Higher Drive celebrates as latest hospital plan is rejected

Local campaign against building a hospital in residential Purely has so far been successful

The bunting was out on Higher Drive in Purley yesterday, and not just to celebrate the royal wedding.

Residents had another cause to celebrate, after Thursday night’s planning meeting at the Town Hall rejected the latest planning proposal from Fairlie House to try to develop a 50-plus bed high dependency unit hospital in the quiet residential street.

With former video salesman John Whelan and his family-owned company having a £20 million a year turnover business at stake, residents now have a six-month wait for an anticipated appeal to the Planning Inspectorate against the unanimous decision of Croydon councillors to oppose the plan for a 22-bed unit at No94.

That was the route that the Whelans had to go through last year to obtain their strictly conditional planning consent for a 30-bed hospital at No92, where building work has already caused considerable disruption locally and which some residents believe has already broken some of the restrictions.

At Thursday’s planning meeting, attended by around 40 protesting residents supported by Councillor Steve O’Connell, all members of the committee opposed the plans, with Paul Scott strongly questioning last year’s decision of the Planning Inspectorate to allow work at No92 to go ahead.

With a lucrative business that charges up to £7,200 a week per patient, much of it funded from the NHS, the Whelans are clearly determined to expand their HDU care business. This application follows previous attempts to impose over-large developments in unsuitable locations, such as at Pondfield Road in Kenley three years ago.

The committee made a point of asking the council to amend the wording of the planning refusal to indicate the collective impact of the application on traffic and on-street parking.

Despite the scheme overall proposing what would be a 50-plus bed hospital with more than 100 staff, but with little public transport nearby, the developers’ plans allow for just 14 car park spaces. O’Connell has dubbed the scheme “barmy”.

More than 150 objections to the development had been received before the meeting, but on the night the council produced a file of around 30 supportive letters from the developers, all apparently written and submitted in March.

This was a similar tactic tried by the developers when seeking approval at Pondfield Road. Most of the support letters focus on the high-quality of care offered by Fairlie House’s existing care home in Norwood, an issue that is not in question.

Local residents are suspicious of the provenance of many of the letters, and question why public servants at NHS Trusts and hospitals should be writing formal letters of support for a commercial organisation such as Fairlie House.

So the Higher Drive residents are on high alert. “This guy is aggressive and has little regard for the planning process,” according to one source, as the residents prepare for another six months of uncertainty.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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