OUR OPEN SPACES
Highlands Ward encompasses a swathe of countryside to the north, which serves as a refuge for wild life including foxes, deer and badgers. A bridle path reaching Trent Park forms its Western Boundary. This is used daily by an equestrian centre (with around 120 Horses) situated just inside Cockfosters Ward. From the margins of Williams Wood looking to the south-east, the spire of St. Mary Magdalene’s Church stands out at the top of Slades Hill. On the distant skyline the towers of Canary Wharf are visible.
The arable land over Hog Hill has been farmed for cereal crops. Just outside the A110 orbital road, horses graze in fenced pastures. Similarly, livestock are licensed to roam on the parcel of green belt meadows south of this road, which slope down towards the woods around Boxers Lake and the back gardens of Cotswold Way. Wildfowl also land and take refuge in these enclosures. Buzzards, sparrowhawks and the odd red-tailed kite can be seen wheeling overhead on warmer days.
To the east is Enfield Golf Course with rolling greens visible from Worlds End Lane but otherwise enjoying seclusion from busy thoroughfares. Worlds End Lane has its own open green space, on the edge of the course adjoining Glen Brook.
Allotments are worked off Trentwoodside and Shooters Road near Chase Farm Hospital. On the other side of the lower access track to allotments at Trentwoodside there are paddocks and an orchard. At the end of the track are open, uncultivated fields affording views up to Hog Hill and mixed woodlands on the eastern fringes of Trent Park.
Our residents endure or ignore the inevitable road traffic noise, magnitude of which depends on proximity to main routes and time of day. This is comparable to adjacent wards. Highlands is, however, surprisingly quiet at its rural extremities, particularly around Shaw’s wood where tranquillity and solitude reward a short walk away from the busy A110.
There are regular flights overhead to and from London Heathrow and City Airports; though aircraft have a respectable altitude when they climb over a north east trajectory, or descend under a more distant parallel. Police helicopters frequently follow similar paths at lower altitudes in and out of Lippits Hill, Essex. The ward is witness to occasional flights out of RAF Mildenhall and into City Airport featuring heavy duty helicopters and tilting rotor Ospreys as part of US Presidential missions. Displays of Red Arrows and historic aircraft formations above Buckingham Palace and the Mall often peel off overhead. Such air traffic noise is, of course, less noticeable in colder months of the year.
Green Belt Encroachment
Highlands' fields are under persistent threat of obliteration. They are London Diocese Land on the south side of the orbital road between Enfield and Oakwood. The leasehold was acquired from the Church of England by Fairview Homes on the expectation that planning permission would be granted for new construction. A future housing estate, consisting of more than 300 houses and a school has been proposed.
The area is already saturated with schools and houses, accessed by busy thoroughfares and supplied by potentially overused utilities and services. Of equal importance is the short sighted and lazy stratagem of squandering designated ‘green belt’ land, which would blight our landscape and threaten wild life habitats. Meanwhile the Enfield Borough Local Plan Revision process continues into 2020.
There is strong opposition from local residents and neighbours on environmental grounds. Our Local Councillors have been resolutely supportive. 1,700 people responded to the first consultation. At the end of 1919, Mayor Khan stood up to the Planning Inspectorate and refused to dilute Green Belt protection in the New London Plan. (He did agree to reduce housing targets which, if affirmed in the final plan, should ease pressure on Enfield.)
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has featured our Fields on their site register of threatened green belt land. You can find the London map under the following link: http://www.cprelondon.org.uk/resources/item/2288-protect-london-map. Click on the nearest red map balloon marker to see the record for Enfield.
Enfield RoadWatch This Campaign Group reformed in 2015 to deal with the threat. They have their own website (linked behind the heading). You can keep up with all news and features on its pages. A second public consultation, this time on the actual Draft Local Plan, is anticipated. The updated timeline will be posted on their website. Join the ERW e-mail list so they can let you know when action is required. Just write to email@example.com. And why not ‘like’ ERW on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up with the rumours and announcements.
South Lodge Farm: Under Scrutiny
It has been our privilege, in past years, to accommodate farming in Highlands Ward. We have enjoyed the reassurance of knowing our rural landscape was nearby. Recent disregard by the owner of South Lodge Farm for any positive land maintenance has been a matter of regret. Food production is more important than ever and we nurture the hope that crop cultivation will return.
Activities at the farm (adjacent to the A110 Enfield road) have since been a source of vexation to our residents. In the mid 1990’s plans were put forward to convert the site to a garden centre. The application was refused so the occupier kept pigs instead, subjecting the neighbourhood to offensive smells; which led to a banning order.
After livestock was withdrawn there followed a period of neglect. More recently, a chronic nuisance was caused by storage of numerous, unsightly white refrigerated vans and turning or parking of extended heavy goods vehicles. This was compounded by deterioration of site infrastructure and occupation by strangers to our community.
Council ‘Stop’ and Enforcement Orders, were thwarted by attempts at diverting justice through retrospective and inappropriate planning applications. One of these proposed a change of use to 'storage and distribution of vehicles' with elevation of another large shed. This would have impaired general outlook, blighted our landscape and reintroduced problems already endured with access (to and from Enfield Road) through a gateway not intended for operations on an industrial scale and intensity.
A further revised, retrospective planning application was eventually accepted, in July 2017, under conditions designed to ensure compliance with Green Belt policy and in the interests of visual amenity. Permission was granted for limited storage of vehicles within the existing barn on the understanding that toilet facilities would be permanently re-located inside the warehouse building. Also, Portacabins (and other makeshift structures) would be removed and no activities or storage of vehicles associated with use would take place on any outside areas of the site. Crucially, no more than 20 Long-Wheelbase type vans (or equivalent size) and 2 cars associated with use should be contained within the site at any one time.
However, this was not a permanent solution. Increasing, obstructive vehicle movements involving transporters and parking, overnight or for longer periods, have clogged side-roads adjacent to the premises (notably along Greystoke Gardens). Workers’ cars have been parked on South Lodge Crescent. Conspicuous and substantial littering and tipping of rubbish have plagued verges and clearings in the woodland around lakeside and the top of Lowther Drive.
All of this has been associated with overspill activities at South Lodge Farm. Suspicions have been aired about limits of use being exceeded on site and unauthorised sub-letting to several Licensees who, in turn, are conducting their trade unethically and, perhaps, unlawfully. Council workers and volunteer teams have carried out major clearances but yet more rubbish accumulates. There is an ever present anxiety that abuse of the South Lodge estate will bring it into unwelcome prominence and create an excuse for re-development. The longer term fear is that urban sprawl will push the agricultural green belt back and, ultimately, become united with the unrelenting noise and chaos of the M25.
Early in 2019 Council Enforcement Officers visited the occupiers again and made clear that current operations are not acceptable. Storage of commercial vehicles off-site, no matter how short-term, will not be tolerated. Officers were then informed that the business will be relocating to a new site in Nazeing at the beginning of March 2019.
Further investigations revealed that a vehicle repair business has been established in the barn, without the benefit of planning permission. The unauthorised business owner alleges that the site owner will apply for planning permission to change use. In the absence of this the business must be banned and the operator expelled. Nevertheless if vans are taxed, MOT’d and insured then there is nothing in law to prevent them being parked on the road.
In contravention of conditions imposed in 2019 by the Council numerous vehicles (some almost too large to squeeze in and out while obstructing traffic) continue to be parked (or dumped) outside sheds and there are concerns about what materials hazardous to our environment might have been leaked or improperly stored. Enforcement officers visited the site on several occasions since the end of November and, we understand, are in the process of ‘Enforcement and Stop’ relating to use and storage outside to the front, side and rear. No significant improvement was detected in 2020. At one point there was also elevated storage of vehicles: visibility above hedgerows is not permitted.
Trent Park: past, present and future?
Trent Country Park is the largest park in the London Borough of Enfield, extending to 167 hectares (413 acres) and forming part of London's green belt. Within it are rolling meadows, exquisite lakes, ancient woodland, seclusion and tranquility. The park provides recreational opportunities for walking, running, cycling, and horse riding. There is also a golf club, hockey club, a ‘Go-Ape’ tree top adventure course, a Japanese garden and a welcome cafe.
The south-eastern boundary of the Park is adjacent to the area covered by the Western Enfield Residents' Association, with a pedestrian entrance a few steps from the Lakeside bus stop, and the future of the park is therefore a matter of special concern to WERA members.
Within the park is a historic grade II listed mansion which, in the nineteen twenties and thirties, was owned by millionaire socialite and politician, Sir Philip Sassoon, who entertained on a lavish scale. Guests at Trent Park included Winston Churchill, Edward VIII & Wallis Simpson, Charlie Chaplin, George Bernard Shaw, the King & Queen of Belgium and Rex Whistler, the English artist, whose wall paintings can still be seen in the house.
Sir Phillip died in 1939 and three months later World War II broke out. Soon after that, Trent Park was requisitioned by the War Office to be used as an interrogation centre for high-ranking German officers. After the war, Trent Park became a teachers' training college and ownership of the mansion, together with 21 hectares (52 acres) passed in due course to Middlesex University.
In 2012, Middlesex University left Trent Park and sold its campus, including the mansion, to a Malaysian Educational group who subsequently encountered financial difficulties as a result of which the campus and mansion was, again, put up for sale.
At a meeting of the Friends of Trent Country Park on the 10th September 2015 it was announced that a sale had been arranged to the Berkeley Group The Friends of Trent Country Park is a volunteer group formed in 2005 to ensure the enjoyment of Trent Park by present and future generations. Peter Gibbs (Chairman) gave a cautious welcome to the latest proposals and expressed the hope that the future of the mansion, the other historic buildings and campus grounds will now be secure - for the foreseeable future.