Cockfosters office conversion approved after developer wins appeal

None of the 216 flats will be designated ‘affordable’, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Blackhorse Tower in Cockfosters is about to be converted into 216 flats
Blackhorse Tower in Cockfosters is being converted into 216 flats

Enfield Council faces having to pay thousands of pounds in costs after losing a fight to stop a disused office block in Cockfosters being turned into housing.

A plan by developer Chase New Homes to redevelop Blackhorse Tower in Cockfosters Road was granted by a government planning inspector after the council had previously tried to block the scheme to provide 216 homes.

The council was also ordered to pay costs to Chase New Homes after the inspector found it had engaged in “unreasonable behaviour”.

The developer subsequently described the council’s actions as “astonishing” in light of the national housing crisis. But the council argues it is concerned over the impact office-to-flat conversion schemes have had on town centres, along with Enfield’s shortage of affordable homes.

Offices can be turned into flats under permitted development rights, which allow developers to change the use of buildings without submitting a formal planning application. Such moves can be blocked if a local council agrees to introduce an ‘Article 4 direction’, but Enfield has yet to do so.

A statement from Chase New Homes said: “The council’s approach in refusing our applications has been quite astonishing when there’s a national housing crisis.

“The council is in special measures for its poor record on housebuilding, which is not surprising considering they refused our scheme for 200 new homes because they felt it had four parking spaces too many.

“We fail to see any scheme can fail for this reason, but refusing so many new homes like this does not seem to be in the public interest.”

Last year, the council had its planning powers curbed after failing to meet a government housing target for three years in a row. Its draft Local Plan, also published last year, includes proposals to build more than 6,000 homes on land currently designated as Green Belt.

After winning its appeal against the council, Chase New Homes is now pressing ahead with a plan to convert Blackhorse Tower into 216 one and two-bedroom flats, with facilities set to include a “fitness suite” and cinema.

A council spokesperson said: “Chase New Homes sought a change-of-use approval under the permitted development regulations, where the council has limited control over the conversion of employment space into homes.

“Enfield Council notes the decision of the planning inspector, which the council has no control over.

“However, we are deeply concerned about the impact that permitted development like this scheme has and will continue to have on Enfield’s town centres and businesses, which have already been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Businesses could be priced out of town centres to the detriment of local communities.

“In addition, permitted developments such as this conversion provide no affordable homes, nor the financial obligations to support local educational or community needs, such as new school places arising from the new homes.

“The council wants to support local people by ensuring all new developments meet the needs of the community, as well as developers.”