Plans to build 152 homes on farmland near a listed building and conservation area have been rejected by councillors.

Developer Hill Residential wanted to build 53 houses and 99 flats ranging from two to four storeys high on land next to The Whalebones in Wood Street, High Barnet.

Planning chiefs at Barnet Council had recommended the scheme for approval, claiming the benefits would outweigh the “less than substantial harm” to Wood Street Conservation Area and Grade-II listed The Whalebones.

But members of the planning committee narrowly voted against their recommendations at a meeting on Tuesday (October 13).

During the meeting, council planning officers highlighted the scheme’s potential to provide public open space – including play space for children – on land that is currently inaccessible.

Nichola Hunt, liaison co-ordinator for Barnet Guild of Artists, told the meeting an artists’ studio included in the plans would help to secure the long-term viability of the 100-strong group, as well as providing facilities for disabled people.

Colin Campbell, head of planning at Hill Residential, said the proposals had been led by the area’s heritage and landscape qualities.

He added: “The development provides a mix of housing types from one to four bedrooms, all with either a private garden or balcony.

“Granting permission will see over half the site brought into use, with publicly accessible green space and play and community facilities. New homes will be delivered – 40 per cent of which will be affordable.”

Under questioning from councillors, Mr Campbell said two reports commissioned by the developer showed using the land for agriculture would not raise enough income to be viable.

But Nick Saul, who spoke on behalf of Barnet Society chairman Robin Bishop, claimed the plans were a “gross breach of Barnet, London and national policies protecting green open space”.

He added: “Conservation area status is one of the few protections for landscape in London. If our own council breaches its own planning policy, what confidence can we have in its future stewardship of our heritage?”

MP for Chipping Barnet Theresa Villiers also spoke against the plans, claiming they went against Barnet’s policies stating that developments should enhance the context and character of the area, and improve the quality of landscaping.

Ms Villiers claimed the scheme would be an overdevelopment of agricultural land with too many one and two-bedroom units – inconsistent with planning policies that prioritise family homes.

Members of the committee were divided on the scheme. Cllr Tim Roberts (Labour, Underhill) said inaccessible land would be opened up to the public and provide a range of housing – some of which could be used by essential workers at nearby Barnet Hospital.

Cllr Stephen Sowerby (Conservative, Oakleigh) said he was “genuinely torn” over the application, acknowledging the potential for harm but praising the design quality of the homes and pointing out half of the land would remain green space.

But others were firmly against the scheme. Cllr Eva Greenspan (Conservative, Finchley Church End) warned voting in favour could set a precedent for more of the borough’s green space to be developed. Cllr Julian Teare (Conservative, High Barnet) claimed it would be a “serious overdevelopment” of the land, with too many small flats.

When it came to the vote, five committee members voted in favour of the application, with five against and one abstention. Committee chairman Cllr Shimon Ryde (Conservative, Childs Hill) used his casting vote to reject the recommendations.

The reasons for refusal were deferred to the next meeting of the committee. Once these have been voted on, the application will be referred to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who could confirm or overturn the committee’s decision.