Transport secretary blocks Cockfosters car park scheme

Shock move made by government comes just one month after scheme was approved by council, reports James Cracknell

The proposal for 351 homes at Cockfosters Station and (inset) transport secretary Grant Shapps
The proposal for 351 homes at Cockfosters Station and (inset) transport secretary Grant Shapps

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has said he will block Transport for London’s plan to build hundreds of homes on car parks at Cockfosters Station.

The shock announcement today (Friday) came just one month after Enfield Council’s planning committee voted to approve planning permission for the scheme.

It would have seen 351 homes built in four tower blocks up to 14 storeys tall, reducing the number of public parking spaces at the Grade 2-listed station from 370 to 47. More than 2,800 residents submitted written objections to the Cockfosters scheme, with an online petition to save the car parks gaining nearly 3,900 signatures.

A letter sent by Shapps to Theresa Villiers, the Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet who had opposed the development after arguing it would adversely affect her constituents, confirmed the government had decided to intervene to prevent the car parks being built on.

Explaining that he would utilise a legal clause set out within an act of parliament that granted devolved powers to City Hall, Shapps said in the letter: “I am writing to inform you that I have taken the decision to reject the application submitted by Transport for London under Section 163 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. This sought my consent to dispose of operational land at Cockfosters Station and car park.

“Thank you for raising your concerns on behalf of your constituents and for your previous correspondence on this matter. My department is committed to supporting Londoners to return to the public transport network and has provided close to £5billion in emergency funding to TfL over the last two years.

“I have taken the decision to reject this application as I am concerned that the parking provision at the station would be inadequate following the development proposed by TfL.”

The decision represents another blow to London mayor and TfL chair Sadiq Khan, who has frequently clashed with Shapps over the perilous state of TfL’s finances. Since the start of the pandemic, passenger numbers across the tube, rail and bus network in London have remained well below normal levels, forcing TfL to enter negotiations with the government. While TfL has sought a long-term deal, Shapps has repeatedly offered only short-term solutions, with the latest such funding deal set to keep public transport services in the capital running until June.

TfL’s plans to build on several tube station car parks – which also includes a scheme at Arnos Grove that is subject to an ongoing planning appeal hearing – is part of the transport body’s attempt to raise more income from its property portfolio.

Reacting to today’s announcement by Shapps, a TfL spokesperson said: “We can confirm that on 25th February we received the decision from the secretary of state. We are now taking the necessary time to understand and consider the implications and available next steps that result from the decision.”

Opposition councillors in Enfield who had long opposed the development at Cockfosters welcomed the decision on social media. However, the decision represents a setback to the Labour-run council, which has been forced by the government to introduce a “presumption in favour of sustainable development” after consistently missing its housing delivery targets.

Enfield Council declined to comment.