Cockfosters Station towers approved despite 2,800 objections

The 14-storey scheme at Cockfosters Station drew objections from two local MPs as well as thousands of residents, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

An impression showing how the development on two separate car parks either side of Cockfosters Station will look when built
An impression showing how the TfL development on two separate car parks either side of Cockfosters Station will look when built

Transport for London’s plan to build four tower blocks at Cockfosters Station has been approved despite thousands of local residents opposing it.

TfL and development partner Grainger won permission for their controversial 351-home scheme during a marathon meeting of Enfield Council’s planning committee on Thursday, which ended shortly before midnight.

It will see four blocks rising to between 13 and 14 storeys high built on two car parks next to the Grade 2-listed station, leading to the loss of 323 public parking spaces, with 47 remaining.

The scheme is one of several planned for tube station car parks across London. A smaller development at Arnos Grove was refused by the same planning committee last year, but the council later withdrew its reasons for refusal following an appeal by the developer. An appeal hearing is set to take place in March.

More than 2,800 residents submitted written objections to the Cockfosters scheme during two council consultations, raising concerns over the impact on heritage, local services and infrastructure, public safety, accessibility, plus other issues. An online petition to save the car parks gained almost 3,900 signatures.

Planning officers at the civic centre admitted the proposed scheme failed to align with local policies on tall buildings and heritage assets, as well as a London Plan policy on open space. They conceded the buildings would harm the station, Trent Park and Trent Park Conservation Area.

Despite this, officers claimed the scheme’s benefits – including affordable homes, reduced air pollution and public realm improvements – would outweigh the negative impacts, particularly given the authority’s consistent failure to meet its housing targets.

The build-to-rent development is set to provide 211 one-bedroom flats and 105 two-bedroom units, with the remaining 35 homes containing three bedrooms. The affordable homes will make up 38% of the total units and will include a mixture of London Affordable Rent, London Living Rent and discount market rent housing.

Both Enfield Southgate MP Bambos Charalambous and Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers opposed the plans, alongside Barnet Council, which warned of an “unacceptable impact” on the borough’s roads.

Labour MP Bambos told the meeting the proposed scheme would lead to congestion and parking issues, add to the existing high demand for schools and GP services, and fail to provide enough family-sized homes.

Also speaking during the meeting, Conservative MP Theresa warned the development would particularly harm people with impaired mobility, who she claimed would be denied access to the tube network, and would “change Cockfosters forever”.

Colin Bull, chair of Cockfosters Local Area Residents Association, said the scheme would fail to meet a London Plan target to provide 50% affordable homes on public land, with no social rent housing. He added: “This entire development would be of short-term tenancy, and it would place more burdens on the local infrastructure.”

The development is set to include twelve parking spaces for disabled Blue Badge holders and a pick-up and drop-off point consisting of seven bays near the station entrance. But Kate Bishop, from East Barnet Residents Association, claimed building over the “extremely well used” car park would harm protected groups, including women, older people and those with disabilities.

Representatives from Connected Living London – the formal development partnership between TfL and Grainger – defended the scheme and claimed it would benefit Enfield.

Matt Sharpe, a planning agent for Connected Living London, claimed the borough’s draft Local Plan was supportive of tall buildings at Cockfosters, adding that £179,800 would be provided to support health facilities.

Matt added that all of the rental levels would be below the local housing allowance and described them as “genuinely affordable”.

Ben Tate, head of property development at TfL, said the plans would “help tackle the housing crisis and generate long-term, sustainable income that can be reinvested back into London transport networks”.

He added: “We can provide much-needed, quality housing, open space with integrated play space, and make the area in and around the station safer. In addition, we can create over 150 employment opportunities for local people.”

Several committee members raised concerns over the plans. Labour’s Hass Yusuf described the proposed buildings as “hideous” and “ugly”, bearing “no relation” to the design of the station.

Several councillors claimed people in the affordable housing tenures would effectively be segregated from the private renters, as they would be housed in separate blocks. But council officers said the affordable homes had been grouped together to reduce service charges, and residents would have access to all the facilities in the development.

Labour’s Doug Taylor raised concerns over a letter sent to councillors shortly before the meeting which suggested approving the scheme could open the door to a judicial review. He said the letter, sent by legal firm Irwin Mitchell, argued that the way in which the council had applied a key planning policy was not consistent with its application in a previous scheme.

In response, Jeremy Chambers, the council’s director of law and governance, said he was confident the council could “robustly defend” a decision to approve the development in the event of a legal challenge.

Derek Levy, an independent councillor from the Community First group, said the homes would likely be rented by people moving away from inner London, and the scheme would not address the housing needs of Enfield.

After the committee had spent more than three-and-a-half hours scrutinising the plans, Cllr Rye moved to reject the scheme, and the meeting was adjourned to prepare detailed reasons for refusal, which centred on the design of the scheme and its impact on heritage.

When the committee reconvened half-an-hour later, the four Conservative committee members, plus Cllr Levy, voted to refuse the plans. But six Labour members voted against refusal, with Cllr Taylor abstaining. Cllr Taylor then moved to defer the scheme, telling officers his questions had not been answered in sufficient detail, but his motion was lost.

Cllr Levy, Cllr Taylor and the Tory councillors voted against the recommendation to approve the scheme, while the six remaining Labour members were in favour. With the vote split six in favour and six against, committee chair Sinan Boztas used his casting vote to approve the scheme.