Do we want to lose this special place?
Developers are banging on doors in Crews Hill, seeing housing estates instead of garden centres. What’s going on? The draft Local Plan, which is under consultation until February 28, 2019, suggests that Crews Hill would be an excellent place for housing because of its station. At present, Crews Hill is considered Green Belt on the basis that horticulture is a permitted use in the Green Belt – but the Council would like to take it out of the Green Belt so that houses can be built there.
Yes, Enfield does need houses but development in Crews Hill would inevitably be low-density, non-affordable and car-dependent – in other words, it wouldn’t help much to meet the housing targets and would add to pollution. As an alternative, there are plenty of brownfield sites to meet the need, closer to public transport and where development would also improve deprived areas.
Crews Hill is a unique part of Enfield and there’s probably nowhere else like it in London. It developed to provide London with vegetables, plants and flowers and over the years the many garden centres have grown up. Most are family businesses handed down the generations and providing sites for tenant businesses, many of them also multi-generation family businesses. There are now about 100 businesses in Crews Hill, providing many services to customers from Enfield and far beyond. Going by the social media comments we’ve seen, most people do not want to lose Crews Hill! That includes the small businesses, many of whom have been there for decades and would be hard-pressed to find other locations if their leases are terminated. The land-owners may be tempted so we need to let the Council know what we think!
Unfortunately the draft Local Plan pays scant attention to the value of agriculture and horticulture in the borough, despite Enfield’s long-standing and valuable farming industry. This is a distinct departure from the 2014 Development Management Document [DMD] – still in force – which includes several policies to promote and protect agriculture including: ‘There is a long history of agriculture and horticulture in Enfield, which has played an important role in the development of the borough. The food sector continues to be an important contributor to Enfield’s economy, with a range of small-scale producers, wholesalers and large companies generating significant income and providing many jobs.
What has changed in the past 5 years to downgrade food and plant production from ‘important’ to inconsequential? The answer is ‘Nothing!’ If anything the value of growing food locally has become even more critical in light of environmental, economic and other challenges. The recent London Assembly report Farming in the Green Belt [December 2018] makes a convincing case for encouraging and facilitating local food growth. Among the many benefits it states: Food produced near to its consumers has to travel less, reducing transport emissions and requiring less packaging. It enables the supply of fresher food and more fruit and vegetables, promoting a healthier diet. It also provides employment.
Although food growing has been phased out in Crews Hill in favour of ornamental horticulture, there is no reason why it couldn’t again be a hub for food production in conjunction with the retail garden centres.
There are sound economic reasons for retaining horticulture and the garden centres in Enfield. A recent report by Oxford Economics The Economic Impact of Ornamental Horticulture and Landscaping in the UK quotes some impressive findings, including the fact that garden centres added nearly £1 billion to the UK GDP in 2017 and supported 2.9% of the UK’s retail workforce.
The 2014 DMD [referred to above] includes specific policies to protect and improve Crews Hill. The new Local Plan should include similar policies, in addition to recognising the value of agriculture in general. The Council should seek to promote local food growing in the area, work with TfL to improve the W10 bus service for visitors, workers and local residents, and crack down more consistently on inappropriate activities in the area.
Let’s fight to save the Crews Hill we know and love!
If you haven’t already done so, please respond to the Local Plan consultation before 5pm on February 28, 2019. See other articles on this website for more details.