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Movers and Shakers – Peter George at the helm of Meridian Water a pioneering £6bn regeneration programme

Movers and Shakers

This is our new profile series spotlighting people in East London who are working to grow our region.

In our second interview, we caught up with Peter George, who is heading a pioneering council-led major £6 billion regeneration project that is transforming the Meridian Water site in Enfield. We asked Peter about the advantages and challenges of the council taking the helm of this enormous project to create a new city hub in Edmonton, and what it means for local people.

Meridian Water is an enormous redevelopment programme, what is your role and how did you get involved?

I am the Programme Director for Meridian Water which means I am one of the Council’s corporate directors and I am the senior officer leading this major £6 billion regeneration programme. I have been leading on Meridian Water for the past six years. When I began leading the project I also had other responsibilities including leading estate regeneration, economic development and the planning department, but since the Council took the decision to become the master developer in 2018 it became necessary for me to solely focus on delivering Meridian Water.

Meridian Water is being actively led by Enfield Council, this has been described as a pioneering approach – what have been the challenges and benefits of this approach? 

We do not believe that any other council in London is taking on the role of master developer on a major regeneration project like this. The role of master developer entails the Council being responsible for setting the overall vision, taking the strategic planning role, acquiring land, delivering transport and social infrastructure, estate management, and appointing partners to deliver the homes and employment projects.

Before leading on Meridian Water the Council attempted to facilitate development via a strategic planning role, but the market was turned off by the fragmented land ownership, poor public transport and contaminated land, so it was essential that the public sector stepped forward to facilitate this development opportunity.

There are massive benefits to this approach: we have greater control and therefore ability to deliver upon the priorities of the Council and local people. On the other side the associated challenges are the level of risk and financial exposure the Council has to manage.

How will Meridian Water meet residents’ needs and meet the Council’s priorities? 

Meridian Water aims to deliver 10,000 homes, 6,000 jobs and all of the health, education, rail, roads, shops, parks and restaurants needed to support a population of approximately 30,000 people. It is an incredible privilege to be leading such an ambitious and ground-breaking project and a huge responsibility to create a new piece of city.

We are proud that we are uniquely organising the entirety of the programme to directly benefit the local people of Edmonton – we want them to be the principal beneficiaries of all the growth and opportunities with the desire of creating a legacy where the area is no longer in the top 10% most deprived because we have enabled local people and businesses to prosper.

How is the project progressing, what have been the highlights so far?

An enormous amount of work has been done and we’ve passed some major milestones, some of the key successes so far are:

  • delivering the Meridian Water train station on time and on budget,
  • securing £170m grant funding from government to pay for strategic infrastructure,
  • acquiring circa 70% of the developable land,
  • obtaining planning permission for 3,000 homes,
  • appointing Vistry to deliver the first 1,000 homes,
  • selecting a Tier 1 contractor to deliver infrastructure works,
  • opening the Drumsheds – a 10,000 capacity music and cultural centre,
  • delivering film studios with our partners Troubadour Theatres,
  • establishing a strong placemaking vision and inspirational masterplan,
  • appointing Building BloQs to deliver Europe’s largest workshop for the maker economy,
  • approving strategies including environmental, employment, communications and taking a strong stance on equalities and diversity.

Finally, I am particularly proud to have established an incredibly talented, dedicated and dynamic team of people!

What is happening over the next few months and what do you hope to have achieved (all being well) in the coming year?

We are at year six of this 30-year programme and we are all really excited about what we can achieve in 2021. In fact, we recently signed a deal with Troubadour Theatres to build film and television studios, that will provide around 450 permanent jobs whilst a new film and TV skills academy will ensure hundreds of local people are trained up every year. Construction work is concluding, and the film studios could open as early as spring 2021. There is much more to come.

During spring our partner Vistry will start building the first 1,000 homes with first completions the following year.

In the summer our Tier 1 contractor will commence construction of the government funded infrastructure works including new parks, roads, bridges and cycle lanes.

This summer Building BloQs – new home for creative industry – will open the new workspace for thousands of freelance designers, makers and small businesses, many of them local residents.

In the autumn we will open an onsite construction skills academy training up local people so they can take advantage of the thousands of construction jobs Meridian Water and Enfield projects will generate.

We aim to obtain approval for the new Meridian Water masterplan, and we hope to appoint more partners and obtain more residential planning permissions. There’s a lot happening!

This is a development with lofty green ambitions what have you achieved so far and what are you looking forward to achieving?

The Meridian Water environmental sustainability strategy aims to achieve a carbon neutral development by 2030, reuse 30% of materials and deliver 30% green open space and we are on track to deliver all three of those headline targets.

We have already delivered a circular economy project, improved the carbon performance of the first developments and the Council has established its own energy company – Energetik which will provide green energy to all 10,000 homes. Energitik will provide low carbon heat through a series of community heat networks and reduce the buildings’ carbon footprint for heating by 80%.

Find out more

You can find out more about everything that is happening at www.meridianwater.co.uk

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