Campaigners have urged members of the public to object to a “cash cow” development planned for a suburban neighbourhood.

Members of Hands Off Finchley Central are warning that plans for a tower block at Finchley Central Underground Station would dramatically change the character of the suburb.

On Thursday (January 9), the group held a public meeting at St Mary’s Church Hall in Hendon Lane, which was attended by MP for Finchley and Golders Green Mike Freer and several local councillors.

The campaigners told the packed hall the initial plans for more than 650 homes at the site – drawn up by Transport for London (TfL) and Taylor Wimpey – showed a tower block up to 27 storeys high, alongside a chain of lower-level buildings.

Mark Fineberg, a member of the campaign group, said: “I’ve seen the brief, and it’s primarily not about local needs – it is primarily about cash flow in TfL. This is a cash cow and they are milking it.

“The primary driver is profit – this is to bridge a funding gap in TfL. We are expected to cross-subsidise TfL, rather than develop from within, organically, in accordance with locally defined needs.”

Mr Fineberg admitted some form of development was likely at the site but said it should be at a lower level and more in keeping with the character of the area.

TfL is revising the plans following a public consultation, but Mr Fineberg said he expected the developers would merely make small changes such as cutting the size of the tower block by a few storeys.

Local resident Barry Blain said: “In my view, it is a vast overdevelopment. Finchley is a suburb, not a city centre.”

He warned the scheme would have an impact on neighbours’ parking, light and privacy, while plans to include shops and other amenities within the development could create a kind of ghetto.

Mr Blain said: “They are maximising the density, not optimising it. Are we building the slums of 2040? In 2040, perhaps people will look back and say, ‘how could they build such a load of rubbish?’”

Residents were encouraged to object to the scheme during a 21-day planning window, ensuring they based their comments on “material planning considerations” such as loss of light, privacy, parking and density.

If the council refuses permission for the development, the Mayor of London could step in and act as the planning authority – meaning it could still go ahead.

Mr Freer explained that as an MP he had no formal role in the planning process, but if the Mayor approved the development, he could then lobby the Secretary of State to “call in” the decision and re-examine it.

Mr Freer said: “We clearly have to have housing, but it has to be in keeping with the area. This is not The City.”

Cllr Gabriel Rozenberg (Liberal Democrat, Garden Suburb) urged people to “reflect very carefully” when making their objections on the fact that the Mayor could step in and make a decision on the scheme.

He pointed out that this had happened on a similar large-scale development in Mill Hill that he had opposed.

Cllr Ross Houston (Labour, West Finchley) said he thought some kind of development was likely to go ahead at the site but people should try to lessen its impact on the neighbourhood.

He said: “I do think we need to make the case that this should be a car-free development. What we can’t have in Finchley Central is another 500 vehicles adding to the congestion we already have.”

But Cllr Dan Thomas (Conservative, Finchley Church End) said he thought the scheme could be stopped entirely because it is close to a conservation area in Finchley Church End.

He said: “I do not accept that something has to happen here. TfL have dropped their plan for Golders Green, because it is next to a conservation area.

“That is the key in this location. We have to be prepared to protect our suburb. We are not just going to urbanise the suburbs.”

In a statement issued after the meeting, Graeme Craig, director of commercial development at TfL, said: “We are committed to delivering thousands of new homes that the capital desperately needs, whilst also ensuring that proposals for each site take into account the views of local communities.

“Following initial engagement last year, we have reviewed the feedback and revised our proposals for the land around Finchley Central.

“Next week, we will be sharing new proposals that deliver around 550 homes, including 40 per cent affordable housing, while reducing the height of the tallest block, retaining more than 100 car park spaces and providing Blue Badge parking for local residents, a pocket park and better routes to the station from the High Street.

“With our developer partner, Taylor Wimpey, we are looking forward to sharing the details of these revised proposals, which also include a new public plaza and significant improvements for pedestrians and cyclists.”