ENFIELD INDEPENDENT: Inspector allows Southgate Office Village scheme on appeal

Permission has been granted for a 17-storey development in Southgate town centre after a planning inspector overruled a previous decision to reject it.

The scheme planned for Southgate Office Village, which is close to a conservation area, was backed by the government-appointed planning inspector in a judgment issued following an earlier inquiry. It means developer Viewpoint Estates can build 216 homes in five separate blocks at the site in Chase Road.

In June last year, the council’s planning committee unanimously refused permission for the high-rise scheme, which will lie just outside the boundary of Southgate Circus Conservation Area and be visible from the Grade 2-listed Southgate Station.

Committee members opposed the height and massing of the planned buildings, which they claimed would harm heritage assets and neighbouring properties. After the developer appealed to the Planning Inspectorate against the refusal, local residents and Enfield Southgate MP Bambos Charalambous spoke against the scheme during the public inquiry held in September this year.

But in the decision issued today (14th December), inspector Paul Griffiths found in favour of the developer. He wrote: “Bearing in mind what occupies the appeal site at present, what I regard as the excellence of the design would uplift the character and the appearance of the area. Moreover, it would cause no harm to the setting or the significance of heritage assets nearby, or further afield.”

In respect of the development’s impact on the tube station, Mr Griffiths acknowledged people’s concerns, but wrote: “The height of the taller elements of the proposal is not so extreme that it would harmfully compete with the station complex.”

The inspector added that there would be “no harmful overlooking or loss of privacy” caused to neighbouring properties, and that any loss of daylight or sunlight would be within “reasonable bounds”. Because the scheme intended to be “car free”, he said that it should not lead to any additional parking pressure.

Mr Griffiths said the only harmful aspect of the scheme was that its timing relative to the council’s draft local plan meant the opportunity to consider the site’s suitability for tall buildings had been lost . But he concluded: “To my mind, bearing in mind the parlous state of the council’s housing land supply, the harm that flows from that pales against the enormous benefits of the open-market and affordable housing the scheme would bring forward in a well-designed, contextually appropriate scheme.”

Southgate District Civic Voice, a local residents’ group that opposed the plans during the inquiry, issued a statement which said: “Southgate District Civic Voice is extremely disappointed by the inspector’s decision to allow the Southgate Office Village proposal to go ahead. We will be studying the decision carefully.

“We consider that this development will completely change the character of Southgate.

“We would like to thank all our members, the wider community, ward councillors and Civic Voice for their support during this whole process.”

Bambos Charalambous MP said: “I’m bitterly disappointed that permission has been granted for a 17-storey housing development at Southgate Office Village.

“In September, I made representations to the planning inspector to reject the appeal for planning permission.

“The proposed development is out-of-keeping with the local area, would have an adverse impact on local services and fails to meet local housing needs. It is a retrograde step for Southgate.”

Stephanos Ioannou, a Conservative councillor for Southgate ward,  said the decision was “a significant loss for the campaign and all the work put in by local groups”.

He added: “It shows, quite frankly, that legislation trumps local feelings and sets a dangerous precedent for further development in the area.”

Cllr Charith Gunawardena, Green Party councillor for Southgate, said: “This decision is extremely disappointing as it does not help Southgate or Enfield residents in terms of affordability and family-sized homes.

“The inspector stated that Enfield Council accepts that it cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites with the appropriate buffer. The evidence shows that at present, they can demonstrate a supply of just over two years. This has left Enfield vulnerable to this kind of development.

“Southgate has been badly let down by the governments planning policies and the council’s housing policies.”

Full article here: https://www.enfieldindependent.co.uk/news/19785751.inspector-allows-southgate-office-village-scheme-appeal/

METRO NEWS: Bins ‘overflowing’ with Christmas waste as binmen are off work with Covid

Covid staff shortages are causing ‘terrible’ rubbish collection delays with bins overflowing with waste from Christmas in some areas.

Councillors in London, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Buckinghamshire have said bin collection services have been scaled back as workers continue to fall sick with the virus.

Chelmsford City Council confirmed 23 members of staff were absent and cancelled three days’ worth of food waste collections.

North Somerset Council said they had been unable to pick up 1,000 recycling bins on New Year’s Eve as crews remain ‘stretched due to staff sickness’

Stephanos Ioannou, a Conservative councillor in Enfield, said the number of complaints about missed bin collections was roughly double the average for this time of year.

‘I’ve been driving round my ward and seeing bins overflowing and Christmas trees are left outside,’ he said.

‘Over the Christmas period, usually I get on average 30 emails a week on waste services.

‘I checked my inbox yesterday… and had about 50 or 60.’

Enfield resident Matt Brooks, 40, said his Christmas recycling still hasn’t been collected.

‘When I contact the council to report it (I’m) faced with disinterest and just told to report it again if it happens,’ he added.

Gloucester has also been hit with ‘terrible problems’, a local politician warned.

Liberal Democrat councillor Declan Wilson said that as bin collectors work in close-knit teams they quickly pass the virus onto one another, multiplying the number of staff off sick at one time.

Cllr Wilson said recycling collections were stopped altogether over Christmas, caused by a combination of Covid-related absences and ongoing lorry driver shortages.

‘The reason for it is driver shortages and Covid as well,’ he said.

‘It’s Brexit and Covid as well. We have brought this up in council meetings.

‘What they tell us is they’ve got the drivers working in cells so there’s two or three working together, so one of them gets Covid and that means two or three of them are off.

‘It hasn’t been great.’

Gloucester City Council and Enfield Council have been contacted for comment.

Several London boroughs have announced there may be future delays to services, with Haringey Council warning the ‘uniquely challenging times’ had impacted their workforce.

Newham Council has temporarily suspended the collection of bulky waste items due to ‘higher than normal levels of staff absence’.

Green food and garden recycling bin collections have been cancelled ‘until further notice’ by Manchester City Council due to the number of staff in isolation.

Residents are being told to put food waste into ‘grey general waste bins’ and store garden waste until normal collections resume.

Meanwhile Birmingham City Council apologised for missed collections over the festive period, saying crews had been affected by Covid in the week leading up to December 30.

It comes after ministers asked public sector leaders to make ‘contingency plans’ for worst-case scenarios in which up to a quarter of staff would be absent.

Asked on Times Radio whether such shortages were likely to occur, Health Minister Edward Argar said: ‘I think we model a range of scenarios up to things we think are highly unlikely, but you still do it because that’s what a responsible Government does in preparing for all eventualities.’

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils across England, said crews have been badly impacted by the spread of the Omicron variant and called for workers be prioritised for Covid tests.

An LGA spokesman said: ‘As cases of Covid-19 rise in light of the omicron variant, councils are concerned that these existing staffing issues may get worse.’

Full article here: https://metro.co.uk/2022/01/04/bins-overflowing-with-christmas-waste-as-binmen-are-off-work-with-covid-15859902/

SKY NEWS- COVID-19: Bins ‘overflowing’ with waste in parts of England due to coronavirus staff shortages

Bins are “overflowing” with waste in parts of England as COVID-related staff shortages have resulted in “terrible” delays to collections, local politicians have warned.

Councillors in London, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Buckinghamshire say bin collection services have been scaled back as workers with the virus isolate.

Chelmsford City Council in Essex confirmed 23 members of staff were absent and it had cancelled three days’ worth of food waste collections.

North Somerset Council said it had been unable to pick up 1,000 recycling bins on New Year’s Eve as crews remain “stretched due to staff sickness”.

Stephanos Ioannou, a Conservative councillor in Enfield, north London, said the number of complaints about missed bin collections was roughly double the average for this time of year.

He said: “I’ve been driving round my ward and seeing bins overflowing and Christmas trees are left outside.

“Over the Christmas period, usually I get on average 30 emails a week on waste services.

“I checked my inbox yesterday… and had about 50 or 60.”

Gloucester has been hit with “terrible problems” as bin collectors work in close-knit teams and quickly pass the virus on to one another, Liberal Democrat councillor Declan Wilson said.

Mr Wilson said recycling collections were stopped altogether over Christmas, caused by a combination of COVID-related absences and driver shortages.

Several London boroughs have announced there may be future delays to services, with Haringey Council warning the “uniquely challenging times” had impacted its workforce.

Newham Council has temporarily suspended the collection of bulky waste items due to “higher than normal levels of staff absence”.

And green food and garden recycling bin collections have been cancelled “until further notice” by Manchester City Council due to the number of staff in isolation.

Residents are being told to put food waste into “grey general waste bins” and store garden waste until normal collections resume.

Meanwhile Birmingham City Council apologised for missed collections over the festive period, saying crews had been affected by COVID in the week leading up to 30 December.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils across England, said crews have been badly impacted by the spread of the Omicron variant and called for workers be prioritised for COVID tests.

An LGA spokesman said: “As cases of COVID-19 rise in light of the Omicron variant, councils are concerned that these existing staffing issues may get worse.”

Full article can be found: https://news.sky.com/story/covid-19-bins-overflowing-with-waste-in-parts-of-england-due-to-coronavirus-staff-shortages-12508422

ENFIELD INDEPENDENT- Call to remove Enfield low-traffic neighbourhoods rejected

Two large traffic-reduction schemes will remain in place despite claims they are causing major problems for residents.

Labour councillors rejected a call to remove the Bowes and Fox Lane low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) until a consultation shows they are supported by a majority of the public.

The LTNs, rolled out last year in a bid to stop rat-running and improve air quality, involved closing several road entrances using bollards and similar measures.

During a full council meeting yesterday (Thursday), Tory councillors called for their removal, claiming they had failed to improve air quality and caused congestion and pollution on surrounding roads.

But Labour said the schemes would benefit public health and the environment, pledging to improve the LTNs in response to feedback from residents.

Speaking during the meeting, shadow cabinet member for climate change Cllr Maria Alexandrou (Conservative, Winchmore Hill) listed a range of problems she claimed were caused by the LTNs.

“Congestion has overwhelmed Enfield, with traffic forced onto the main arteries of the Enfield road network,” Cllr Alexandrou said.

“Roads are now too dangerous to cross, and people are less inclined to walk. The increased pollution and travel times – and consequently delays to bus journeys and the emergency services – are maximising the very matters LTNs were supposed to prevent.”

Cllr Alexandrou claimed the LTNs had been introduced “without proper consultation or engagement”. She said the council had failed to provide readily available paper copies of consultation documents, which stopped those without digital access from taking part.

But Cllr Ian Barnes (Labour, Winchmore Hill), the council’s deputy leader and chairman of the climate change task force, defended the schemes.

“The main beneficiaries of LTNs are all residents of the borough, but in particular our children and young people,” he said.

“We have to change our thinking and see that our future must lie in cleaner air and a stable climate. It is a challenge for all of us – but one we must meet head-on for the sake of future generations.”

Cllr Barnes said the schemes would help tackle obesity and make streets safer for children going to and from school.

He added that designs for the Fox Lane scheme had been changed in response to public feedback before it was introduced, and a “live consultation” was now underway. The Bowes LTN followed “years of campaigning for an LTN” and a “perception survey” he added.

Community First – an opposition group formed last year by four councillors who quit the Labour Party – backed the Tories’ call to remove the LTNs.

Cllr Daniel Anderson (Community First, Southgate Green), a former deputy council leader and cabinet member for environment, who helped introduce the Cycle Enfield scheme, said LTNs “tackle the symptom and not the underlying cause of traffic”.

Cllr Anderson blamed “intensifying unaffordable housing developments” for increased traffic on London’s roads and said the car would “remain a necessity for many people – particularly in the absence of adequate alternatives”.

Cllr Stephanos Ioannou (Conservative, Southgate) criticised the council for having an enforcement vehicle with its engine idling issuing fines to drivers who travel through LTN barriers. He said the council had so far raised more than £1.2 million in LTN-related penalties.

But Labour councillors continued to defend the schemes. Council leader Cllr Nesil Caliskan (Labour, Jubilee) said she had listened to “passionate views” from residents on both sides of the LTN debate and would “see if we can amend the schemes to work for local areas”. She added that she was proud to be part of a council taking action to tackle climate change.

Chairman of the environment forum Cllr Katherine Chibah (Labour, Bowes) said climate change posed an “existential threat” – and with 39 per cent of Enfield’s greenhouse gas emissions coming from roads, the “best option is to try to encourage alternative modes of travel where possible”.

CONSERVATIVE HOME, U.K: Overdevelopment means that traditional London suburbs are under threat

Cllr Stephanos Ioannou is a councillor for Southgate in Enfield. He is studying Public Policy at Kings College London.

It’s not every day you would hear a young person who has hopes of soon getting on to the property ladder, echoing concerns about overdevelopment in one of the most expensive and sought after capitals in the world. But this statement is slowly creeping into the reality of what is happening in our capital, and overdevelopment is beginning to seriously change the suburban parts of London.

The majority of applications I see coming through Enfield Council’s planning department have the justified intent of elaborating and improving the current situation that families find themselves in. Whether it be a simple loft conversion, rear or back extension, or even the garage conversion, I mostly see these applications as positive contributions to the Southgate area, where more and more families are moving to reap the benefits of great schools and local services. However, where things begin to get complex is with the applications that involve changing the whole character of an area, and therefore setting a blueprint for future developments in the area.

I am talking specifically about an application that was received to build a 17 storey building in the heart of Southgate, that will bring with it 200 new homes for families and professionals. At first glance, I was positive about these proposals but realised that residents in the community, and particularly neighbouring residents would be quite negative towards these proposals. This is because of the skyline effect, and most importantly the impact on local services and local infrastructure for the Southgate area. In taking another case, we have in neighbouring Barnet and Finchley Central the plans outlined by Transport for London and the Mayor of London of a new development that will involve 600 new homes, and a twenty-seven storey building that will change the face of central Finchley for good. Finally, we can bear witness to the ‘Save West Hampstead’ campaign that is focusing on stopping council led over-development by bringing together residents association across the borough to fight against high tower block plans.

With the examples given, it’s clear there is a correlation happening across the London boroughs with overdevelopment. Unlike before, councils with the assistance of developers are more willing to start plans with an extraordinary level of floors attached to tower blocks, essentially going in ‘high and tough’ and slowly but gently reducing the number of floors, still to a level that is mostly unacceptable to most existing residents in the community.

Buildings in cities should not be designed in isolation, but in relation to the places in which they are set, whether these are views to and from world heritage sites or the fabric of adjoining streets. Together with its present and future neighbours, new development should make accessible public spaces that are a pleasure to inhabit – the effects of tall buildings are as important at ground level as they are in the sky. And the larger and more prominently placed a building is, the greater the care that should be taken over its design.

Nobody could go to the places already being shaped by towers – Elephant and Castle, Vauxhall or Stratford High Street, a discus-throw from the Olympic Park – and say that these are great places to linger, or that the tall buildings now rising there enhance the experience. Images of these places in the future, when further skyscrapers will jostle for attention, suggest more of the same. New urban zones are being created with no overall idea of how the parts contribute to the whole, of the places that are being made at their base.

Rather, new London tower design tends to go out of its way to be as assertive and architecturally antisocial as possible. Strata SE1 in Elephant and Castle, with its slashed rooftop, randomised aluminium cladding patterns and bulbous form, seems to be setting out to be as hostile as possible to any future neighbour. In Stratford the fashion is for arbitrary clashing colours – another idea that kills the prospect of making coherent public places.
Nor, when you get close to a building such as St George’s Tower in Vauxhall, would you say that you are in the presence of quality. Its details clash and its cladding looks cheap and plasticky. There is no great reason to believe that these surfaces will age well. Images of proposed future projects, such as the Quill in Bermondsey and 1 Merchant Square in Paddington, suggest little improvement in the future.

Combined with frantic attempts at individuality is a profound sameness. These projects tend to use the same type of cladding and floor layouts. It is sometimes said that London needs skyscrapers to make an “iconic” statement on the world stage, but these developments make it look less distinctive. And if the city tries to engage in the global race for height, it can only lose. It is outpaced by the likes of Shanghai and Dubai, the height of whose Burj Khalifa is 2.7 times that of the Shard.

Overall, the point here is that tall buildings do not define nor improve an area just by simply being constructed. The traditional semi-detached houses of north London and the leafy suburbs are things you cannot achieve as much as you try with tall tower blocks.

Conservation areas are areas of ‘special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’. This imposes a duty on the council, in exercising its planning powers, to pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of the area.

However what is said will happen on paper is different from the reality taking place across parts of suburban north London. Take for example the neglect by Tfl over Southgate Tube Station, where the 1930’s structure of Christopher Holden has been left to rust and decay over the years and still no work has taken place to preserve this heritage. Take also the neglect by Enfield Council to preserve existing areas around Southgate Green. I am sure that this is happening across other London boroughs too and I would invite other councillors to explain the situation in their parts- but overall my message is that we should be preserving our areas of heritage and not succumb to the overdevelopment that some parties are trying to push through rigorously.

In preserving heritage, councils can take action by educating local school pupils about points of interest in their areas, or even driving investment in local heritage sites. Research published by Historic England shows that, in 2015, domestic and international heritage-related visits generated £16.4 billion in expenditure in England, contributing £2 billion to the Exchequer in tax revenue. It seems logical therefore that councils should weigh up the impact and consequences of building dense tower block housing, or investing in existing conservation areas thus boosting the local economy.

Slowly we will see changes to the leafy suburban parts of London, being replaced by tall ten-plus storey blocks of flats that will be branded as ‘affordable’ so they say, but in reality are a quick buck for developers and the council who will generate council tax revenue, with no guarantee they will be reinvested back into that specific community.

Here in Enfield, all Section 106 funds that are generated from developments across the borough and being streamlined into the Meridian Water scheme, instead of being reinvested directly back into the communities that have seen these extraordinary developments. With that said, the planning department are trying to reassure us councillors that funds will be requested from the developers further than just for Meridian Water, but this will only be voluntary on their behalf. I am sure that developers would rather retain as much profit as possible, in comparison to giving more funds-especially voluntary ones.

London and its landscape are changing, and with that communities are battling against a change to their once characteristic neighbourhoods. Councils and developers have scant regard for the existing residents, and more so for the conservation areas they are situated in.


ENFIELD INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER, U.K.: Enfield primary school to build modern classrooms

Modern teaching facilities will replace “crumbling” classrooms at an Enfield primary school after plans for a new building were approved.

Walker Primary School has been given the green light to build new facilities – including a new IT centre – at its site in Waterfall Road, Southgate.

Plans for the new building were deferred in December last year after concerns were raised that the design could harm the surrounding conservation area.

Planning officer Kevin Tohill told a planning committee meeting on Tuesday (April 23) that the designs had been amended and the building would make “a more positive contribution to the conservation area”.

Cllr Stephanos Ioannou, Conservative member for Southgate and a school governor at Walker, spoke in support of the plans.

He said: “When a school such as Walker has a waiting list of 79 for the reception class, it is fair to say there is considerable demand from local families for this school.

“This new building will be vital in securing the future of all the parties involved in Walker School.

“Should this go ahead, pupils will arrive at a school with new frontage, new model classrooms and a sensible sized hall for P.E. lessons”

“And, of course, extending the vegetable patch so that the next generation can learn about sustainable living.

“Most important is that the redevelopment plans incorporate an ICT (information communications technology) suite so pupils can gain knowledge of a key sector in our economy.”

Cllr Ioannou said the school was in such a state that teachers had to place buckets around corridors to catch water falling from leaking roofs and the headteacher had had to mop up a flooded classroom.

He said it was no exaggeration to say the school was “literally crumbling” and even the parents of some current pupils had been taught in temporary cabins while they were at Walker.

Cllr George Savva, Labour member for Haselbury, said: “This is a state-of-the-art school that will cater for the needs of children, families and the community for children to be educated in a proper manner.

“Children learn better if they are in a good environment.

“The head is there to run the school and not to mop up.”

The committee voted unanimously to approve the plans.

To see the full article click on this link.

Walker Primary School (Photo: Google Maps)

CONSERVATIVE HOME, U.K: Will Brexit put council budgets under more pressure?

Cllr Stephanos Ioannou is a councillor in Enfield. He is studying Public Policy at King’s College London.

Forget which side of the argument you reside on… now is the time to start asking yourself what impact Brexit will have financially on local authorities.

Everyone has seemed to have been caught up in the national funding problems post-Brexit. Whilst the NHS, national infrastructure, policing and all other major services are important, why haven’t we spared a serious thought for the impact on local authorities? People have forgotten about the importance of maintained pavements, keeping our areas clean, and the need for improving local services.

It is likely that most council leaders across the UK believe Brexit will damage their local economies, putting them under greater pressure to push up council taxes and cut more services. In a survey last year by the Local Government Network, only 12 per cent of 185 respondents believed it would have a positive impact on their economies, while 26 per cent felt the impact of leaving the EU would be neutral. Thus a majority believe that council services and funding will suffer due to the impact of Brexit.

It’s hard enough for us councillors to fight for funding in our wards, and even more difficult when the budget is being reduced and efficiencies are being made. In light of these problems, logically, we must be prepared for the issues ahead.

The first problem we must tackle is the funding-match by UK government to replace prior funding from the EU. This according to the Local Government Association amounts to around £8.4bn, and government are yet to confirm they will step in on this. But why so important? To put it into perspective, structural funds have become increasingly important to local governments around the UK as central government has reduced their funding. Councils have used EU funds to help new business start-ups, create thousands of new jobs, roll out broadband, and build new roads and bridges. Although government has promised to honour all agreements made for EU funded projects before we leave, this does not go far enough, and I’m sure many councillors would feel more assured with a long-term commitment to at least match funding.

Local authorities have also greatly benefitted from Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from the EU, which concerns the establishment of businesses or acquisition of business assets by foreign investors. Under current estimates, nearly half of the FDI stock in the UK originates from the EU, while many European firms that have operations within the UK pay substantial sums to local authorities via business rates. FDI also brings other benefits to regions within the UK, including increased productivity, increased wages, employment opportunities, and new technologies.

After Brexit, there is a good possibility that European firms will be deterred from investing in the UK. The UK could be perceived as more isolated and less open to foreign investment. This development will be worsened when the UK leaves the Single European Market. In the face of this future uncertainty, local councils in conjunction with Local Enterprise Partnerships will have to double their efforts to attract and support businesses from the EU. This may require re-evaluating policies and tools to attract international businesses. This point is especially important considering the proposed changes to business rates. Under current plans, local government is to become more economically ‘self-sufficient’, with the government planning to terminate local authorities’ Revenue Support Grant by 2020 and implement 100 per cent business rates retention. This will mean that local councils will directly rely on the business rates from local businesses.

There is the prospect of increased council borrowing in order to increase investment spending, and to continue to provide services to the current levels at which they operate. I’m confident in saying that no Conservative would want to jeopardise their council’s financial discipline, and break the ethos of ‘value for money’ by being led to the temptation of increased borrowing.

We need to lobby the Government for reassurances of our local authority funding, and that it must match current EU funding. That way we have the ability to continue to provide for our local communities, and look forward to a less bureaucratic and more organised local authority funding structure. We must also look for new markets, and reach out beyond the EU, so that we secure long-term funding and investment in our communities that generate the vital income.

We must remain committed to financial discipline and not let the temptation of increased spending dominate us should Brexit give a hit to local coffers.

For the full article please visit this Link.

FINANCIAL MIRROR, UK & CY: Cyprus only country not to sign MEPs letter urging UK to stop Brexit

Cyprus was the odd man out when more than 120 MEPs from every corner of EU signed heartfelt letter asking the British people to reconsider Brexit.

The plea comes from 26 member states and across the European parliament’s different political groups, Cyprus was the only country not to add its voice urging for the bloc to stay together and avoid disaster.

People are now asking why this was allowed to happen.

Stephanos Ioannou, Conservative councillor (of Cypriot origin) for Southgate in North London tweeted: “Is this an actual joke?! Almost half a million Cypriots here in the U.K., and we couldn’t even get one MEP from Cyprus to say, ‘we want you back’. I hope they didn’t fall for lie about an even closer relationship with the commonwealth. Not impressed.”

The cross-party message, orchestrated by an Austrian MEP and signed by 129 of his colleagues, says the continent is “looking with growing anxiety” across the Channel to events occurring in Britain.

“We are reluctant to intervene in your domestic politics, but we cannot help but notice that the opinion polls show a growing number of voters who want an opportunity to reconsider the Brexit decision, now that it is clear that Brexit is very different to the promises made by the Leave campaign nearly three years ago,” the MEPs say.

The representatives – who come from conservative, liberal, socialist and green groups – add that though they respect and regret the decision of the UK to leave, “any British decision to remain in the EU would be warmly welcomed by us and we would work with you to reform and improve the European Union, so that it works better in the interests of all citizens”.

The rallying call comes amid meltdown in Westminster over Brexit, with MPs set to reject the deal negotiated by the Prime Minister Theresa May.

“The only country whose MEPs all passed on signing the letter was Cyprus, the union’s third smallest member – but it otherwise draws signatories from every part of the continent,” reported the UK’s Independent newspaper.

“We have greatly appreciated the enormous impact British politicians and citizens have contributed to the European project over the last 40 years. We would miss the extraordinary expertise of our British colleagues,” the MEPs say, adding that they would support the withdrawal of Article 50.

“We ask you to reconsider to leave our union in the interest of the next generation of young people, British and Europeans, who will lose out on the opportunities of living, loving and working together. Brexit will weaken all of us. We want you to stay. Together, we are stronger and together we can build a stronger Europe.”

Notable MEPs on the list include Udo Bullmann, the leader of the socialist group in the parliament, and Philippe Lamberts, the Green group leader. It was also signed by Elmar Brok, the German MEP from Angela Merkel’s CDU group who sits on the parliament’s Brexit steering group, the Independent reported.

It was put together by Josef Weidenholzer, from the Austrian centre-left SPOe.

A full link to the article can be found here.

CONSERVATIVE HOME NEWSPAPER, U.K.: Councils have the financial incentive to rubber stamp bad development proposals.

Cllr Stephanos Ioannou is a councillor in Enfield. He is studying Public Policy at King’s College London.

Local councillors across the country will know the struggle is real in the planning system. Not only does it seem to be irresponsive to the real needs of our local communities that are in need of mixed residential, commercial, office, public buildings and green space.  But we see planning applications that pose more negatives than positives being allowed to pass through for ‘the greater good, and the bigger picture’.

One surprising reason for this can be derived from the fact that awarding planning permission in the UK comes down to a Faustian pact. If the devil is in the detail, then the detail is Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Specifically, a clause which formalised “planning gain”, making it in the local authorities’ interests to allow schemes to balloon beyond all reason, in the hope of raking some of the developers’ profits for the public good.

Introduced as a negotiable levy on new development, Section 106 agreements entail a financial contribution to the local authority, intended to be spent on offsetting the effects of the scheme on the local area. The impact of a hundred new homes might be mitigated by money for extra school places, or traffic calming measures. In practice, since council budgets have been reduced, Section 106 has become a primary means of funding essential public services, from social housing to public parks, health centres to highways, schools to play areas. The bigger the scheme, the fatter the bounty for both developers and authorities. Vastly inflated density and a few extra storeys on a tower can be politically justified as being in the public interest, if it means a handful of trees will be planted on the street.

My borough, Enfield, is seeing a surge in young families moving to our borough to escape the surge in housing costs elsewhere in the capital. Predominantly the reasons for the rising demand in our borough are those highlighted by an article in the Evening Standard which mention the ease of accessibility with good motorway connections, good transport links into central London, as well as a the fact that average house prices are modestly rising only 0.4% in our borough, which is something to be reckoned with compared to other parts of London.

But things start to go wrong when planning departments do not take into account, aspects of the local area that make our borough unique. Whether looking at local heritage, the mix of commercial, residential, offices, and the style of new builds, often Enfield Council is quick to bow to the demands by developers and architects for the simple reason of referring to ‘the housing shortage and the need for new homes’. This is a poor state of affairs, and I am worried that the council is moving towards the path of jeopardising local beauty and conservation for the sake of housebuilding. Particularly for a borough such as Enfield which is lucky to have the green-belt it does, this is a real problem for councillors who have to defend their communities.

The issue of planning is also one that concerns the issue of bureaucracy within the council, that sometimes leads to poor decisions and outcomes on certain issues.  I remember a local constituent having issues with an application for the property behind her. The Council had, instead of looking at the issue and reopening the planning decision, moved on ‘under delegated powers’ despite major resident objections, to see this build through. This point is echoed by a piece in the Enfield Independent which mentioned that the construction caused ‘considerable cracks in the neighbouring properties of other residents’, and that despite objections being raised within the given time-frame of the regulated pre-planning decision consultation, the planning committee on the council did not even bother to respond to residents’ concerns, and even after ringing, residents could not get in touch with the department.

This goes fundamentally to the heart of what us Councillors try to do, and sometimes can’t do, that is to help our residents most when they need it. Why? Because the failures of planning departments, in this case, mean bureaucracy causes delays, which then causes miss-representation, which then lead to poorly made planning decisions that affect not only the aesthetics of the area, but the general confidence residents have in the council dealing with their concerns in future.

It also raises a bigger question, as to how many similar cases are there, where other developments have gone through without the necessary vigorous scrutiny they need? I agree that we must build for new families and promote a home-owning democracy, but if departments simply rubber stamp applications without giving the power to residents and councillors to scrutinise for the greater good, then what’s the point in even having these departments anyway. We might as well pack up and go home as Councillors, because they are making a major part of our job redundant.

Overall, we have a conundrum of problems. Firstly, local councils are disregarding the necessary mix of residential, commercial and office space for the sake of building homes to fix the housing crisis. This is further worsened by the fact developers can ‘help’ plug the funding pressure of new homes, and contribute towards the funding of some local services, and this makes it increasingly tempting for councils to bow to these demands so that they can increase provision because budgets are tight. And then there is the nitty-gritty issue of local residents who struggle to even express their concerns to local planning departments, and this does not help residents build trust in councils who clearly disregard their concerns.

Local council planning departments such as those in Enfield need a major rethink as to how they approach future planning applications. Otherwise we can expect poor decisions on planning to continue into the future, to the detriment of  existing residents.

A full spread of the article can be found here.

PARIKIAKI NEWSPAPER, U.K.: Autumn Gardens 11th Anniversary Celebration

Autumn Gardens is a registered care home . The home opened in April 2007 and owned by Melis Ourris and family. Autumn Gardens is located in Trent Gardens, Southgate, North London.

This year it was the care home 11th anniversary and they celebrated with a massive barbecue last weekend where family and friends of the residents attended and special guests included Archbishop Gregorios, Deputy Mayor of Enfield Kate Anolue, Enfield Councillors Stefanos Ioannou, Maria Alexandrou, Alessandro Georgiou, Achilleas Georgiou, Hasan Yusuf and former Enfield Councillor now retired Andreas Constantinides. Also there Susie Constantinides the Chair of the Cypriot Community Centre and Kyriacos Tsioupras former Editor Parikiaki Newspaper.

A full link to the article can be found here.