After the go ahead was given last month for controversial plans to build tower blocks of flats on the two car parks at Cockfosters tube station the government has intervened at the last minute to halt the project.


Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, has ruled that the development would leave inadequate space for car parking for London Underground passengers.

He has therefore refused consent for operational land to be used in this way – torpedoing the plan by TfL and developers Grainger to build four blocks of up to 14 storeys high to provide 351 flats.

Supporters of the Save Cockfosters Campaign say they are delighted that the government has finally seen sense and accepted their argument that building blocks of flats on Cockfosters’ two station car parks would be an outrage.

“We have been saying for years that it would be madness to reduce station car parking space at the end of the Piccadilly tube line and at long last the government has intervened,” said Rob White, secretary of the East Barnet Residents’ Association.

Mr Shapps’ unexpected intervention after years of protest about building over tube station car parks could have significant knock-on effects for other TfL developments including the currently stalled plan to build flats on land around High Barnet tube station – another end-of-the line station.

Enfield Council’s planners recommended approval for the Cockfosters plan – which was then agreed in February by the planning committee on the casting vote of the chair – on the grounds that it would provide affordable homes and reduce air pollution.

But the plan attracted 2,800 objections and was consistently opposed by groups such as the Save Cockfosters Campaign, the Barnet Society and the Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers who said many of her constituents would be affected by the withdrawal of park-and-ride facilities, not only at Cockfosters but other stations such as High Barnet, Finchley Central and Arnos Grove.

Following the decision of developers Taylor Wimpey to pull out of its plan for High Barnet -- for 294 flats in blocks of six and seven storeys – TfL is looking for a new partner.

Plans for a smaller development at Arnos Grove tube station have gone to appeal.

Building flats over the two car parks at Cockfosters would have led to the loss of 323 parking spaces with only 47 remaining and Mr Shapps says this is inadequate.

If TfL wish to pursue their plans for flats at Cockfosters, he will require a fresh application.

The timing of Mr Shapps’ decision does seem to have been influenced by the forthcoming London borough council elections due on Thursday 5 May – as reflected in Theresa Villiers’ welcome for Mr Shapps’ decision.

She says that after Labour controlled Enfield Council “gave the green light for towers blocks in the suburbs, a Conservative Secretary of State has stepped in to stop this.

“This may not be the end of the story. The Mayor of London and TfL may try again with a new proposal. But for the moment we have saved Cockfosters from tower blocks.”

Robin Bishop, who leads for the Barnet Society on planning issues, welcomed Mr Shapps’ decision, an intervention which he acknowledged was unexpected. Campaigners against the plans for high-rise blocks at suburban tube stations such as Cockfosters and High Barnet had thought it more likely perhaps that the Secretary of State might intervene on planning grounds.

“We are waiting to see whether TfL comes back with a new plan for flats at High Barnet following the withdrawal of Taylor Wimpey.

“Clearly Mr Shapps’ decision to intervene at Cockfosters over the loss of car parking space really will affect TfL thinking as the same arguments apply at High Barnet given its significance at the end of the Northern Line,” said Mr Bishop.

Rob White said that for the last two years the East Barnet Residents’ Association and other groups backing the Save Cockfosters Campaign had been meeting on Zoom.

“When we meet again, we will be meeting for a drink to celebrate that we have finally succeeded in forcing ministers to think about the impact of the loss of car parks at end-of-the line stations.

“So many people depend on Cockfosters tube station, especially the disabled and the elderly going to hospital appointments in London. The loss of park-and-ride car parks like this would have had a devastating effect.

“TfL spent £4 million installing a lift for disabled people and the elderly to get from the car park level down to the platforms at Cockfosters. Thankfully Grant Shapps has finally pulled the rug from under the plan.

“TfL had to come up with evidence that the car park was under-used and that this was surplus land when clearly Cockfosters is used extensively because it is at the end of the line and obviously, they failed.

“There are lots of brown field sites in and around Enfield without building tower blocks on one of the highest ridges in North London and disfiguring the landscape.”

Barnet Society member Nick Saul said Mr Shapps’ decision reflected TfL’s inability to provide evidence that losing car parks at tube stations was a sensible policy.

“When I first raised this whole issue with Grant Shapps through Theresa Villiers at the start of 2020 his department had somehow been unaware that it had powers like this to intervene. At long last we have had some action.”