Kenley residents threaten Council Tax boycott over planning

Despite winning the arguments, both moral and planning, and getting a decision from the government’s Planning Inspector supporting them by refusing the development of a medium-sized hospital on a residential road in Kenley, the residents of Higher Drive feel betrayed by Croydon Council.

So angry are some residents of Kenley that they are now threatening to withhold payment of their Council Tax unless Croydon acts in their interests.

Higher Drive residents are threatening action over High Dependency Unit being built on their doorstep

The story so far (click here for our archive of the Higher Drive saga): A millionaire property developer, having part-built (with permission, granted after appeal) their hospital on the site of 92 Higher Drive, then went ahead with building work on the site of 94 Higher Drive, despite not having planning permission. There, they built an outhouse for refuse storage and an electricity generator.

This brick structure has never had planning permission, and is sited very close to the public pavement.There are self-evident safety issued in citing a power generator next to refuse skips, and so close to the public highway.

The generator now serves the expensive private hospital at 92 Higher Drive, which is expected to begin operating soon. The developers have filed for retrospective planning permission for this structure, apparently in the arrogant expectation that the local authority will be forced to grant this at risk of cutting off the medical facility from emergency power.

Last week, the local residents received three emails from Croydon Council: one saying that it would recommend refusing planning permission for the outhouse, and two saying that the council would recommend granting planning permission. #thatissoCroydon

It might be worth noting that the local councillor for Kenley is none other than Steve “I’m off to Old Trafford” O’Connell, Britain’s most overpaid local councillor, a man who fails to attend key council meetings and who walks out of others.

The local residents association have sent this letter to Jon Rouse, the chief executive of Croydon Council:

Residents are disappointed and angry about the Council’s recommendation that the Planning Committee should grant permission for the Meter/Generator/Refuse Housing at 94 Higher Drive, to serve 92 Higher Drive.

In keeping with the level of competence we have come to expect of the LPA [local planning authority], we received three emails about this on Tuesday and Wednesday: one saying the recommendation was to Refuse Permission, and two saying the recommendation was to Grant Permission.

And then today, we were sent the Planning Committee Agenda which tries to justify the
recommendation to grant planning permission and concludes “Planning permission should be refused…”. You couldn’t make it up.

Although the Council notified only 13 houses of this retrospective application, 99 objections have been registered, and no expressions of support.

As usual, the Council have done their best to obscure their derisory consultation exercise by claiming on the website “Total number of neighbours consulted – 109”. This is scandalous, but the defence will be that it’s just the system, the way the Council website works, which we mere non-Council people couldn’t be expected to understand – a defence that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny by the real world any better than inaccurate and misleading Minutes.

So, regardless of the deluge of letters and emails from an outraged community, some containing strong planning grounds for refusing permission, the Council are pursuing their predetermined agenda to grant permission. It would make no difference if 10,000 locally resident architects objected: planning experts at the Council know best.

There is an arrogant streak running through Croydon LPA and a belief that only the planning professionals at the Council understand the issues; Residents are opinionated but incapable of comprehending the planning considerations; ‘consultation’ is a pointless, irritating exercise that has to be seen to be done – but, of course, won’t alter the Council’s decision.

There is also an inability to step back and see the bleeding obvious. This was exemplified by the Case Officer’s vigorous and completely flawed arguments that highway issues should be omitted from the grounds for refusing permission on No94. We, the clueless Residents, had to fight to get parking and highway safety on to the agenda – and these were the very grounds on which the Inspector dismissed the Appeal.

And now, unlike Residents, the clever Council Officers understand that we can only consider the physical properties of this plant building – its size, construction and height above the pavement. They understand that our planning law does not allow them to use any common sense, or stand back and consider the wider issues. Being well versed in planning law, they know that considering an application in context is out of the question.

And if they knew that the applicant was a terrorist planning to stockpile high explosives in this structure, that would not be a ‘planning matter’ and they would have no choice
but to recommend that planning permission be granted.

Meanwhile, there is a hollow expression of regret that, while the dishonourable and aggressive behaviour of this developer is acknowledged, the Council has limited powers.

You only have to walk past No92 Higher Drive, with its nauseating light pollution and harsh industrial forecourt, to realise how sickeningly wrong was the picture presented to the Inspector that this would be a ‘small step up’ from the previous care home – and that’s before the unit is open for business!

Council Officers thought they knew best. Had we, the plebs, been there to present the facts, this development could have been blocked.

The current application gave you, the Council, the opportunity to demonstrate that you are going to stop facilitating the every move of an unscrupulous, mercenary developer against the public interest.

Instead, it seems, you are confirming that Croydon’s Council places no value on the opinion of its Residents.

If there had been a proper pre-planning consultation about the proposal to construct a Meter/Generator/Refuse building by the pavement at No94 to serve No 92, the advice of any competent officer would have been to change the location before presenting an application. Had a legitimate prospective planning application been submitted for the structure (as built), it would surely have been refused because of the ridiculous location. So why the hell accept it when a predatory developer disregards due process and presents you with a fait accompli?

We know you are concerned that the developer is likely to appeal against rejection of planning permission and that if the Appeal were upheld, the Council may be liable for costs.
But it’s a ludicrous application and should be rejected – on planning grounds! Listen to the Residents, stand back and see the bigger picture! If it goes to Appeal, the Residents will be granted a great deal more than three minutes to make their case and will convince a reasonable Inspector of the planning demerits of this preposterously positioned plant building.

And whose money are you afraid of spending? Ours! So far, the Council have spectacularly failed to give us value for our money – failed to protect us from the ravages of a ruthless developer and the catastrophic consequences of his intensive operation at No92.

This latest betrayal of Council Tax-paying Residents – the recommendation to grant planning permission next week – has triggered widespread fury in the community. A large number of reasonable, law-abiding Residents are now planning to withhold their Council Tax.

If Croydon Council think that granting retrospective permission is the easier and cheaper option, they have another think coming.

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1 Response to Kenley residents threaten Council Tax boycott over planning

  1. There is more in the pipeline. Please read Neighbourhood Planning in the Council website.
    It is another big farce and, in Shirley, we will get another Invisible Panel, just like the Police Panel.
    Power to the people, provided they obey orders from above.

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