Building on “scrubby” areas of Enfield’s green belt could be a way of tackling the housing crisis without overburdening existing neighbourhoods, it has been claimed.

Enfield Council’s new local plan – a framework designed to guide planning decisions – could see small areas of green belt land opened up for development in a bid to ramp up housebuilding.

The Mayor of London says the council needs to build 1,900 homes a year during the next decade – almost four times the current rate of development – while the council’s own assessment shows an annual target of 2,400 homes is needed to meet demand.

Conservative leader Cllr Joanne Laban has previously criticised the proposal to build on the green belt – which covers around a third of Enfield – claiming the council should focus on brownfield land in the east of the borough.

Cllr Laban believes the provision of homes should be linked to a future Crossrail 2 project, which she claims the council previously committed to doing.

But at a meeting of the Enfield Racial Equality Council (EREC) yesterday (Wednesday, January 9), members pointed out that building in areas that are already densely populated could put more strain on transport and other public services.

May Hope, the council’s local plan lead, said the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework gave the council “an opportunity to review the green belt”.

She said: “There are some bits of the green belt where they probably no longer fulfil the purpose. Also, there is a station in the green belt (Crews Hill) – that is another area we are looking at.”

EREC co-chariman Bevin Betton said: “There is a lot of green belt we should build on. We have got to be pragmatic and realistic.

“We have got two choices: either use some of the green belt scrub land, or we have to go up again and build high-rise buildings better than we did in the 1960s and 70s.”

Mrs Hope agreed the council could face a choice between building on “some scrubby bits of land defined as ‘previously developed’” in the green belt or building high-rise homes in areas that are “already constrained”.

She said: “There is no shying away from it – public transport will be constrained; schools will be constrained. We have to have a balance.”

But Cllr Claire da Silva, Conservative member for Bush Hill Park, said she “absolutely disagreed” with the green belt proposals.

She added that the council needed to focus on building “places” with shops and public spaces, and raised questions about whether these were being given enough attention on the council’s flagship Meridian Water scheme.

Councillors also discussed the need for clearer definitions of affordable housing.

While the council has a target for half of the homes on new developments to be affordable, its own definition of ‘affordable’ differs from the Mayor of London’s view.

EREC member Suhas Khale stressed the need to ensure new housing would be affordable to Enfield’s sizeable black, Asian and minority ethnic community.

The council does not have a preferred option on its planning approach, and the local plan is currently out to a public consultation.

More information is available here.