Will Grant Shapps get away with blocking housing on Cockfosters TfL car park?

Will Grant Shapps get away with blocking housing on Cockfosters TfL car park?

Justifying his unprecedented decision to overrule Enfield Council’s planning committee and throw out the plans of Transport for London and its development partner Grainger to build 351 homes on the large car park at Cockfosters station, transport secretary Grant Shapps told the House of Commons it would be “ludicrous” to remove “all put 12 parking spaces” to make way for the new dwellings

The statement itself was, to put it nicely, ludicrous, as in truth the plans leave 47 spaces in the currently 370 space car park, not 12. And it may also be that Shapps’s grounds for his intervention turn out to be less clever than he thinks.

In a letter to an exultant Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers, stout defender of suburban car parks, Shapps explained he had rejected the application under section 163 of the Greater London Authority Act (1999), the legislation that brought the mayoralty and London Assembly into being. “This sought my consent to dispose of operational land at Cockfosters station and car park,” Shapps wrote.

Sadiq Khan has now told TfL to “explore all options” for overturning Shapps’s veto, including legal action. What might their chances be?

Looking at section 163, a lot seems to depend on what is meant by “operational”. It states that TfL (and the GLA) may not sell the freehold of land it owns “which is or has been operational land” or grant a long lease on it  “without the consent of the Secretary of State”. And “operational land” is defined as follows:

a) land which is used for the purpose of carrying on any railway or tramway undertaking of Transport for London’s or of a subsidiary of Transport for London’s; and

(b) land in which an interest is held for that purpose.

It continues:

but paragraphs (a) and (b) above do not include land which, in respect of its nature and situation, is comparable rather with land in general than with land which is used, or in which interests are held, for the purpose of the carrying on of a railway or tramway undertaking;

Does the Cockfosters station car park count as land used for “the purpose of carrying on any railway or tramway undertaking”? Might it more closely resemble “land in general” whose “nature and situation” is not needed for “the purpose of the carrying on of a railway or tramway function”? If lawyers are not already pondering such questions they surely will be soon.
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Categories: Analysis

4 Comments

  1. David Allen says:

    Cockfosters is the last stop on the line. A substantial park and ride facility there to persuade drivers coming from the north to leave their cars and switch to the tube at the earliest opportunity IS a transport function, enabling the more effective use of the tube system.

    Shapps is therefore correct and Khan’s grounds for objection false. The scheme itself is also a grotesque over-development.

  2. Mark V says:

    It should be noted that the consultation on this development received 2,857 representations of which only 10 supported the development. In addition, an online petition objecting to the proposal received over 12,000 signatures.

    I would say that if a development is proposed and receives less than 1% support, there is something seriously wrong with that proposal.

    In this case, Grant Shapps is agreeing with the overwhelming number of local people of all political persuasions who object to this scheme.

    1. Abdullah says:

      There’s nothing wrong with the proposal, you’re just demonstrating NIMBYs in action. You are less likely to get responses from those in favour such as renters, homeless, those on housing waiting lists as they are time-poor and do not have the means to organise effectively in such instances.

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