Advisors reject Taberner redevelopment as ‘Eastern Bloc’

Croydon Council not only wants to bulldoze through Queen’s Gardens, but it is already bulldozing through its own planning policies to do so, as it conspires with its billionaire builder partners to make more than £100 million from building on public open space in the prime site in the centre of town.

The soaring ambition of the CCURV scheme for Taberner House and Queen's Gardens, including the 32-storey tower block. The smaller building in the foreground is on what is now Queen's Gardens

The soaring ambition of the CCURV scheme for Taberner House and Queen’s Gardens, including the 32-storey tower block. The smaller building in the foreground is on what is now Queen’s Gardens

The scheme is proposed by CCURV, the property speculation joint venture between Croydon Council and the builders John Laing.

They want to build five buildings on the site of the former council offices, next to the Croydon Flyover, including one 32-storey tower – half the height again of the existing Taberner House. And although previous proposals to build on to Queen’s Gardens have been rejected by the council’s planning committee, this time CCURV has come back wanting to use up even more of the precious open space.

At considerable public expense, CCURV has staged two poorly publicised (deliberately so?) and poorly attended public consultations, so there is little public awareness of what our council is trying to do to rescue the finances of its misconceived “urban regeneration vehicle”, which has so far failed to deliver either much in the way of regeneration or the millions of pounds of profit from public property which Mike Fisher, the leader of Croydon’s Tory-run council, and his then CEO, Jon Rouse, promised could be used to subsidise public services.

The proposals have been published on the council’s planning register, where the public can post its comments and objections until this Thursday, February 20. Anyone visiting the register will discover more than a thousand pages of documents, drawings and “artist’s impressions” of what is proposed on this landmark site, which stands across Fell Road from the new council offices in Fisher’s Folly and the Grade II-listed Town Hall.

The diagrams clearly show that, not satisfied with utilising the footprint of Taberner House, the council and Laing’s greedily want to build over almost half of Queen’s Gardens, all the way up to the fountain area.

But according to well-placed sources within the council, its own committee for conservation area planning approval has already rejected the scheme, dismissing it as “looking like as design from the Eastern Bloc”.

The developers propose a courtyard between the new buildings, claiming that this “inner amenity space”, including a playground, will in some way compensate for the loss of public open space in Queen’s Gardens.

Architects' diagrams of the buildings that CCURV wants to build on Queen's Gardens illustrate how they are utterly out of scale with the neighbouring Grade II-listed Town Hall and other existing buildings

Architects’ diagrams of the buildings that CCURV wants to build on Queen’s Gardens illustrate how they are utterly out of scale with the neighbouring Grade II-listed Town Hall and other existing buildings

But conservationists say that the courtyard will be in shadow cast by the surrounding buildings for much of the day, and that by being “within” the cordon created by the new buildings, the courtyard will be cut-off and will not be regarded as a public open space in the same way as the existing gardens.

The documents also reveal that, of the 420 apartments proposed in this massive development, provision is being made for just six three-bedroom affordable homes.

And so eager – or desperate – is our council and its partners to get on with the project, that even though the planning consultation has not finished, preparatory demolition work has begun on Taberner House, even though no approval has been granted for the designs. This runs counter to the council’s own, and usually strictly applied, rules.

Members of the conservation area committee fear that, although they have rejected the CCURV plan, the demolition work signals the council’s determination to ensure planning approval is granted.

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7 Responses to Advisors reject Taberner redevelopment as ‘Eastern Bloc’

  1. arnorab says:

    Another truly excellent piece of reportage…if I ever left Croydon, Inside Croydon would be the only thing I would miss!

  2. We have got to have a proper debate about how central Croydon is being developed.

    No one trusts the council on this one. We seem to be losing basic public spaces that soften the brutalist architecture, and getting yet more brutalist, crowded plans for buildings that no one wants except the building industry who are profiting from them.

    Croydon is a community; we need spaces to meet and to share and enjoy culture.

  3. They shouldn’t be reducing the true amount of open space in Queen’s Gardens – a courtyard will no be the same, even if it is technically open space and open to the public. It would be OK if it was only bounded by buildings on three sides, with a large open side – e.g the largest side of a wedge.

    Either that, or they should just use a smaller footprint and thus use up less of the gardens by building taller blocks. Croydon around Park Lane and East Croydon is perfect for skyscrapers, providing they improve other amenities such as schools to cope with the increasing population.

    In any event, new homes are drastically needed and the best way to provide that without losing open space is to build upwards in places that already have and suit tall buildings. These should be good quality iconic individual buildings – not replacing ugly square blocks with more ugly square blocks.

  4. Valerie Hunter says:

    One of the criticisms of CCURV’s proposals for Queen’s Gardens/Taberner House was insufficient consultation, but it was said that they carried out consultation with the Local Planning Authority, key stakeholders and the local community.

    The area of the ‘local’ community that the flyers were to be distributed to was decided by the council – 50 per cent owners of CCURV. These flyers went to George Street to the north, Coombe Road to the south, Chatsworth Road and NLA building to the east, and High Street to the west – mostly shops and non-residential properties.

    Even Scarbrook Road, a few minutes walk from Queen’s Gardens was not considered ‘local’ enough.

    The flyers had two pictures of Taberner House, but none of the proposed development, and little information.

    Is it any wonder then that only 53 people visited the exhibition, and that there were only 39 feedback returned, three emails and two letters in response?

  5. east1956 says:

    Are we really sure about this kerfuffle?

    The goodly persons of Croydon generally do not loiter nor seek to loiter in these so-called public spaces. It is well within recent memory that one of the “users” of Queens Gardens stabbed another to death with a screwdriver.

    At best Queens Gardens has declined to being the venue for rather desultory marriages, (the sight of which one is compelled to wonder whether they are merely events of convenience), a hang out for impecunious young persons or for the consumption of low cost alcohol by various unkempt low-lifes. Clearly someone respectable would not wish to venture into such environments day or night

    Instead of imagining ourselves to be in potential halcyon pseudo-Barcelona-esque city, we should accept that Croydon is a place of function for public administration and retails sales to the lower orders. Croydon is & had always been a low-wage environment that has attracted people who show little interest in the enrichment of their lives through exposure to a well-ordered public realm. Are not the litter strewn grass verges of New Addington and the streets of West Croydon not clear evidence of this? The high density developments planned for Croydon Centre will deliver to the market suitable dormitory accommodation for workers who role is to provide support services for the wealth creating City of London.

    It would be far better to invest the money derived from this development in the well ordered and appreciated areas such as Shirley, Sanderstead and Cousden.

    I hope that I have brought some balance to this one-sided debate that has been dominated by wishy-washy liberals and lefties.

  6. Emily O'Hara says:

    ‘kerfuffle’? Seriously?

    east1956 thinks we should give up on the run-down parts of Croydon rather than examining the root of the problems.

    Firstly, Croydon currently boast award-winning parks and gardens as well as a huge amount of allotments, so we obviously do have a certain level of interest in our open spaces.

    Having researched crime in Queen’s park and visited it on several occassions, there appears to be little to worry about. To use one extreme example seems a little sensationalist as this is not the norm. The park could definitely do with a revamp, but it also suffers from being far away from the shopping centre, so the only regular use it gets is from workers in the surrounding buildings. Perhaps then, it should be more accommodating to this; if any building on the site is to happen, why not a cafe? The family who successfully run the two cafes South Croydon parks (including Lloyd Park) would, I’m sure, do a wonderful job.

    When you cram people in to tiny homes in a dense area with little to no green outdoor areas then of course you will have a problem. Mental health problems will go up as will crime, but to simply give up on an area rather than trying to make it better hurts everyone including those in the more affluent areas.
    I grew up in a very privileged part of South Croydon, where most of the homes are in the 1m + bracket. Now, as an adult who has lived in various parts of more central London, I will be moving to West Croydon. I have taught in Croydon in both private and comprehensive schools, and can tell you that there is a huge divide in privilege. As one school’s year 7s jet off for a school trip to Dubai another school can barely afford paints for it’s art department.

    Croydon has not always been a low wage environment. Croydon Airport used to be the biggest and most important airport in England, bringing skilled jobs to the area. It attracted the likes of famous aviator and world record breaker Amy Johnson, and had many famous faces pass through.

    We should be celebrating our past and being proud of the area, not continuing to allow it to turn in to a bland, concrete corporate hole. Croydon has had some extremely famous residence, including Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote his extremely popular set of short stories The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes here. It also has a great history of producing fine musicians and composers (Samuel Coleridge-Taylor to name just one). Edwardian postcards in my possession prove Croydon to have been a holiday destination of sorts, with families joining in with the local harvests of flower and fruit picking.

    Over the years, we have allowed arts funding (see Mozart Players orchestra) to be cut short, whilst investment in shopping centres have gone through the roof. Little-to-no advertising or help was given to this year’s Croydon Film Festival (I expect this is the first you have heard of it) and much of the money designated for the more deprived boroughs after the riots was syphoned off to more affluent areas.
    However, we did recently have our ‘heritage’ festival, so there there appears to be some attempts to maintain a sense of pride and culture in the community.

    Not everybody in the society we have built can be wealthy or even comfortable. Even if we all had degrees from Oxbridge, we would still need people to sweep the streets, and work behind the counter of the local shops, yet we don’t allow them a living wage. We are punishing them for a performing a task that needs to be done. A huge number of these people happen to live in the more deprived parts of the borough that you are so ready to dismiss, but you would soon miss them if they were gone.

    As a young person in her 20s, I am under no illusions as to the current state of Croydon, but why should that be our future? We have to live here, so we should be able to enjoy living here, not endure it.

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