Croydon goes Mental over “monstrous” 54-storey tower

The "Mental" Tower overlooking the railway tracks at East Croydon

Momentous decision at Croydon Town Hall last night, when the strategic planning committee approved the application to build Britain’s tallest vertical slum at East Croydon.

Plans for the 54-storey Mental Tower were passed by 6 votes to 5, the committee voting strictly on party lines, the ruling Conservative group siding with billionaire property developers rather than hundreds of local residents who had written to oppose the multi-million pound scheme.

Less than 200 had written in support of the plans, and according to Sean Fitzsimons, the Labour councillor for Addiscombe, only four of those are local residents in Addiscombe or Central Croydon.

Yet there were nearly 600 objections lodged to Menta’s plans for the proposed tower, which will be the tallest residential block in Britain. Also opposed were Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central who spoke at the meeting, as did his fellow Tory Steve O’Connell, a Croydon councillor as well as London Assembly member.

“I hope that we can develop this area but not with a shadow that towers over it,” O’Connell told the meeting.

The plans will now have to be approved by London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has already said that he opposes the scheme because it is entirely out of keeping with the surrounding buildings. This was confirmed at the meeting, when the planning officer said that when complete, the building would cast a dark shadow over ordinary houses and gardens up to half a mile away.

With Boris standing for re-election next May, will he side with the property developers or hope to win some extra votes?

It may be worth noting the names of the councillors appointed by the Conservative group to sit on the strategic planning committee:

    • David Osland (councillor from Coulsdon West, which will not be overshadowed by the Mental Monstrosity)
    • Jason Perry (Croham. It’s very nice there. No high-density, high-rise tower blocks)
    • Justin Cromie (leafy Coulsdon East, a lot more than half a mile from the Mental Tower)
    • Susan Winborn (Fairfield ward – so she, at least, will get an eye-full as the block starts to rise)
    • Chris Wright (Coulsdon East, like Cromie, and a long way from the towering slum)
    • Adam Kellett (councillor for the nearby Ashburton, having originally been slated for Addiscombe, but moved to a more winnable ward at the last moment. How will voting in this scheme go down with residents in his ward? Will it be a case of “Taxi for Kellett”?).

Absent from the Conservative’s first-choice startegic planning committee six was Clare Hilley-George, the local councillor for China, who works for West End property PR firm HardHat. When not busy running the Young Conservatives, she sometimes attends meetings in Waddon, another ward neighbouring the Mental Tower.

Next time you meet any of the councillors who voted in favour of the Mental Monster, you might like to ask them whether they would like to live with their family in the 53rd or 54th floor of the new tower block?

And how much of a foregone conclusion was this decision?

After all, Croydon Council had effectively prejudiced the planning meeting deliberations by agreeing to spend at least £10 million on building a bridge across the rail tracks north of the existing East Croydon station entrance, enhancing the value of developments on both sides of the railway.

Andrew Pelling, the former MP for the area and now a vociferous local campaigner, was asking some uncomfortable questions last night after the decision.

“Why has Croydon Council refused since 2009 to reveal to me which politicians have met privately with Menta?” Pelling wrote on Twitter. “The model of new tower just looked monstrous.”

It would be fair to say that Pelling and Barwell, who fought a sometimes bitter election campaign last May, do not get along. “So much for the influence of the MP,” Pelling said of Barwell. “All his Cons colleagues ignored him and voted yes for the white elephant.” Pelling also claimed that Barwell’s opposition to the scheme was a convenient “charade”, since the ruling Conservative group has an in-built majority on the committee.

That claim will be put to the test, if Barwell and London Assembly member O’Connell take their opposition to the Mental Tower to the Mayor of London.

Wayne Lawlor, one of the five Labour members of the committee who voted against the Menta scheme, was straightforward in his opinion. “Addiscombe and East Croydon residents views have been ignored by the Tory council,” Lawlor said.

The meeting last night also approved, somewhat less controversially with a unanimous vote of the committee, to give the green light to the Ruskin Square development.

Stanhope and Schroders’ 1m sq ft Ruskin Square scheme on a nine-acre site next to East Croydon Station  has been the focus of a series of stalled development proposals and attracted controversy when plans to develop an indoor arena – originally backed by Croydon Conservatives’ deputy leader Tim Pollard – were torn up in 2008. Pollard was recently re-appointed to the regeneration brief by Croydon’s Tories.

The new Ruskin Square plan provides for 550 homes spread across five buildings, and a direct route connecting the station with the town centre through the site. The developers have also agreed to provide a 200-seat theatre to replace the Warehouse Theatre.

About insidecroydon

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
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4 Responses to Croydon goes Mental over “monstrous” 54-storey tower

  1. teacatuk says:

    I Dont really think its a question of could you live on the 54 floor with a young family!. Croydon needs a boost it needs a re vamp and needs to be kept up to speed with developing London. local shops are closing down and local business are suffering. there needs to be more development like this to bring young professional’s and more business’s into Croydon town centre. with the development the other side of east Croydon lagging behind the development of apartment at west Croydon also on hold. the saffron square and now this development. there are a much needed incentive to attract good people and business to Croydon. we good possibly be in the media for something positive rather than the negative.

    • Actually, the issue is very much about whether or not the Mental Tower provides real family homes, as well as whether it blights the existing, established family homes in the locality.

      People with families usually do not want to have an isolated existence stuck high in a tower block. The architectural errors of the 1960s should have taught us that, although Croydon, it seems, wants to recreate those sort of high-rise prisons all over again.

      Such a landmark development will go one of two possible ways.

      It will be used by a gerrymandering local council to “socially engineer” the ballots of future elections. Expect loads of one- and two-bedroom, “close to The City” type ads for any Yuppies to buy up. No prizes for guessing where their votes might go.

      But if, as with other, existing and nearby residential towers, the Mental Tower proves unloved and unwanted by any sane and tasteful person, then the development owners may face no alternative but to cut some deal with the local authority. Then we may have a situation where council money – our money – will be used to buy up the unwanted skyscraper flats, which will then be used to home those without the means to afford anything more humane.

      And thus, you have the creation of Britain’s tallest residential slum.

      Croydon needs development, yes. But it needs developments which work, which are sympathetic to the existing surroundings, and developments which deliver worthwhile social benefits for existing and future generations.

  2. I wonder what will happen to Barwell. They do seem to like their MPs obedient in Tory circles around here…

  3. mraemiller says:

    Down with the mentalist tower!

    Apart from the fact that when modern Croydon was “planned” in the 1960s all the other blocks were clearly capped at 20 stories … and once we’ve got one 50 story block we’ll have another 10 … who builds a residential tower block with bits jutting out after Ronan Point?

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