Croydon Council has given the all-clear to Lidl to demolish the Good Companions pub at Hamsey Green, leaving local residents and some Sanderstead councillors to pin their hopes on objections to the planned supermarket because it is unsuitable for a site described as “the gateway from Surrey to London”.
Local residents had hoped to create a legal speed bump for the German supermarket’s multi-million-pound plans by calling for a full environmental impact assessment because of the presence on the site of many roosting bats.
Demolition contractors have been on the site this week felling trees – some of which included birds’ nests and bat boxes. According to a local resident, when one worker was approached and asked if there were any preservation orders on the trees, he replied, “They won’t care. They’ll just pay the fine.”
Natural England, the national agency responsible for ensuring that rare species – including bats – do not have their habitat needlessly disturbed, has written to Croydon Council reminding it of its responsibilities to conduct a proper assessment of the site before allowing any work to go ahead.
Despite the evidence of bats nesting in the roof space of the Good Companions, in a written notice issued late on Friday, council planning officer Greg Blaquière wrote: “As part of the process the application has been screened for the requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment. This has been determined as ‘not required’.”
The planning officer also wrote: “For consent to be approved the Council had to be satisfied solely with the details of demolition and restoration of the site in order to minimise the impact of that activity on local amenity. Officers are satisfied with the information provided.”
Lidl has bought the pub, on the Limpsfield Road where Sanderstead ends and Surrey begins, reputedly for more than £2 million. It plans on building a vast metal shed to house its latest cut-price superstore on the key site.
A group of local residents has formed, concerned at the conflict between the supermarket traffic on the roads passing two local schools, and questioning whether the area needs another supermarket. The presence of a Lidl could be detrimental to the business of the Co-Op across the road, which is where the only local Post Office is housed.
The residents received belated legal advice about the preservation of threatened species, which Lidl and now Croydon Council appear to have ignored.
Blaquière’s letter on Friday claims that “following representations received the applicant has been made aware of a possible presence of bats on site. They have been advised duty to ensure no harm caused to protected species”. This is something which residents claim to have evidence that the contractors have already broken.
Sanderstead councillor Yvette Hopley, who is opposed to the Lidl development, described the planning officer’s letter as “not the answer you had hoped for, but sadly it is a decision I expected”.
Hopley is joined in her opposition to by her ward colleague, Tim Pollard, the deputy leader of the Conservative group which controls Croydon Council.The third Tory councillor for Sanderstead, Lynne Hale, has been silent on this issue, despite her working as a parliamentary assistant for the local MP, Lord Bletchingley, and therefore having ready access to what is claimed to be his considerable influence within the government.
Down the hill from Sanderstead, their colleague in Croham ward, Maria Gatland, is putting up a rearguard action against a similar supermarket development of a landmark pub. Tesco has made planning and alcohol licence applications for the Whitgift Foundation-owned Swan & Sugarloaf pub on the Brighton Road, and Gatland and her colleagues in Croham, Fairfield and Waddon wards have promised to oppose the plans.
Hopley yesterday told local campaigners of her regret for the destruction of the Good Companions. “I will be extremely sorry to see the loss of this community asset,” the councillor wrote.
“I attended the local schools, grew up in Hamsey Green and often enjoyed a drink or two on its terrace. It has been as much a part of my life in Sanderstead as those residents’ expressing their concerns over this matter.
“I have received numerous calls, letters and emails objecting to the demolition of ‘The Goodies’, which has been at the heart of our community for many years. Sadly, the first the local councillors heard that the brewery had sold the site to Lidl was when Lidl’s staff were seen boarding up the site.
“It would appear that there are no material grounds by which we can officially object to this proposal.
“Where we do have control is over the type of building that would be put back on this site. Currently the proposal submitted by Lidl is out of character with the area and does not suit the village environment of Hamsey Green.
“This is a landmark site, the gateway from Surrey to London and as such only a building of good design and character should be considered. We also have control over traffic flow and safety issues and the impact on the amenity and adjoining occupants.”
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