Plans to turn a car park next to Cockfosters tube station has been overturned by the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps after they had been approved by the local council.

The plan would have seen TfL’s joint venture with Connected Living London (CLL) build 351 flats for rent on the car park next to the station, reducing car parking from 336 spaces to 47, with increased cycling and pedestrian provision around the station.

There had been strong local opposition to the scheme, on grounds of the flats being too tall – despite being next to existing tall office blocks, and reducing car parking spaces. TfL had argued that most of the objections on grounds of loss of parking spaces came from local addresses that had alternative public transport options. The council’s planning officer report had however concluded that “the loss of the existing car park is considered acceptable”, citing the associated benefits of additional housing, affordable homes, public realm improvements, and reduced road pollution.

Proposed development (c) Development application

The council approved the scheme in February. All seemed settled until last week, when Chipping Barnet MP, Theresa Villiers said she had been informed by Grant Shapps that he was blocking the scheme.

Welcoming the news, Theresa Villiers said “It was shocking when Labour councillors in Enfield signed off on this scheme for high rise development in the outer suburbs and the removal of almost all parking spaces for commuters. They disregarded over 2500 objections from local people. I have been campaigning to save Cockfosters from the Mayor’s plans for years and it is hugely welcome that the Transport Secretary has now stepped in to put a stop to them.”

It seems that the Transport Secretary has used a clause in the Greater London Authority Act 1999 that may have never been called upon before. This requires that TfL will not be able to dispose of land or grant leasehold interests lasting more than 50 years without the consent of the Transport Secretary. Previously these have gone through on the nod, but this time, Grant Shapps has unexpectedly intervened and refused permission.

The clause only applies to operational land, and it could be for the lawyers to argue whether operational land applies to the entire TfL estate or only that land that is needed to provide TfL services – such as trains and buses. A car park may not be considered to be operational for the railway in that situation.

A Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman said “The decision has been taken to reject a TfL application to turn almost the entire car park next to Cockfosters station into housing. This will ensure residents can continue to have adequate parking facilities to access this vital station and the rest of the capital.”

However, as part of TfL’s funding agreement with the DfT requires TfL to increase the commercial use of its property assets, for the DfT’s boss to then block exactly such a scheme does look a bit awkward. There’s also the possibility that the Transport Secretary’s actions could be in contradiction of the Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997, which requires local authorities and the GLA to specify targets for reducing road traffic. Blocking TfL’s plans to replace a car park with housing in order to achieve a reduction in local road traffic could be challenged.

Of course, TfL challenging a decision by the Transport Secretary at a time when negotiations between the Mayor of London and the Department for Transport over funding for TfL are still ongoing, and relations between the two sides are said to be rather cool, might be a bad idea.

A TfL spokesperson confirmed that they had been notified of the decision: “We are now taking the necessary time to understand and consider the implications and available next steps that result from the decision.”

Theresa Villiers MP does accept that TfL could come back with a revised scheme for the site, so the Battle of Cockfosters Car Park is far from over.

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21 comments
  1. ChrisC says:

    Rather hypocritical for a Tory MP to complain that public objections have been ignored when it’s her governments own rules that say that just because there are lots of objections isn’t grounds to refuse an application.

    • MikeP says:

      Planning is a quasi-jidiciary process, so indeed the number of objections is not and cannot be a consideration.
      This has always been the case, and was not a decision of Villiers’ Government.

  2. Dan Coleman says:

    Tory Government: TfL must diversify, reduce its dependency on fare revenue and pay back debt.

    TfL: Cockfosters car park scheme (+ others)

    Tory Government: No.

    Logic.

  3. Dubidubno says:

    Why don’t they just build a parking garage in the basement?

    • ianVisits says:

      If you dig down, it pushes up the cost, reducing the income TfL gets from the project.

      If you build above the existing car park, with complaints about the building heights, you have to reduce the height of the flats by probably 2 floors, reducing the income TfL gets from the project.

    • alistair twin says:

      what ian said, plus you still lose car parking spaces, there are quite a lot of things that need to go into the lower floors of flats and it doesn’t alwyas line up with a car park

  4. LMonroe says:

    Well done Theresa Villiers and Grant Shapps.

    This would have created high-rise carbuncles in what seems like a pleasant and quiet part of Enfield on the border with Barnet – exactly the sort of suburban area despised by the Labour party.

    Even worse, it would have taken away crucial car parking spaces from the end of the line. Tube travel by commuters would have been discouraged at a time when TfL is desperate for ongoing improvements in passenger numbers.

    TfL should cut staff numbers, staff salaries and staff pensions for ongoing recurring savings, instead of trying to flog off precious car parks for one-off revenue.

    • Noxious says:

      So parking your car is more important than someones livelihood,someones home and many more jobs building said homes would create?

    • Jake says:

      Or, how about TfL suspend Cockfosters service entirely, as a way to ‘cut costs’?

      Seeing as the locals up there seem so vehemently opposed to London’s development and being urbanised, they’d surely much prefer a public transport offering more akin to and fitting of a ‘pleasant and quiet’ semi-rural setting, aka no high-frequency metro train service.

      Best way to shut NIMBYs up is to use their own arguments against them. No new houses in your back yards; no public transport in your back yards either.

    • Williams119 says:

      Just a small point, but common sense dictates that the Labour Party probably doesn’t despise a suburban area which has voted them into the local council, London Assembly, and a parliamentary seat, all on more than one occasion. Even for politics, that would be silly.

    • B Crow says:

      Too much early evening sherry as usual from LMonrore. Covid aside if your beloved Tory party stopped emasculating TFL for purely naked political purposes it could get on with getting London moving and planning for the future instead of having to maximise every bit of commercial land it owns.

    • LMonroe says:

      Williams119 your response is typically sneering, despite being totally wrong. All councillors in Cockfosters ward of Enfield council are Conservative according to the council website.

      https://governance.enfield.gov.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx?FN=WARD&VW=TABLE&PIC=1

  5. Mike Fenster says:

    I don’t object to flats per se, even high rise flats, which wouldn’t look out of place in the area. But I do strongly disagree that it makes sense to remove car parking places at the end of the tube line. We want to encourage commuters to use the tube, not to drive on towards London. If commuters cannot drive in from areas north of Cockfosters, park and take the tube, they will drive the whole journey. So it cuts into TfLs revenues and creates more traffic congestion. Locals probably don’t use the car park as its so expensive.

  6. Fazal Majid says:

    Replace one of the buildings with a multi-storey car park and you will satisfy the commuters’ objections while still improving land-use efficiency over the current surface parking lot.

    Sure, it may not be as profitable for TfL, but park-and-ride is a good thing, allowing people who cannot afford to live in Central or even not-so-central London to still commute there for work.

    I can certainly understand how TfL’s attitude of “based on the street address of your objection you can take the bus” would drive people’s back up (pun intended).

  7. Maggie Heraty says:

    The car park is ideal for commuters from further out of town who might otherwise drive further in and add to pollution and congestion. Wouldn’t it make sense to have big Park & Ride car parks at the end of every tube line and at other tube stations, say in a ring near the M25? Keep cars out if inner London and enhance TfL passenger revenue.

  8. Mike Roberts says:

    To remove parking spaces at a terminal tube station seems non-sensible. If TFL wants to encourage more passengers, they should give them somewhere to park their cars.

  9. Keith says:

    Wonder if TFL could consider adding a single level on part of the car park, to give a low level multi-storey. This would allow them to retain more parking spaces, whilst having flats on the rest.

    I know some people drive to Cockfosters boarding the tube to continue their journey into London. Going from 336 parking spaces to just 47 would have made this no longer realistically possible.

  10. Guardian says:

    It’s all down to what you want from public transport and how attractive you want it to remain, keeping cars off the road and speeding travellers on their way. If you don’t value public transport and if you don’t care how families, the mobility impaired, the security concerned, shift and front line workers get to work and home safely at night, then you’ll vote to dig up the car park. And you’ll be in a minority.
    Hundreds of new homes are built in Enfield every year. It is Enfield council’s job to plan where they go. Cockfosters station was not in the local plan but TfL wanted to cash in on the carpark against the plan. Who would support that?

  11. Keith says:

    The plans did appear to overlook the number of people who effectively used Cockfosters as a ‘park & ride’ tube station. Losing so many parking spaces to housing (from 336 to just 47) would have made this no longer an option for those living outside of London.

    Maybe a compromise would be to add a small two-storey parking over part of the existing car park, which would allow more parking spaces to be retained. Then the remainder of the car park could still be converted into a considerable number of flats.

    • Sykobee says:

      336 is really not a lot of parking spaces however, when you consider the number of people who will use the line from that station.

      I can understand some form of Park And Tube system at the end of lines, with 1000s of parking spaces, outside the city. That would make sense – but is likely logistically ‘difficult’.

      If the parking spaces are so valuable to the local people, TfL can charge more for them, to realise their value as income.

      But this isn’t that.

  12. Tim F says:

    Several blocks of flats built on Walthamstow Central car park a few years back – on stilts so minimal loss of parking spaces. Also at the end of a tube line and happening at many of the stations at this end of the Victoria line. Why should leafy Cockfosters be spared the rise of residential towers on TFL land?

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