Council puts Cane Hill plan on hold to reassess traffic schemes

Campaigning residents’ associations in Coulsdon will be celebrating more than Christmas this week, after Croydon Council has finally listened to their concerns and decided to place on hold planning applications for the massive Cane Hill residential development and Lion Green Road car park while new transport assessments are drawn up.

An overview of the Cane Hill site, where only the old chapel and tower remain of the former mental hospital. Barratt's have been given the land to build 650 homes - but so far have not been forced to pay to build roads to access it

An overview of the Cane Hill site, where only the old chapel and tower remain of the former mental hospital. Barratt’s have been given the land to build 650 homes – but so far have not been forced to pay to build roads to access it

The residents’ associations have long campaigned for better access routes to and from the site of the former mental hospital at Cane Hill, which Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, handed over to developers Barratt in a build-now, pay-for-it-later scheme that at present is intended to deliver more than 650 homes.

The decision to pause the planning process follows a Town Hall meeting held with residents’ groups last week by florid-faced Mike Fisher, the leader of Croydon’s Conservative council, and Steve O’Connell, the London Assembly Member. It also follows the news, first reported by Inside Croydon, that at least one residents’ association is considering putting up independent candidates in usually true-blue Coulsdon at the local elections next May, something which has the potential to make Croydon’s Tory leader Fisher more red-faced than usual.

The residents’ associations position has consistently been that while they do not oppose the development of Cane Hill per se, they want to ensure the best possible development for the whole of the area, with road schemes, schools and medical provision properly considered, rather than ignored at the expense of the builders’ multi-million pound bottom line.

Croydon Council’s re-think on the planning applications, which is being taken together with Barratt’s and its own development joint venture, CCURV, also follows the abandonment of Croydon’s “Masterplan” for Coulsdon, which was hastily dropped when confronted with the possibility of legal challenge from neighbouring Chipstead and Banstead. The well-resourced Surrey residents’ groups, with support from their council, took exception to the impact on their roads that Croydon’s ill-considered traffic schemes might have.

Mike Fisher: red-faced after his council has been challenged by residents' associations

Mike Fisher: red-faced after his council has been challenged by residents’ associations

There was a heated public meeting with Coulsdon residents in October and then the further discussion with the local associations last week. The following day, an email was sent to local groups from Mike Kiely, the council’s director of planning, announcing the halt in planning proceedings.

In his email, Kiely wrote: “The Council has received planning applications for both Cane Hill by Barratts and Lion Green Road Car Park by CCURV. These statutory submissions must be processed and determined by the Council. The withdrawal of the Masterplan document does not alter our responsibilities under the Planning Acts in this regard.”

Kiely’s email continued by stating that Fisher and his cabinet colleagues “undertook to ensure that the access arrangements for the Cane Hill proposals are properly considered and in particular the necessity for a second access onto Portnalls Road and the possibility of an alternative or additional access further south onto the A23 examined further”.

Which does prompt the question of why the access arrangements had not been “properly considered” in the first place?

Kiely wrote: “These matters have been discussed with Barratts and CCURV and additional work is being undertaken between the respective highway consultants, Transport for London and the Council. It is expected that this will be reflected in changes to the Transport Appraisal for both applications and, with respect to the Cane Hill development, the Environmental Assessment. When this additional material is available a further consultation on both applications will be undertaken in the usual manner.

“The applications will be reported to committee once all the relevant processes are completed. No date is set for that at this stage. Both applications will be subject to any direction from the London Mayor. The Cane Hill development is caught by the 2/2009 Direction due to Green Belt Policy issues and therefore will be referred to the Secretary of State.”

Local resident Peter Morgan, who championed two successful borough-wide parking campaigns and has studied the traffic schemes for Coulsdon over many years, said, “This does not mean that we are promised changes, such as a southern access to the A23 for Cane Hill, and more parking and a widened Lion Green Road for the car park scheme.

“This does however represent a huge step forward, and follows intensive lobbying by a wide range of people and organisations, including all the residents’ associations covering Coulsdon and Chipstead.”

The old Cane Hill Hospital

The old Cane Hill Hospital

The campaigning included a leaflet and objection letter delivered to more than 5,000 homes and businesses across Coulsdon, as well as several hundred objections lodged to the Coulsdon “Masterplan”, more than 300 objections to the Lion Green Road scheme, and another 400 or more objections to the Cane Hill project.

The Lion Green Road scheme – which will build a supermarket and GPs’ surgery on council-owned land, mainly to service the new community on Cane Hill – will be largely publicly funded: CCURV is half-owned by Croydon Council.

Morgan and other Coulsdon residents will be keeping a close eye on how the re-negotiations unfold. “There are inconsistencies in recently published information, and it is not clear exactly which options will be considered, nor whether real changes will be made,” said Morgan.

“In terms of Cane Hill, there are two A23 access options, at the southern roundabout, and at the brow of the bypass. It is not clear if both will be fully assessed.”

Croydon Council appears still to be exceedingly fond of its discredited Coulsdon “Masterplan”, because while publicly abandoning it in the face of the Chipstead challenge, as Morgan says, “While the council has permanently withdrawn the Plan, they also say that its contents continue – which support the current schemes”, and that includes with no southern access road into Cane Hill.

Chipstead residents are already consulting their lawyers again to ensure that Croydon does not impose its Coulsdon “Masterplan” in another guise.

Nigel Rea, the chairman of the Old Coulsdon Residents’ Association, said yesterday, “The local residents’ associations have been pressing Croydon Council for an additional exit from the Cane Hill site on to the bypass to ease the potential traffic chaos in Coulsdon and Chipstead…

“We are not against the developments; they just cannot be built at any cost.”

A further meeting with councillors and officers is expected in the new year.


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