The simple question Inside Croydon would like to put to any of the wealthy architects, developers or Croydon politicians advocating building the disproportionately tall 55-storey Jenga Tower… sorry, Menta Tower on Cherry Orchard Road in East Croydon, is this: would you want your family to live on the 54th floor, looking down on the railway lines?
It seems that the site has been blighted for so long that Croydon Council is minded to take whatever its mates in the property speculation business want to build, however unsuitable (lack of parking provision; overbearing height of the scheme; questionable suitability as a building for affordable homes).
Step forward RECC, or Regenerating East Croydon Communities, another group of concerned residents which was formed this week following a public meeting where Conservative MP Gavin Barwell, Labour councillors, Liberal Democrat and Green Party representatives, and around 100 residents, spoke in favour of redevelopment of the area but with the majority firmly against Menta’s plans.
In a statement issued this week by RECC, they say, “The proposed skyscraper is out of character, would
dominate and overshadow family homes, worse yet, cause loss of privacy and daylight. The skyscraper would penalise the same people who actively support bringing the area back to life.
“If Croydon Council endorses the skyscraper it would increase the likelihood of similar high-rise developments nearby and in residential areas beyond. In 2008 the Council’s planning officers recommended Menta’s previous application be refused, to overwhelming public support, for reasons of overdevelopment and significant adverse visual impact, and, lack of affordable housing, reasons that have not been addressed by the current plans.”
The current planning application decision is expected on July 21, and RECC is campaigning to ensure that Croydon Council takes into account that these same reasons for refusal and the volume of opposition still apply. “We want to highlight the closure of the Porter and Sorter pub, vague promises about the displacement of the taxi rank on Billington Hill, and future of the Royal Mail sorting office site as consequences of the East Croydon redevelopment programme that have been understated or remain uncertain,” they say.
RECC maintains that “there are feasible alternatives to the skyscraper”.
There is another residents’ campaign group that is supporting the Mental Tower, though perhaps not out of benign self-interest. This group has strong links to The Glamorgan pub on Cherry Orchard Road, which stands to benefit from a significant increase in trade if the nearby Porter and Sorter, at the back entrance to East Croydon Station, is closed and demolished as a result of the Tower plan being given the green light.
The supporters of the 55-storey tower also include some residents in Cross Road, who hope that a “yes” from the council will kick-start the 15-storey residential development to replace the disused Quest House, which has planning permission.
According to one local resident who is worried that the 55-storey Jenga Tower will get the go-ahead, “When a representative knocked on my door, I asked them how I would benefit from the Menta development and the only reason they could give me was that it would increase property prices in the area.
“When I replied property rises are of no use to those who rent or homeowners with no intention of moving, they said the luxury apartments would bring a better standard of people to the area.”
A spokesman for RECC told Inside Croydon, “Opposition by residents and RECC to the Menta planning application is not troublemaking by busybodies crying ‘Not in my back-yard’, but is a declaration that a skyscraper of luxury apartments is too high a price to pay for the benefits in the plan.
“A skyscraper does not guarantee the sustained investment and renewal needed in the
area despite Menta’s claims, which have yet to be supported by evidence. We ask Menta when will this evidence be forthcoming?
“There will be one car parking space for every three apartments, which is insufficient. When these spaces are full the skyscraper residents and their visitors will have to use existing spaces in neighbouring streets that are already heavily parked.
“There is growing evidence that similar ‘gated’ developments across the UK have not delivered on their aspirations for regeneration of the areas surrounding them. The height of the skyscraper directly extends the construction time, disturbance and traffic disruption, which as proposed is expected to last four years.”
At RECC’s first working group meeting this week, they agreed to approach residents’ associations to gain support, to start door to door campaigning and for a poster campaign across Addiscombe, Fairfield and Park Hill.
They emphasise that they want the area sensibly and appropriately redeveloped in proportion and consideration to the low-level dwellings in the immediate vicinity. They cite Croydon’s Unitary Development Plan which states : “Development proposals will be permitted provided they: (i) respect the height and proportion of surrounding buildings which play an important role in determining the character of the street”.
And RECC underlines that it is seeking “engagement that is flexible, focused on progress for the majority, and not simply financially led” and “Dialogue is steered towards renewal, is neutral to political agendas, is freely shared between all who have an interest in improving the area”.
The campaigners fear that Menta will not consult with existing residents, and can only be stopped from building its unsuitable “vanity project” by a refusal of planning permission by Croydon Council. Worryingly, the council has already pledged millions of public money towards the building of a new bridge and entrance to East Croydon Station, which would help link the Mental Tower to the other side of the railway tracks, thereby improving the value of the Menta development.
- If you are against the development object to planning application 11/00981/P through RECC now or Croydon Council by July 21 (every resident in your household can object). The Council accept objections via email email@example.com or online here or in writing to Planning, Regeneration & Conservation Dept, Croydon Council, Taberner House, Park Lane, Croydon CR0 1JT.
- To find out more about RECC, contact them via email at RECCgroup@gmail.com
- Rats! Slum fears over Menta’s Cherry Orchard Gardens plan (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Cross-party criticism of Menta’s mental 53-storey plan (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- People Power I: The battle for Higher Drive (insidecroydon.com)