Councillors back down on reasons for refusing planning permission, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
A controversial plan to build flats on a tube station’s car parks is likely to go ahead after councillors backed down in response an appeal, the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands.
Enfield Council’s planning committee is understood to have withdrawn its reasons for refusing the 162-home “build-to-rent” scheme at Arnos Grove Station as it faces an appeal from the developer.
It comes as a boost for Transport for London’s (TfL’s) housing programme, which includes plans to build flats on several station car parks in Enfield, Barnet and other boroughs.
The Arnos Grove scheme planned by Connected Living London – a joint venture between TfL and property firm Grainger – would see flats up to seven storeys high built on the station’s two car parks, removing hundreds of spaces and restricting parking to only disabled Blue Badge holders and station staff.
In January, the council’s planning committee refused permission for the scheme, ruling it would not provide enough family housing, fail to make up for the loss of car parking, as well as fail to preserve or enhance the setting of the Grade 2-listed station building.
But the developer appealed to the government’s Planning Inspectorate, meaning the council would have to defend its position in an official inquiry due to be held later this year – and risk paying significant legal costs.
The council’s response to the appeal was discussed at a meeting of the planning committee on Tuesday, 31st August, in a session that the press and public were told they could not attend because it contained “exempt information”.
The LDRS understands that the decision subsequently reached by the committee came partly as a result of changes in planning policies that have been introduced in the months since permission was refused. In particular, City Hall’s new London Plan now puts a greater emphasis on walking, cycling and public transport.
The council has also come under more pressure to build new homes after missing its targets for several years and, in February, was told it had failed to meet the government’s housing delivery test. This was said to be another decisive factor.
Councillors on the committee were advised that their grounds for refusing the Arnos Grove scheme, on its housing mix and loss of parking, would now be given less weight by the planning inspector in the upcoming appeal.
Although the council could have defended its decision to refuse permission on heritage grounds, the LDRS understands the committee was told it would have difficulty finding an expert witness to argue its case before the deadline to submit evidence to the inquiry on 12th October.
A majority of councillors voted to withdraw the reasons for refusing the planning application, despite three Conservative members being in favour of continuing to oppose the scheme on heritage grounds.
Enfield Council did not respond to requests for comment.