Cane Hill road deal not enough to stop all residents’ objections

Richard Thurbon, the chairman of the Coulsdon West Residents’ Association, last night confirmed that his organisation has filed a formal objection to the planning application by house-builders Barratt for Cane Hill, despite the promise from Mike Fisher, the leader of the local Tories who run Croydon, that the council will pay for an additional exit road from the proposed housing estate.

An overview of the Cane Hill site, where only the old chapel and tower remain of the former mental hospital. Barratt have been given the land to build 677 homes

An overview of the Cane Hill site, where only the old chapel and tower remain of the former mental hospital. Barratt have been given the land to build 677 homes

Cane Hill falls within the area covered by CWRA. The deadline for comments on the planning application for Cane Hill is today.

Thurbon has been vocal previously in calls for Coulsdon to breakaway from Croydon control over well-placed concerns about the way residents’ concerns have been overlooked by their complacent Conservative councillors, and it had also been suggested that the local residents’ associations might field candidates against the Tories in their wards in May’s local elections.

But in the letter to the council’s planning department, shared on social media by Thurbon, the residents’ association says, “Our concern has been growing progressively over recent months about certain key issues…”.

The letter goes on to discuss worries about the “balance” of the development – in 677 proposed new homes, the vast majority are three-, four- and five-bedroomed, offering little opportunity for existing, older residents in the area to downsize from their current homes. The letter also raises the much-aired concerns about traffic levels and parking.

“Having seen Barratt’s most recent proposals, we see that the balance is now tilted heavily away from small units such as two-person flats towards large numbers of larger exec Homes [sic],” the letter says.

“CWRA … request that urgent attention be given to providing more flats (of appropriate design) and fewer large homes. We need a good spread of accommodation, with enough provision of affordable homes for smaller families and single people. We should also consider self-build plots to add character and diversity to the development.

“Reducing the ratio of the larger houses will also bring the footprint under agreed levels.”

Despite wanting to build nearly 700 new homes, the builders are seriously suggesting that just 21 parking spaces across the whole site will be sufficient. “The amount of provided parking for visitors and services to the Cane Hill site is too low,” the CWRA says.

“A figure of around 21 spaces for the entire site has been indicated, which would restrict or impede parking for visitors or workmen/service providers to the site, and would push this parking into other areas of Coulsdon.”

Richard Thurbon: non-political residents' association chairman

Richard Thurbon: the non-political residents’ association chairman

Traffic remains a major issue, not only for the residents’ associations in Coulsdon, but also those in Chipstead and nearby areas of Surrey, whose previous threats of legal action forced Croydon to abandon its Coulsdon “Master”plan last year.

“In recent meetings with both Barratt’s [sic], and the Leader of Croydon Council Mike Fisher, it has been agreed that Croydon Council would seek to use the residents [sic] suggestion that the Eastern Exit near the existing footpath onto the A23 by-pass would be requested and paid for by Croydon Council. This is a welcome move by the parties concerned, and would work to alleviate some of the traffic pressure from the site,” the CWRA letter says.

“However this proposal still requires agreement by TFL [Transport for London], the owners of the A23, and also did not form part of the submitted plans by Barratts [sic].”

This is a significant piece of reining back, and identifies the trap which the local Tory leadership of Fisher, accompanied by Steve “Three Jobs” O’Connell, wanted to set for the local objectors. A promise held out in an informal residents’ meeting will count for nothing after the local elections on May 22, especially if the detailed Barratt planning application gets waved through without any of the amendments promised to the residents being included in black and white.

Even then, there will need to be a close watch of how the builders’ work progresses with the help of the local council: until recently, one Tory member of the Croydon planning committees also happened to work for the PR agency that handles Barratt’s Cane Hill account. There remains one Tory councillor on the planning committees who is the director of a builders’ supply company.

The CWRA objection letter states: “We therefore object on the grounds they do not form part of the submitted plans, and await such time as until they are resubmitted as part of this, including guarntees [sic] of funding from Croydon Council and agreement from TfL,” which seems to accept that Barratt will not be responsible for paying for the access roads to its own housing development.

“We also [sic] concerned that there has been no analysis or costs provided on comparison with the Southern exit. This needs to be an urgent requirement to ensure the correct exit is profiled and costed and does not need up [sic] being a more expensive option.”

MIke Fisher: has influenced Coulsdon RAs not to field election candidates, but not to withdraw all objections to Cane Hill plans

MIke Fisher: has influenced Coulsdon RAs not to field election candidates, but not to withdraw all objections to Cane Hill plans

Despite being granted the rights to build on the public property that is the Cane Hill site, which is conservatively valued at £250 million, Barratt is contributing just £9 million in community infrastructure levy.

The house-builders have refused to pay for a second exit road. They have also rejected one option, the “southern exit”, on the grounds that it might disturb a local colony of badgers (not something which usually bothers building developers).

The CWRA’s objection letter states: “We are also unaware of if [sic] the ecological impacts have been costed in terms of providing mitigating factors and ecological protection measures at the southern end of the site. We would insist this is carried out in order to understand what can be done.

“We also have no clearer information on the traffic calming measures proposed for Portnalls Road, and therefore raise an objection based on the traffic diverted down this road will be unsafe and will endanger the lives of the children from the two schools on this road.”

In a note circulated by Thurbon with the objection letter, he writes that the CWRA committee is “deeply disappointed that unnamed parties have indicated that a deal has been struck with the council to ‘withdraw’ our objections or influenced the CWRA on it’s [sic] decisions. Nothing can be further from the truth.”

Inside Croydon is happy to reveal who that “unnamed party” is: none other than Richard Thurbon.

This is what Thurbon posted publicly on Sunday, following the meeting between Fisher and O’Connell and the other local RAs:

“For ecological and financial reasons, the link on to the southern roundabout is not feasible but the much shorter link to Farthing Way near Footpath 744 is supported. Transport for London (TfL) are responsible for the A23 and must still be persuaded that a traffic light controlled junction can be added in the face of some unconvincing traffic modelling carried out by consultants for Barratt Homes.

“It was agreed that a meeting would be arranged for Croydon Council planners to discuss this with TfL and, if agreed in time, would enable the RAs to withdraw their objection to the Cane Hill development on advice of their members.” Those are our italics.

On the same day, Thurbon also issued a brief statement that it had been decided that the non-political RAs would not, after all, be fielding candidates in the local elections. Resident Association candidates have in the past stood for election in Coulsdon and served as councillors at the Town Hall.

So no evidence of the council influencing the CWRA whatsoever. Oh no.

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1 Response to Cane Hill road deal not enough to stop all residents’ objections

  1. davidcallam says:

    As clear as mud.

    I note the government has opted for a development corporation to ensure progress is made at Ebbsfleet in Kent.

    I suspect a similar solution in south London would include the Coulsdon site; it would put the housing shortage in proper perspective and local residents firmly in their place.

    Democracy is all very well, but not when selfish people abuse it to prevent others from enjoying a decent home.

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