Croydon’s Conservative-run council has set itself on collision course with Tory local government chief Eric Pickles after deciding to reject as “a recipe for disaster” Whitehall proposals on planning that would make it easier for developers and homeowners to build on suburban gardens.
The communities and local government department recently issued new planning guidance to allow for house extensions of up to eight metres – double the existing maximum – without having to seek planning permission from the local council.
The measure has caused consternation among Conservative councillors across the country, who see trouble in a proposal that Bullingdon boy Gideon Osborne desperately hopes will create a conservatory construction-led boom.
Richmond council in south-west London led the resistance, and this week Croydon joined the fray by pledging to write in against the proposal.
Jason Perry, the Conservative cabinet member responsible for planning, yesterday tore apart the poor logic behind the proposal, talking of the “dreadful legacy” it would leave to Croydon.
“No one believes that the proposed changes will make any real or lasting difference to the country’s economic difficulties,” Perry said, “but they will make a big and long-lasting difference to the lives of people who will be affected by the extremely large extensions that may be possible.
“And what is so hard to understand is that the changes will be temporary, for three years. If this happens, what a dreadful legacy those six- and eight-metre extensions will be.
“To double the limits for single-storey extensions is saying that it’s OK to cause harm and misery to people whose gardens and homes will be overshadowed because a few builders will be a bit busier. This cannot be right.”
Perry’s statement was immediately backed by Croham councillor Maria Gatland and Tim Pollard, the deputy leader of the council.
Pollard told Inside Croydon that putting Croydon’s interests first and speaking out in opposition to the liberalisation of the planning process as “one of those things that has to be done”.
Gatland called the government’s planning change a “recipe for disaster”. There had been “lots of concern from residents in South Croydon regarding the coalition’s plans to change planning rules regarding extensions”, she said.
Tony Newman, the leader of the Labour group on the council, sees the Croydon Conservatives’ position as hypocritical. “It’s a little late for Conservative councillors, desperate to distance themselves from their government’s policies, having supported the many other attacks and cuts to local councils that have bought us to this point.”
Perry says that Conservative-controlled Croydon is determined to speak out stridently on the issue in protecting local residents’ interests: “When the promised consultation is launched on these proposals, my council will resist them in the strongest possible terms.
“They make no sense; they will cause real and lasting harm and they will do little to boost the economy.”
Perry faces a tough fight though, as Pickles seems determined to go through with the changes, urging people to sue for damages if their council tries to stop them building large extensions in their back gardens.
It will be interesting to see if Croydon’s opposition to the change goes beyond taking part in consultations and will go on to match the Richmond Tories’ pledge to ignore the change.
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