Go-ahead for Arnos Grove car parks plan after appeal upheld

Planning inspector overturns original decision to reject planning permission, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

How the Arnos Grove car park development would look if built
The plans for Arnos Grove Station

Permission has been granted for a housing development on car parks at Arnos Grove Station after a planning inspector overruled a decision to reject it.

The plan to build 162 flats in blocks up to seven storeys high at the Grade 2-listed station, which will lead to the loss of 292 parking spaces, was backed by the government-appointed inspector in a decision report published today (Wednesday). It followed a public inquiry that was held between 1st and 4th March.

Enfield Council’s planning committee resoundingly rejected the proposal by Connected Living London – a partnership between Transport for London (TfL) and property firm Grainger – in January last year. The committee ruled 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 station building.

But after CLL appealed the decision, the council decided not to defend the reasons for refusal at the inquiry – partly as a result of subsequent changes to planning policy. Residents’ groups Cockfosters Local Area Residents Association (Clara) and the Friends of Arnos Park gave evidence against the scheme during the inquiry, but the council’s formal position was that permission should be granted.

In the decision report, planning inspector David Prentis wrote that the proposal “is in accordance with the development plan [the council’s Local Plan] as a whole”.

The inspector said the area is “well-served by public transport” and that by prioritising pedestrians and cyclists the scheme would accord with policies designed to “reduce the dominance of vehicles on London’s streets” and improve access to underground stations.

Addressing the accessibility concerns, he said there would be “no disadvantage” for Blue Badge holders. At least eleven disabled parking spaces are included in the plans, with scope for further provision.

The inspector acknowledged that for people with restricted mobility who are not eligible for a Blue Badge there would be “some reduction in accessibility for persons who currently use a car to access the station”. However, he added that measures to prioritise pedestrians “would advance equality of opportunity for persons whose mobility is restricted by age, disability or pregnancy/maternity and who do not have access to a private vehicle”.

The inspector wrote: “Closure of the car park is unlikely to have a significant effect on the ability of the public at large to access public transport. The proposal would have a beneficial impact on the road network, by reducing vehicular traffic in the locality.”

Addressing the heritage concerns, the inspector said replacing the car parks “with buildings of a respectful scale and high-quality design” would enhance the setting of the listed building, outweighing the harm caused by the scheme.

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The development is set to provide 40% affordable housing, although only 9% of the homes will be three-bedroom ‘family-sized’ units.

The inspector wrote that it had been demonstrated that “the proposed mix of discounts is the maximum level of affordability that the scheme could support” and, with a high proportion of three-bedroom and larger family homes in Southgate Green ward, it would “provide greater choice for those who do not live in larger households”.

The decision notice refers to the fact that Enfield has been failing to meet its housing targets in recent years, meaning added weight has to be given to new housing schemes.

Following the planning inquiry, Clara drew attention to the announcement by transport secretary Grant Shapps that he would block TfL’s plan to build hundreds of homes on car parks at Cockfosters Station.

But the inspector wrote: “I attach little weight to this decision because the secretary of state for transport has already granted an application, under the same legislation, relating to this appeal site.”

Enfield Southgate MP Bambos Charalambous said he was “very disappointed” by the decision. He added: “Last year, I lodged objections to the Arnos Grove Station car park proposal after many conversations with constituents.

“The strength of feeling was clear, as there was real concern that this development would be an overdevelopment of the area, place significant pressure on local infrastructure, and reduce accessibility for the tube station for the disabled and elderly. I continue to share these concerns today.”

Update (30/03):

In a statement, the Federation of Enfield Residents and Allied Associations described the loss of parking spaces and the failure to provide a drop-off zone as “a purge on car use that benefits nobody”, claiming the scheme would “degrade transport links for many thousands living in the catchment area”.

It added: “We find it inexplicable that TfL, charged with delivering the best service possible, is pressing for a sell-off of assets that conflicts with its prime duty.

“Park and ride is settled national policy, helping many to make more use of public transport and reducing car miles. But the mayor believes London is different – he should spell out why, then how he will return to strengthening public transport instead of degrading it.”

Update (31/03):

Daniel Anderson, a local ward councillor whose petition against the scheme gained more than 3,000 signatures, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the decision and claimed even the affordable homes would be out of reach of those on median earnings in Enfield. 

He added: “This is a development that will not help residents in the borough or neighbouring boroughs […] effectively, the development will bring more people into the area on short-term tenancies and will not in any way enhance the borough.”

Cllr Anderson asked what was the point in a planning committee “if ultimately decisions can be rejected on the basis that the London Plan trumps everything”.

“We are saying local councils have no relevance,” he added. “We might as well fall over and allow developers to build whatever they like.”

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