Croydon appoints Negrini as fifth planning chief in two years

Croydon Council has hand-picked someone to be our borough’s executive director of planning and environment who has spent the last four years working closely with developers Westfield on their Stratford mega-mall.

Jo Negrini will become Croydon’s fifth planning chief in the space of little more than two years when she takes up her new job at the end of January, something her temporarily appointed boss referred to when he said he hoped she would bring “long-term stability to the department”.

Croydon's new planning chief: Jo Negrini

Croydon’s new planning chief: Jo Negrini

The appointment was announced by Nathan Elvery, the council’s interim chief executive and moonlighting entrepreneur, in an email to staff sent just before 4pm yesterday evening – barely two hours before the council planning meeting to rubber-stamp the £1billion Hammersfield scheme for Croydon town centre.

Negrini has previously held senior positions in Lambeth, where she will have worked with the leader of the council there, Steve Reed, now Croydon North’s MP, and, most recently, in Newham.

Working in east London since 2010, Negrini – from Australia, just like Westfield funnily enough – represented that Labour-controlled local authority’s position on the completion of Westfield Stratford mall and much of the Olympic Park, including London’s Olympic Stadium.

In carefully crafted comments attributed to Negrini and distributed to council staff, she said, “I’m really excited at the prospect of picking up the development and environment reins at such a pivotal time for Croydon. I’m aware of the fantastic work that’s been done by the team to get the borough to this point, and am looking forward to leading on harnessing the opportunities to drive regeneration and further investment while ensuring continual improvement to the council’s frontline environmental services.”

Did she really say, “Continual improvement to the council’s frontline environmental services”? Really? Her early conversations with Steve Reed on those issues should be interesting.

Negrini’s remarks continued: “As the London market continues to heat up, Croydon, similar to Newham, is well placed to provide an alternative location that provides better value for money. My work at Newham has taught me about how to sell a place to investors and how to ensure that investment translates to improving the quality of residents’ lives. I’m very much looking forward to using this experience in Croydon.”

Which sort of underlines that Negrini has been carefully briefed to talk up the property market in Croydon, because the council’s £450 million joint venture with John Laing has been struggling and needs as much of a boost as it can get to get Elvery and council leader Mike Fisher out of the property speculation merde that they helped to create.

Negrini replaces Paul “Sponger” Spooner, the £1,000-a-day interim head of planning at Croydon who has his last day in his very well-paid position today.

Negrini is due to start in January. Unlike Sponger, Negrini’s is a permanent appointment, and therefore she won’t be paid a consultant’s daily rate.

The face of a worried woman? Croydon's new head of planning, regeneration, environment, etc and so forth, after having just seen the streets around Bruce Willis House

The face of a worried woman? Croydon’s new head of planning, regeneration, development, environment and so forth, after having just seen the streets around Bruce Willis House

In the email to council staff, Elvery said, “With experience gained at two inner London authorities that are facing similar regeneration opportunities, she brings a wealth of experience to the council. She’s worked for four years in Newham as a strategic director, and, for the eight years prior to that, as the director of major regeneration projects, employment and enterprise at Lambeth.

“In Newham, her remit covered Planning, inward global investment, commercial development, housing estate regeneration, and developing strategies to procure and deliver the council’s physical regeneration programme. Her key function however, was to ensure that the staging of the Olympic Games in Stratford resulted in a real and lasting legacy for people in East London,” Elvery said.

“In Lambeth, Jo delivered a range of regeneration programmes that included public private partnership work on developing Clapham and Streatham town centres and placemaking initiatives in Brixton.

“Jo started her career in the UK, having gained a degree in Town Planning at the University of New South Wales, Australia with her first significant role as establishing Hyde Housing Association’s economic development arm – Hyde Plus. She subsequently became Town Centre Manager at Lambeth Council, before taking on the post of Head of Community Safety where she led, with the Metropolitan Police Service, a successful crime reduction programme aimed at tackling major drug related crime in Brixton town centre.

“Jo joined the London Borough of Newham in early 2010. As the Director of Strategy and Regeneration here she produced Newham’s first ever Inward Investment Strategy to capitalise on the global investment attention afforded by the Olympics. Her most recent role – Director of Strategic Regeneration and Planning has seen her oversee some of the largest planning applications in London and the delivery of a £0.5 billion regeneration programme in Canning Town, Royal Docks and Stratford.”

Elvery concluded his welcoming address by stating: “Jo was an outstanding candidate and her proven track record will bring a wealth of experience to the council. I am positive that getting Jo on board will enable us to embed the new focus of the newly named Development and Environment department, whilst providing excellent leadership and long-term stability to the department.”

We’ll see.

See Negrini in action in this video of her making a presentation in Newham in May this year:

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1 Response to Croydon appoints Negrini as fifth planning chief in two years

  1. davidcallam says:

    Someone with inner London experience: a senior officer with an affinity for north Croydon: it will be interesting to see how she deals with the self-satisfied south of the borough orientated councillors.

    I get the impression somebody, maybe Boris Johnson, is seeing Croydon as an important part of Greater London rather than a twilight area of Surrey. Or is that just wishful thinking on my part?

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