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London regeneration – will Meridian Water be a game-changer?

In the penultimate part of this ongoing series on the capital’s regeneration hotspots, Property Investor Today explores one of North London’s largest regeneration projects.

The series has so far largely focused on areas south of the river – where many of London’s biggest regeneration projects are taking place – but in this article we try and redress that balance by focusing on Meridian Water, a £6 billion, 20-year programme to transform a heavily industrial area south of Enfield.

What are the plans?

Meridian Water, located in the south of the London Borough of Enfield between Edmonton, Tottenham and Walthamstow, is currently best known for being home to an IKEA, a Tesco superstore and, well, not a lot else.

The Meridian Water project, led by Enfield Council, is seeking to change that by bringing 10,000 new homes and thousands of jobs to the area.

Alongside ‘beautiful homes and world-class public spaces and community facilities’, the new development is also aiming to become London’s next major commuter hub, with Meridian Water station opening in June this year, offering Greater Anglia services to Stratford, Hertford East, Bishops Stortford and London Liverpool Street – with plans to introduce links to Stansted and Cambridge. It’s set to serve up to four million passengers each year at its peak.  

London regeneration – will Meridian Water be a game-changer?

The council, which is taking control of the vision for Meridian Water and overseeing its delivery, is basing its transformation around three key pillars, namely: mixing uses and animating streets, offering people park life at their doorstep, and making Meridian Water a place where people can make and create.

The local authority says it’s speeding up the delivery of the first new homes and jobs at Meridian Water, with phase one seeing the first 725 homes and retail space built at Willoughby Lane, delivered by the council’s development partner Galliford Try. These homes will be delivered around the brand-new Meridian Water station.

A planning application and development partner are also being progressed for Meridian Two at Leeside Road, set to deliver 250 affordable homes and earmarked for ‘makers and creators’ using new workspace on the lower floors. The plan is for this to be further complemented by a new employment hub for around 900 new jobs at a 2-3 acre site along the North Circular.

According to the council, its aim is to create a truly 24-hour neighbourhood – a new destination for people to ‘enjoy nightlife, music, theatre, cinema and much more, all year round’.

The development will have access to green space as well, with a new boulevard connecting the train station in the west to the Lee Valley Regional Park in the east, ‘passing over the waterways and through a series of public spaces to create one cohesive neighbourhood’.

As well as the station, another part of the regeneration scheme is also complete, with the first new school opened in January 2017. There is set to be further investment into schools, health services, community facilities, parks, leisure and culture and transport infrastructure in the coming years.

The council claims that Meridian Water will be the greenest development in London, with the 10,000-acre Lee Valley Regional Park next door, while the River Lea and the adjacent Pymmes Brook pass right through the site, offering the waterside living angle.

The council also says it’s making progress on bringing world-class open spaces to the area, with a new green space already open for local communities at Ladysmith Park.

With the environment now such an important issue for many, Enfield Council says it will strive for the highest quality of design and environmental sustainability standards throughout the development, with the new homes and businesses supplied by the council’s own energy company, energetik, with low carbon heat through a series of community heat networks - reducing carbon footprint for heating by 20%.

This CGI flythrough offers a good perspective on how things are expected to look once the grand vision is complete.  

A place to make and create

To ensure the development isn’t just a commuter hub, Meridian Water is keen to create an economy for makers and creators, delivering new jobs and opportunities ‘for local people on a scale which will transform the employment base of the borough’.

Currently, Enfield has a large concentration of industrial warehousing and logistics facilities, but the regeneration aims to represent a step-change away from this, with higher-skilled, higher-paid employment opportunities for local people.

The new site aims to attract major employers as well as startups, including new meanwhile uses, a new cluster for fashion manufacturing and the creation of workspaces for makers, creators and artists. 

London regeneration – will Meridian Water be a game-changer?

There’s also set to be a number of temporary projects across the site, creating short to medium-term employment opportunities and bringing activity to the area early on in the programme. This will include bringing the existing sheds back into use on the site by delivering high-quality leisure, arts and culture facilities to support a 24-hour destination.

Meanwhile, throughout the life of the overall regeneration programme, an estimated 10,000 construction jobs are set to be created, a dedicated training offering is set to provide a programme of traineeships and apprenticeships, and an active schools programme is also set to be delivered.

As Meridian Water is a development planned from scratch, super high-speed broadband is set to be delivered across the site – while digital infrastructure will be prioritised to maximise the benefits of the sharing economy.

Still a work in progress

While all of the above sounds great, it’s hard to see the vision right now, with only the station to show for the regeneration project at present. Next to the station, where the new homes will be built, are mammoth construction sites as far the eye can see – but no signs of any actual work being done.

As you step out of the station there are excellent, uninterrupted views of the new, £1 billion Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – looking slightly like something which has been dropped down from space – but once the development has been built these views will largely disappear.

London regeneration – will Meridian Water be a game-changer?

In truth, it’s a very odd location for a major regeneration project. It’s a thoroughly industrial area, dominated by huge Tesco and IKEA stores, a large Big Yellow Self Storage, a Coca Cola plant and other retail or factory offerings.

The North Circular roars overhead, while trains hurtle through Meridian Water on their way to Central London. There is noise and traffic everywhere you turn, but very little evidence of greenery or the new cultural destination the area is set to become.

The train station, while offering fast access to Tottenham Hale and Stratford, doesn’t have many trains running through it at present. This is perhaps understandable, given its newness, but there seems to be an average of only three or four trains an hour during the day and this will have to change drastically if it’s to reach a peak of four million.

On a bleak, grey day – as is the case when we visit – there is little to recommend it at present unless you enjoy walking beside busy roads or the sounds of heavy goods trucks hurtling past.

Its present state is, of course, an unfair reflection on how it could look once the project starts in earnest, but if you were to pick an area to create a new community and 24-hour neighbourhood this wouldn’t be at the top of many people’s list.

But maybe that’s the point; to convert a very industrial area into far more of a mixed-use affair, reclaiming Meridian Water’s association with the river and Lee Valley Regional Park at the same time.

Once the new homes, jobs, cultural venues and other attractions arrive, it’ll take on its own character and become a place all manner of people want to visit.

At present, that’s hard to imagine, but a lot of investment and thought is going into this regeneration project – and there’s a very clear vision from the council and its partners – which should stand it in good stead.

It will have to overcome a fair few challenges, though – not least the overwhelming presence of the North Circular and a surrounding area which is slightly drab. Attracting people here may be the biggest issue.

In this respect, it shares similarities with Old Oak Common – an out of the way location, a very industrial feel, little to draw people there in terms of restaurants, cafes, amenities, etc – and Nine Elms, a development built from scratch which struggles in terms of offering much in the way of character.   

What’s the latest?

Enfield Council was last week due to approve spending of the next £286 million on its Meridian Water development.

Members of the council were due to discuss the scheme at a council meeting, despite a union's calls for the vote to be delayed until after next month’s general election.

The £286 million which was to be signed-off would cover the rest of the current financial year, 2020/21, and 2021/22 – a period which covers the start of Galliford Try Partnership’s work on site delivering the first 725 homes of the project.

The appointment of a framework of contractors to deliver infrastructure works is also due to start in this period, with that construction work set to commence in 2021. What’s more, outline planning permission for a further 2,300 homes is up for consideration next year.

It’s not yet clear what the council decided on the financial model and 10-year budget for the Meridian Water scheme, with no minutes or press yet released on what happened at the meeting.

While the project is still very much a work in progress at present, you can’t question the boldness and ambition of the vision.

The final part of this series will focus on the transformation of Whiteleys Shopping Centre.

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