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.
- People Power II: campaigning against mental Menta Tower (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon leads the way again: this time in police cut backs (insidecroydon.com)
- Tory peer condemns “meaningless” cut at David Lean Cinema (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)