Some bad news as far as Oscar Dahling and James Hogg, the self-appointed local representatives for the Mental Towers, are concerned.
Hogg and Dahling, who some suspect to be readying themselves to run as developer-friendly Conservative candidates on Croydon Council, won’t like the press release issued from City Hall this afternoon.
Assembly Member Darren Johnson, from the Green Party and the deputy chairman of the London Assembly’s environment committee, has taken a disliking to the proposal to build Britain’s tallest residential tower besides the railway tracks at East Croydon.
“The Mayor of London’s decision to nod through a 55-storey residential tower block in Croydon without any affordable housing in it has been awarded the coveted annual Dodgy Planning Award by Darren Johnson AM,” says his office’s press release.
“The Menta Tower will see 48 social rented homes demolished and replaced with a smaller number of affordable homes on a separate site, comprising only 10 per cent of the total homes in the development, and split in half between homes let at ‘affordable rents’ that are higher than social rents and half sold on the shared ownership scheme.”
Johnson (Darren, rather than the bumbling former Bullingdon Club member who is London’s part-time Mayor) has clearly taken a disliking to the Mental Tower, which local Conservative MP Gavin Barwell also opposed.
“The Mayor should never have waved this tower block through,” Darren Johnson said. “It will loom over local residents, most of whom will be unable to afford a flat in the tower. Croydon will be left with a towering symbol of our failed housing policies that have priced so many out of buying or renting a secure, affordable home.
“Having lost two-thirds of his affordable housing budget, the Mayor will be faced with more and more planning applications for homes most Londoners can’t afford.”
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Tower blocks are unsuitable for family living: that’s the assumption of your spoof poll and, respectfully, I question it.
I have no particular liking for this Menta development – the design is much too brash – but residential tower blocks in town centres seem a sensible idea. They would certainly be a vast improvement on the wasteland that is central Croydon at present.
They can offer convenient homes for families, providing the buildings are designed with the security of residents in mind and include a proper central lobby with at least six high-speed lifts.
We fell out of love with high-rise living following the planning excesses of the 1960s, when housing authorities cut corners, adopting dubious building techniques that included fitting small, slow and unreliable lifts – toilet-like in size and too often in use.
Our European cousins and those across the Atlantic manage very well in their streets in the sky; with a little foresight we could do equally well.
What spoof poll?? The poll, and its results, are entirely indicative of the views of Inside Croydon readers (and we’ll let you into a secret: there’s more than one!).
The aspirations you express for civilised, comfortable and affordable high-rise housing are exactly the sentiments which were expressed before those slums in the sky were erected in the 1960s, with the many attendant socially divisive effects from which some neighbourhoods, to this day, have yet to recover.
Tall towers are too often the dreams of architects, but the nightmares of the people who live in them.
There is another problem with the Mental Tower, though.
Have you seen those other “prestige”, high-rise developments in Croydon, the unbuilt IYLO Tower and Latitude 25, where the “25” stands for the curent occupancy rate? There is no evidence to show any demand for high-rise homes in this area.
You don’t like the look of the Mental Tower. We think that 55 storeys is far, far too high for decent family housing, and it is entirely out of keeping with the surrounding buildings. We are also distrustful of the developers’ and council’s approved design that fails to provide anything close to adequate number of car parking spaces.
Apart from that, though, yeah, it’s just fine.
You raise an important point about empty or unfinished residential blocks in the town centre. I wonder whether the developers have misjudged the market.
Altitude 25 is seeking as much as £320,000 for what looks like a pokey two-bed flat, albeit with a veranda and swanky fittings. In the present economic climate I’m not surprised the developers have plenty of space to spare.
Incidentally, there are 236 units in that development, selling at an average £250,000 and thus realising a potential £59m. Call me naive, but isn’t that greed of banker proportions?
I would be interested to see how much a social housing group would charge for a co-ownership property of hopefully larger floor area in central Croydon. I suspect there might be a long queue of would-be residents.
Perhaps one of our more astute housing associations would consider acquiring what exists of the IYLO development at a bargain price and seeing what it can achieve.
The back-office economy, on which Croydon’s commercial prowess was founded, has gone for ever. We may be able to build some new offices and possibly a hotel or two close to both railway stations.
The rest is likely to be residential, so whatever mistakes we may have made in the past with high-rise accommodation we need to find a way to correct them now, if only to help reduce the chronic housing shortage in this area.
Like you, I would prefer not to live on the 55th floor, but I suspect there are people who would enjoy the experience. It would certainly be quiet up there.