Conservation Areas

There are 22 designated Conservation Areas within the London Borough of Enfield, several of which are located in or adjacent to Palmers Green - in particular, the Lakes Estate Conservation Area, located on both sides of Alderman's Hill

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People concerned about the future of two local landmarks received a double blow this week, when Enfield Council notified campaigners that they had refused applications to register the Green Dragon in Winchmore Hill and the former university campus and mansion in Trent Park as Assets of Community Value (ACVs).

The campaigners had received wide support from both the general public and councillors from both parties for their efforts to return the Green Dragon to its former use as a pub and to retain public access to the historic mansion and its grounds.

A statement on the Council website says that the decisions were made by appropriate Council Officers based on strict criteria:  "Councillors play no part in this decision-making process and the strict criteria by which the decisions have to be made is set out in Government legislation which local authorities must abide by."

Using the Green Dragon in the interest of the local community "not realistic"

green dragonIn the case of the Green Dragon, the evaluation panel concluded that the application did not meet one of the key criteria laid down by the relevant national legislation: "Step D" of the nomination process requires evidence of "Realism of Future Usage", but according to the Panel "it is not realistic to think that within the next five years there could be non-ancillary use of the building that would further the social well-being or interest of the local community".

The crucial point appears to be the Evaluation Panel's conclusion that the building was lawfully converted into a retail unit before the ACV application was submitted and is thus no longer a pub.  Additionally, the Panel seem to have taken at face value the assertion by the new owners that pub use is "no longer viable".

Mike McClean, who set up the Save the Green Dragon campaign, rejects both of these arguments.  In particular, he states that the application for ACV status was submitted a week before the Green Dragon reopened as a shop and that he believes that the changes that have been made to the interior are not so drastic as to make it difficult to change the building back to its original purpose.

Mr McClean is also angry that Council officers did not give the campaigners any opportunity to counter the claims made by the property developers.

Although it is not possible to appeal against an ACV nomination decision, Mr McClean says that councillors are looking into using a process called Councillor Call for Action, which involves elected councillors, as opposed to the officers employed by the Council who have run the process up to now.

Rumours that the Green Dragon has been sold to Aldi have been denied by the property firm which owns it, Green Lanes Investments, who told the local press that they are "a long way down the line in discussions to bring in a high-end retailer".

Trent Park's heritage value "not a consideration"

trent park mansionThe former university campus in Trent Park was actually the subject of two applications for ACV status, from the Friends of Trent Country Park and from the local parish church, Christchurch Cockfosters.  The evaluation panel seems to have given both short shrift.  They argue that any recreational use of the campus was ancillary to its primary educational use.  Both applicants were anxious to protect heritage value, but under the legislation this is not a valid consideration.

Could the Council have done otherwise?

Some supporters of the two campaigns, not least Conservative candidate David Burrowes, have been quick to blame the Labour group in control of Enfield Council for the failure of the applications, and there has even been talk of a "foregone conclusion" and "large backhanders".  However, a more likely explanation is that the council officers genuinely considered that the applications did not make a strong enough case for them to be confident that by recommending registration they would not be exposing the Council to a high risk of facing legal action by the owners of the two properties.  This could potentially involve very high legal costs at a time when local council finances have never been so stretched.

If these decisions really were taken without input from elected councillors, then a Councillor Call for Action might make it possible to re-open the case, perhaps calling in a second opinion by taking advice from local government officers from other oouncils

It is unfortunate that the sale of the Green Dragon took place before new legislation came in recently, giving pubs a certain amount of extra protection against demolition or change of use.  At the time it was sold a change to retail use could be made without the need to obtain permission.

In the case of Trent Park, if it is true that ACV was not intended for cases of this kind and if the evaluation committee's decision was, from a legal standpont anyway, correct, there is no doubt that the building and grounds are an important part of not just local heritage, but because of its wartime role, it is a national asset.  As such, it is to be hoped that campaigning for their protection will be taken up nationally and eventually enjoy the same success as Bletchley Park.

"Give communities the opportunity to influence the future"

Both cases are a reflection of how under current legislation property developers hold most of the trump cards - despite "localism" not only local communities, but also local authorities have very little power to ensure that their localities are developed along the lines that residents wish.  One of our local heritage societies - the Southgate District Civic Trust - is among those campaigning for major changes in this respect (see our earlier report Giving communities the opportunity to actively influence the future of their town centres).

Perhaps, then, people's understandable indignation should be directed not at Enfield Council, but at national government for its failure to protect local communities from developers who have little regard for local feelings.


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Basil Clarke's Avatar
Basil Clarke posted a reply #1189 01 May 2015 22:44
"Aldi can confirm at this time that they have no active sites in Winchmore Hill and have not purchased the Green Dragon PH." - see this report on the Enfield Independent website .

Only "at this time", though. And in any case, we want it to be a pub, not a shop, even if Prince Charles were to visit Winchmore Hill in person and open it as a branch of "Duchy Originals".