Coulsdon residents determined to badger council on Cane Hill

Having withdrawn its proposals for Cane Hill just before Christmas in order to “review” traffic plans and reconsider providing a second exit from the mini-town of 677 homes that they want to build, developers Barratt have now come back with no significant changes to their scheme. They don’t want to badger the local badgers, they say.

BadgersThe withdrawal of the previous application is now transparent as a delaying tactic used to dissipate the mounting local hostility to the Cane Hill development, to wrong-foot the residents’ associations and opposition groups which created such fuss at public meetings with the council and developers last autumn.

Despite having been handed the prime location brownfield site of the former asylum – the land is public property and worth at least £250 million – Barratt say that they cannot afford to build another road to serve their new up-market housing estate on the edge of the Green Belt, or to relieve the likely congestion on the roads of Coulsdon and Chipstead. And they’ve played the ecology ace card: the new road residents want built would disturb the local badger population.

As lame excuses go, this is right down there: hundreds, if not thousands, of building projects have gone ahead after the developers have been forced, at cost to themselves, to undertake special measures to preserve the habitat of local wildlife, including badgers. Artificial setts and badger “underpasses” under roads have been among measures employed by other developers.

But under Croydon’s developer-pleasing Tory council, apparently none of this is possible at Cane Hill.

“So it looks like badgers win over children,” Gill Hickson, a LibDem candidate in Coulsdon in the local elections, said this week.

“They don’t mind asking to build on the rest of the Green Belt in the disguise of regenerating the town by linking it to the new contested Waitrose supermarket at Lion Green Road,” she said.

Not for the first time under the Conservative-run Town Hall (and Tory Mayor at City Hall), it appears that multi-millionaire developers are set to make massive profits from public assets, and all at the expense of the quality of life for local residents in Croydon.

The Lion Green Road site referred to by Hickson is owned by Croydon Council. Rather than insist that Barratt build any public amenities within the development site that they have been given, such as a school, supermarket or GPs’ surgery (likely diminishing the number of swanky commuter-belt houses they can deliver, and thus reducing the amount of profit they make), Croydon is using public property at Lion Green Road to provide the surgery and a Waitrose supermarket through its CCURV joint venture.

Barratt's plans for Cane Hill include maintaining and re-purposing the old hospital's impressive chapel. But they just don't want to tell anyone what those plans are yet

Barratt’s plans for Cane Hill include maintaining and re-purposing the old hospital’s impressive chapel. But they just don’t want to tell anyone what those plans are yet

Roads and traffic congestion remain a serious concern. Croydon Council’s Coulsdon “Masterplan” was withdrawn late last year under threat of a legal challenge from neighbouring local authorities.

The well-organised and active Coulsdon residents’ associations want an additional exit road direct on to the Coulsdon bypass to reduce traffic congestion in the town centre and on local roads. Other residents’ associations, such as Chipstead, want an exit on the bypass as an alternative to the one proposed on Portnalls Road.

In December, Barratt Homes agreed to go back and ask their transport consultant Mayer Brown to do a new traffic assessment examining two options for access direct to the bypass. One direct to the southern roundabout which is best in traffic terms, but is expensive and would require taking Green Belt land.

The second would be near footpath 744 at the crest of the bypass which is favoured by the residents as it is cheaper, less obtrusive and there would be no loss of Green Belt. Mayer Brown have concluded that both would work in traffic terms, but they say that neither roads are required to make Cane Hill work and they would have little effect on traffic in local roads. They claim that Transport for London don’t want the new road (though they provide no evidence to show that response from TfL, or even that TfL has even ever seen the plans).

“Reading between the lines, this means you can have an additional exit from Cane Hill as long as Barratt don’t have to pay,” according to Charlie King, a local Labour activist and member of the East Coulsdon Residents’ Association.

“Croydon planning seem to be ignoring the footpath 744 option and saying that the roundabout option is too expensive and they do not have any money, ignoring that fact that they will receive £9 million in Community Infrastructure Levy money from Barratts.

“The local RAs and business partnerships will be campaigning to get an additional exit on the bypass as well as the one to the town centre at Marlpit Lane and the one on Portnalls. We will be seeking a further meeting with Mike Fisher,” King said.

“If we get the additional exit we will support. If we don’t, we will oppose Cane Hill,” King said.

King and Hickson are not the only locals who have seen through the scam of a “consultation” from Barratt and their mates at Croydon Council.

“It’s disappointing to see that yet again, we were promised to be listened to, but the end result is different from what was asked,” one resident said. “We are basically being told that we can have an exit on to the bypass as long as Barratts do not have to pay.”

Barratt logo

Note the slogan. As opposed to “bulldozing over you”, presumably?

According to another member of the Old Coulsdon Residents’ Association, “Anyone who drives through Coulsdon town in the rush hours knows the gridlock that occurs already, without adding to it. The big Marlpit Lane roundabout is at a virtual standstill every week day.”

Another resident is entirely cynical about the intentions of the developers. “I don’t think that Barratts have any intention of changing their plans or considering any other exits or entrances.”

With Croydon Council being both the developer, through CCURV, and the planning authority for the scheme at Lion Green Road, it is the residents who are feeling bulldozed long before the builders are on site for the proposed supermarket. Croydon Council doesn’t “give a crap about anyone’s concerns”, another resident said.

It is worth noting that while Tory-run local authorities in Surrey have raised objections on behalf of their residents’ interests, not a peep on this subject on behalf of Croydon South constituents has been heard from “Sir” Tricky Dicky Ottaway, the Bletchingley-based MP, nor from Steve “Three Jobs” O’Connell, the London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton. Not that anyone is surprised.

Hickson has taken a dim view of the “revised” proposals for Cane Hill itself. “They have almost 700 homes but only 21 visitors’ car parking spaces… best you don’t have friends if you live there,” she said.

“There’s no play park, only some wooden exercise points in the trees.” Barratt want to chop down some of the trees around the site, even though they have preservation orders. And the developers claim that they will not have any plans for the chapel on the site of the Victorian hospital until much closer to the completion of the scheme.

“No one is saying ‘no’ to the houses,” Hickson said, “but this is nonsense.”

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