environment and sustainability. 

The Forum is intended to provide regular, meaningful and integrated engagement with a wide range of local community groups and regional stakeholders. The approach will allow for more coordinated and borough-wide policy development by the Council in environmental and sustainability matters.

The monthly meetings, chaired by Cabinet Associate Member Cllr Katherine Chibah, will allow for comprehensive engagement and discussion of all environmental issues and policies to ensure the very best outcomes for Enfield’s residents. Themes for focus will include:

  • Sustainability Climate Action
  • Heritage and Design
  • Environment
  • Sustainable Transport

Following the launch of the new Climate Action Strategy, the first meeting is scheduled in August when a more detailed work plan will be considered.

The committee will be made up of five councillors and representatives from 21 conservation groups, Transport for London, the Train Operating Companies and local bodies with an interest in the natural and built environment.

The new forum supports Enfield Council’s strong commitment to creating a more sustainable Enfield, involving a wide range of partners and stakeholders.

Source: new.enfield.gov.uk/news-and-events/statement-from-enfield-council-on-the-new-environ

Links

Shake-up of scrutiny in Enfield - but will some lose out? (Enfield Independent 3 July 2020)

A sad day for democracy in Enfield (Enfield Road Watch Action Group 3 July 2020)

Councillors welcome new mayor, but scrutiny changes provoke dissent (Palmers Green Community 8 July 2020)

Enfield Council committees list - July 2020 (Palmers Green Community 14 July 2020)

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