Litter-picker Barwell now has a big mess to clear up

Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell is out picking up litter in Brickfields Meadows this morning, although he has a far bigger mess to clean up following the decision of his Conservative colleagues on the council’s strategic planning committee to grant planning permission to the Mental Tower at East Croydon.

Yet Barwell let slip in his own blog yesterday a suspicion that billionaire property developers Menta may yet use the planning permission to sell-up the site and pocket massive profits.

If this proves true, it raises several important issues about the handling of planning applications within Croydon, especially since the council maintains a Stalinistic secrecy over its meetings and dealings with private property developers. You might want to know:

  • What was the deal done to get the council to announce, at a time of massive cut-backs elsewhere, the spending of millions of public money to build a second entrance to East Croydon station on a new bridge, linking the Cherry Orchard Road site to central Croydon?
  • What is the point of residents taking part in public consultation processes such as this, if a “clear majority” of residents plus the local MP, local London Assembly member and the councillors in the ward affected can all have their objections ignored?
  • And was the opposition to the scheme of Barwell and Steve O’Connell, another senior local Tory who spoke at Thursday’s meeting, mere window-dressing to enhance their own political positions?

Certainly, on the latter point, it does not say much for the “influence” among their own local party of Barwell and O’Connell, the country’s best-paid local councillor, if they cannot hold sway on a key decision such as this.

Gavin Barwell: on Croydon's ruling Tory group when the council's tall buildings planning framework was passed

Barwell yesterday called the Mental Tower decision “disappointing”.

On his blog, he wrote: “Cherry Orchard Road is certainly in need of regeneration but that does not mean that the council should accept anything that is proposed.

“Although some residents thought the scheme a price worth paying to get investment into the area, a clear majority objected to the height of the main tower on this particular location right next to two-storey residential housing. When you saw the architect’s illustration of the view from Oval Road if the development was built, or heard from officers that at 4pm in late March the main tower will cast a shadow 880 metres long, you can understand why.”

He then defaulted to usual mode of trying to pass the buck to someone else – namely Labour – over the borough’s planning framework that allows tall buildings at the centre of town. Barwell is, at best, being disingenuous in this, since he holds direct responsibility for the existing planning framework.

It is worth stating that the Conservatives have held control of Croydon Council now since 2006. That is five years. From 2006 until 2010, when he was elected to parliament, Barwell was a senior member of the council. And while it is true that much of the work on the planning framework was done during the previous Labour council, it was actually passed as council policy in July 2006 – when Barwell, Mike Fisher and O’Connell were all in charge.

Croydon’s Tories could have chosen not to adopt the planning framework. They did not. Just like, on Thursday night, Croydon Tories endorsed planning permission for the Mental Tower.

Now it is another London Conservative, Mayor Boris Johnson, who has a say on whether the monstrous scheme can go ahead. And he is facing re-election next May.

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1 Response to Litter-picker Barwell now has a big mess to clear up

  1. People expect the MP, as one of the highest ranking elected officials around here, to have influence in his party. Yet Barwell had, literally, none with this crowd.

    I’d like to also add how, much as Labour came up with the ‘tall buildings’ stuff they did not get a chance to finish. And I’m sure they had ‘keeping it in line with surrounding buildings’ also involved. The Menta Tower is huge, and waaaay taller than surrounding buildings. I’m pretty sure it’s not possible to blame Labour for this one.

    Croydon will need tall buildings after all. New office blocks, that kind of thing. But this whopper goes beyond ‘tall’ and into ‘bloody ‘ell’. A sky-scraper is supposed to be utterly surrounded by other tall buildings. Not just on one face, as the artists drawings I’ve seen show. I’m confident other regulations will be relevant on this one.

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