The ConDem government’s efforts to create a property market bubble to win re-election in 2015 are now bearing a little bit of fruit even here in Croydon, a timely boost for the hopes of Gavin Barwell to hold on to his Croydon Central parliamentary seat. Barwell’s even getting a little bit of help from a superhero.
The Homes and Communities Agency, or HCA, the very organisation tasked with pumping government money into property speculation, is moving its head office to Croydon to reduce its costs, compared with its current expensive central London location on Tottenham Court Road.
The HCA is moving into the government-owned Southern House at the typically cheap Croydon rate of £15 per sq ft, though this is still more expensive than £10 per sq ft rates available in quality office space nearby in what some at the Town Hall have taken to describing as “Croydon New Town”.
Barwell has not claimed credit for the HCA move, which is probably a good idea considering that his previous promises to bring civil service jobs to Croydon have, after three years, delivered absolutely nothing, while the area has been hard hit by massive losses of other public sector jobs.
The HCA move will see 150 civil servants working in Croydon; at the very least, they should boost takings at the next door Waitrose.
That office rental rates are still depressed in Croydon is reflected in the poor response to the rate relief programme offered out of riot fund money in the New Town area bounded by Wellesley and Dingwall Road. The scheme, launched more than a year ago, is barely whispered by its advocates at the Town Hall these days, probably embarrassed because they have found only five takers within the original area, while three other firms are being blessed with reduced business rates outside the boundaries which Croydon’s Tory-run council insisted they would not break.
One organisation now intending to move into the New Town area is the Pension Protection Fund, though this is only a displacement from Knollys House on the other side of the railway. The Pension Protection Fund is moving into the newly developed Renaissance House, taking up 40 per cent of the building. The advertised rate for letting there (what may actually be agreed between landlords and tenants while 60 per cent of the building remains empty is anyone’s guess) is £22 per sq ft.
Barwell, the MP for the Whitgift Foundation, will also be pleased that his government has stripped local authorities of some blocking powers on certain types of development, including the delaying effects of protracted negotiations over affordable housing percentages.
This has led to the Dark Knight Rises building, aka the massive and empty 370,000 sq ft Delta Point in Wellesley Road, receiving express permission to be converted for use as 218 two-bed, 104 one-bed and 26 studio flats.
Delta Point, handily placed for West Croydon bus garage, was built in the mid-1980s, a forbidding fortress-style office block which served well as a location shoot for Christian Bale in his 2012 Hollywood Batman movie. Croydon really is Gotham…
Delta Point may soon be full of Conservative-leaning aspirant young professionals, with more money than good property sense, but whose votes could bolster the sitting Tory MP’s majority, and adding to those already housed in the fully sold Berkeley Homes development of Saffron Square.
From Delta Point, Saffron Square is just the other side of Gotham’s six-lane urban motorway that is Wellesley Road, where the council has decided to spend many millions on “improvements”, to the apparent delight of the developers. These are to include better pedestrian access and a link corralled with a high fence to East Croydon Station’s formerly isolated “Bridge to Nowhere”, built with £22 million of public money.
Given that progress seems to have stalled on a number of so-called “prestige” new builds, such as the over-tall Mental Tower that was due to be constructed next to the railway tracks at East Croydon, the office-to-flats turnarounds such as Delta Point cannot come soon enough for the likes of Barwell and his former chums at Croydon Town Hall, who despite the borough’s housing crisis seem intent on providing only new homes that are far out of the reach of ordinary, hard-working families.
Other over-priced, high-rise developments elsewhere in south London are being marketed exclusively in Asia, the glossy sale brochures often promising that there will be no neighbours accommodated through anything as low-rent as social housing schemes, and with some one-bedroom “apartments” being offered for sale for upwards of £300,000.
Seeing run-down office buildings hoovered up by greedy developers for quick-turnround private flats will remove the excess supply of office space from the still stagnant Croydon commercial market.
That there is demand for private accommodation lets can be seen at Altitude 25, which was completed in 2009 but stood largely empty, with one-time £1 million penthouses on the market at barely half those original sky-high prices. Yet now, after the years of being under-occupied despite various short-let schemes from estate agents, it seems that what was Croydon’s tallest residential tower block when it was completed has just 20 flats remaining to be taken up.
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Coming to Croydon
- Lakes Playground group’s fundraising Zumba-ween: Oct 26
- PJ’s enterprising look at Black History Month: Oct 29
- The Railway Children: Oct 30-Nov 2
- St Giles School open morning: Nov 13
- Secret Love at the Ashcroft Theatre: Nov 14
- Future Tech City: Nov 30
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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