Report by Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
A plan to build flats on the car parks at Arnos Grove Station has been resoundingly rejected in a setback for Transport for London’s (TfL) housing programme.
Councillors threw out plans to build blocks up to seven storeys high at the Grade 2-listed station, following a planning committee debate on Tuesday that lasted nearly four hours.
Planning chiefs at Enfield Council had recommended the 162-home “build to rent” scheme for approval, claiming the proposals “align with relevant local, regional and national policy”.
But the committee disagreed after hearing objections from residents, councillors and Conservative MP Theresa Villiers, who represents neighbouring Chipping Barnet and criticised the housing mix, impact on the station building, and loss of 292 parking spaces. Two petitions with more than 3,000 signatories were also submitted in objection to the scheme.
The decision is a setback for TfL’s wider plans to develop several tube station car parks across suburban North London, including at Cockfosters, High Barnet and Finchley Central – all of which are larger schemes than the one rejected this week.
During the meeting, planning officer Allison De Marco said a survey showed 98.8% of car park users could use alternative modes of transport, as they lived close to bus routes and other railway stations, or within walking and cycling distance of Arnos Grove.
But although the plans included eleven parking bays for blue badge holders – six accessible to the public and five for residents of the flats – opponents claimed they would have a negative impact on elderly people and those with mobility issues who do not own a blue badge.
Speaking at the meeting, Peter Gibbs, vice president of the Federation of Enfield Residents and Allied Associations, warned of the impact of losing the car parks on “mums with kids and buggies, shift workers, unsocial hour workers, health workers travelling with equipment, visually impaired persons, women, pregnant mums and so on”.
He added: “Beyond that, there are tradesmen, commuters and key service workers – not just now, but in the future as well. It is a very large community, and they are all dismissed by this report.”
The scheme was also criticised over the affordability of the planned homes. Although 39.5% were classed as ‘affordable’, opponents argued most of the flats would be out of reach of the majority of Enfield residents.
Southgate Green councillor Daniel Anderson, within whose ward the station sits, objected to the scheme as a ward councillor and told the committee only 19 units would be at London Living Rent levels, meaning less than 12% of the homes would be “genuinely affordable to local residents”.
He added: “The other 45 affordable homes will only be affordable to those on annual incomes of between £50,000 and £60,000, and there are no homes at social rent levels.”
TfL and its developer, Grainger, defended the scheme. Rebecca Crow, associate director at Grainger, said the flats would provide an option for “Enfield’s growing population of renters”.
Rebecca claimed 40% of the homes would be “genuinely affordable” and added: “Affordability has been considered alongside information on local household incomes to ensure they are genuinely accessible to those on low and middle incomes, including key workers and local employees.”
Lee Campbell, senior property development manager at TfL, refuted claims that building on the car parks would make Arnos Grove Station less accessible for those with extra mobility needs. He said: “All TfL buses are accessible. TfL also offers help and support to those who most need it, through assisted travel programmes, its travelling mentoring services, door-to-door travel services, and its support for visually impaired travellers and those with hidden disabilities.”
But the plans were sharply criticised by several committee members. Conservative member Maria Alexandrou claimed there was a lack of larger, family-sized units, with only 14 homes containing three bedrooms and the rest either one or two-bed flats. Labour’s Hass Yusuf also said the fact that the affordable homes were situated all in the same block amounted to “segregation”.
Kate Anolue, another Labour member, said most Edmonton residents would be unable to afford the flats, meaning they were “not addressing the issues in our borough”. And Derek Levy, who was substituting on the committee as a member of Community First, described it as the worst application he had ever voted on.
Eleven out of twelve committee members voted against planning officers’ recommendations to approve permission, with only chairperson Sinan Boztas abstaining. All members then voted to refuse the scheme.
Because it is a major application, the plans will now be referred to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan – who is also the chair of TfL – to decide whether to confirm or overturn the committee’s decision.