Coulsdon’s version of UDI* looks to be a step closer, with at least one of the area’s large and very active residents’ associations determined to have its members stand in next May’s local council elections.
Richard Thurbon, the chairman of Coulsdon West Residents’ Association, reveals that his organisation intends to field candidates for election to the Town Hall in an interview on Croydon Radio from noon today.
“We have had enough of this, we want to be listened to. This is what politics should be about,” Thurbon says in the interview, clearly angry that he and his usually true blue neighbours have been taken for granted for too long by Croydon’s Conservative-run Council.
There are rising concerns among many residents over the imposition of a 600-plus new town being built on Green Belt land at Cane Hill, while Croydon’s “Masterplan” for Coulsdon has had to be hurriedly abandoned following a legal challenge from residents in nearby Chipstead.
Coulsdon West could be a three-way battle next May between the incumbent Tories, the new political force UKIP and the independently minded residents.
Coulsdon West ward presents the local Conservative party with particular problems which a residents’ association intervention will not help.
David Osland is the long-standing councillor and former senior Met police officer who was involved in the badly handled Stephen Lawrence murder investigation. Osland was thought to be retiring before the elections, making way in an apparent “safe” council seat for one of the desperate wannabes in the local Tory party.
His Conservative councillor colleague, Jeet Bains, meanwhile, continues to be entangled in an investigation of the management of a Sikh temple, where he was chairman until recently, but where £200,000 of charity funds remains unaccounted for.
The Tory trio in Coulsdon West – completed by Councillor Ian Parker, the local party’s agent – already knew it had its work cut out, with UKIP expected to put up a robust challenge on the day of the European elections. UKIP recently polled more than 30 per cent in Surrey County council elections just across the border in Chipstead Valley.
Thurbon suggests that he is also consulting with other residents’ associations in Coulsdon and Purley to co-operate across the area which, until the mid-1960s, had its own local authority separate from Croydon, and which looked towards Surrey county council rather than Greater London.
Sources within the Old Coulsdon Residents’ Association, meanwhile, denied all knowledge of any election plans, saying that their organisation “generally supports the Masterplan and Cane Hill Hill development, but want some ‘adjustments’.”
Those “adjustments” include wholesale re-alignment of the road plans for Cane Hill and greater demands being placed on the developers, Barratt Homes, to provide more public amenities, such as a primary school, GPs’ surgery or library, in return for being given a vast tract of public land.
“I have no truck with politics,” Thurbon declares on the radio programme, as he reveals his residents’ association intention to dive in to Croydon’s murky political pool head first.
Thurbon suggests that some canvassing has already begun, mining a deep vein of disillusionment on the doorstep of an area which in 2010 returned three Conservative councillors with a margin of around 2,000 votes over the nearest challengers, the LibDems (remember them?).
Thurbon talks of a lack of trust and an exasperation with not being listened to by his local councillors, whose priorities appear to be more about preserving the Conservative majority up at Croydon Town Hall than protecting the interests of Coulsdon. Thurbon says that his councillors’ response tends to be, “That’s the party line, we have to do this.”
Pressed to confirm that the residents’ association will field candidates, Thurbon said, “Will. It is ‘will’. Very much.”
When asked about the risk of losing the Freedom Pass for senior citizens living in Great London, Thurbon said he sees the danger of losing other services through Croydon’s management as more serious.
In the words of the blessed Gerry Rafferty, Thurbon could soon find himself and his colleagues stuck in the middle, with “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…”
The planning application for Cane Hill and its 675 new homes has recently been posted, with some residents calling for the public to post objections requiring road access on to the A23, rather than just using Marlpit Lane and Portnalls, and to provide a much-needed school on the site.
“Barratts are set to make millions of pounds building on our Green Belt,” one resident said, “surely they need to be made to put the correct infrastructure in place?”
* UDI – “Unilateral Declaration of Independence”, from the breakaway from British rule by Rhodesia in 1965.
Coming to Croydon
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- Surrey Street Christmas market, Dec 15 and 22
- Cinema Ruskin: Dec 21
- Steve Knightly at Stanley Halls: Feb 5
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