Higher Drive residents celebrate victory in planning battle

Congratulations to the residents of Higher Drive in Kenley, who tonight were toasting their success in their long-running battle with John Whelan, the millionaire former video shop-owner who wanted to bulldoze his way to a money-spinning 50-bed hospital in the residential area.

Click here for Inside Croydon‘s archive on the Higher Drive planning battle

The residents today received official notification from Roy Foster, the official inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to say he had denied an appeal from Whelan against Croydon Council’s refusal of planning permission for 94 Higher Drive.

To rub salt into Whelan’s expensive wounds, Foster also turned down Whelan’s application for his costs to be paid by the council.

Today’s decision must also cast severe doubt about the viability of Whelan’s existing development, at neighbouring 92 Higher Drive, a 30-bed specialised care home which was only given planning consent after a similar appeal to the government planning inspector in early 2010.

It is the opinion of several local observers, including a planning consultant working with the local Kenley residents’ association, that 92 Higher Drive isn’t viable as a care home without 94 Higher Drive being developed, since the majority of essential services were planned for the neighbouring plot.

When Whelan’s Fairlie Homes won its appeal for No92, it gave no indication of any intention to develop the adjoining site. The inspector began his six-page report by writing, “The appeal scheme would form an extension to that development, making a total of 52 beds, so it is mainly the cumulative effects of the extended home which need to be assessed.”

And it is the cumulative effect of the traffic and parking issues raised by this added development, and the lack of a realistic travel plan for the location, which led the inspector to his conclusion.

“I conclude that the extended scheme would be likely to be considerably less than self-sufficient in parking provision and that material safety concerns could therefore arise in the context of conditions in Higher Drive,” the inspector’s report says. “On the evidence, I am not assured that these concerns could be successfully managed by reliance on a certain amount of safe on-street parking taking place alongside the site in Highland Road and/or the efficacy of a combined travel plan for Nos 92-94.”

The Whelans’ only option now would seem to be an expensive appeal to the High Court – with fees to patients (often paid in whole or part by the NHS) of more tha £8,000 per week, they may think it worth pursuing.

In the meantime, pressure is certain to be brought on Croydon Council to enforce the demolition of an out-house for waste bins and power generation on the N094 plot, which the developers have already built despite the lack of permission.

The local residents, who have now decided to build on their hard work together to form a new Foxley Residents’ Association, had long argued that the developer’s plan were entirely unsuited to the location.

“Despite little help from the powers that be, we feel we’ve earned a well deserved glass of champagne,” said campaigner Brian Watson. “We still have a bit of work to do in making sure that the council now pulls the plug on the illegal structure on the site at No94 which is powering the building next door at No92.

“We are very aware that the nightmare on Higher Drive could come back to haunt us,” Watson said.

“We are grateful to Inside Croydon for covering our campaign and its insightful coverage of the process – we’re certain that it helped us in our struggle with this profits-from-patients builder.”

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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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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