Plans for a housing development up to six storeys high in East Finchley have been turned down over the potential impact on a nearby ancient woodland. 

During a planning committee meeting on Wednesday (June 22), councillors refused permission for developer Combined Finchley to build nine new flats, along with retail and office space, at the site of a substation in Great North Road.

Town hall planning chiefs had recommended the scheme for approval, writing in their report that the proposed development would be “high quality” and “have an acceptable impact on the character and appearance of the site”.

But Barnet Council received 48 objections to the plans and opponents warned the scheme would be an overdevelopment and harm views within nearby Cherry Tree Wood, a 5.3-hectare park designated as a local conservation site.

Friends of Cherry Tree Wood secretary Deborah Linton told the committee the developer was “privatising” the view of the woodland while the rest of East Finchley would be left looking at a block of flats. She added: “This will set a precedent, and we will be surrounded by high-rise buildings.”

Roger Chapman, chairman of Friends of Cherry Tree Wood and Barnet Green Spaces Network, said the proposals were contrary to one of the council’s policies stating that development next to the green belt or Metropolitan Open Land should not have a detrimental impact on visual amenity.

He added: “Overall, the report plays down the importance of open space […] post-Covid, it is time the council took a stronger stance to protect our valued open space.”

Luke Raistrick, a planning consultant acting on behalf of the developer, told councillors the site was “really well suited to delivering office-led development accommodating up to 300 workers”.

He added: “The amount of development that we and officers have finally settled on strikes the appropriate balance, we feel, between optimising the site’s very sustainable location and respecting the surrounding character.”

Labour committee members were unconvinced by his argument. Arjun Mittra, who represents East Finchley, said there would be “particular harm” to the wooded area of the park.

Committee chairman Claire Farrier, who also represents East Finchley, said the proposed development was “too large” and would “impinge very much on the park”.

The three Labour councillors voted to refuse the scheme, with the Conservative committee members voting against the motion to refuse.