These councillors voted last night to build on a Croydon park: next month they will want you to trust them with your vote

Queen's Gardens: backing on to Taberner House (background), how much of this will be lost to the development?

Queen’s Gardens: backing on to Taberner House (background), much of this will be lost to the development

When you last had a chance to vote for the local council four years ago, were you asked for your views on the council building on public open space so that the developers could make more than £100million in profit? Can’t remember? That’ll be because you were not.

If you were asked whether it is a good thing to build five hideous tower blocks that would not look out of place in Ceaușescu’s Bucharest over a park opposite Croydon Grade II-listed Town Hall in a town centre that is already notorious for hideous brutalist tower blocks, what would you say? Good idea, or another absolute stinker from a discredited Tory council?

Well, less than a month before they seek re-election, and without any mention of the CCURV property joint venture with John Laing in Croydon Conservatives’ manifesto (largely because the local Tories have not yet produced a borough-wide manifesto to lay out any policies), the following six Conservative councillors last night gave approval to a scheme to build the ugly tower blocks on Queen’s Gardens.

David Osland

David Osland

David Osland

Was meant to be retiring as a councillor for a safe Coulsdon ward at the elections. But the Tories in Croydon have so few members willing, or capable, of standing for the council, Osland has dutifully agreed to put his name forward once more, but this time effectively as a paper candidate in the Labour stronghold of Thornton Heath.

The local Tories must have thought it is bit of a joke to put forward as a candidate in a strongly minority ethnic neighbourhood the man who, when a senior officer in the Metropolitan Police, oversaw the mishandling of the inquiry into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence.

Councillor Chris Wright

Chris Wright

Chris Wright

Coulsdon East councillor who sits on both planning committees, and who will be coming knocking on some residents’ doors in the next month seeking their votes once again on May 22.

Wright will have also had a role (that is, voting the way in which he was told) in the Cane Hill planning permission decision, which is poorly thought-through and widely disliked by many locals.

But hey: you wouldn’t dare do something in the interests of the people who vote for you, when you can do something to help megabuck property developers add another few millions to their bottom line, now would you?

Lynne Hale

Lynne Hale

Lynne Hale

Next in this Rogues’ Gallery is Lynne Hale, who as well as dutifully collecting £21,371 a year in her councillors’ allowances for all her part-time work on behalf of the people of Sanderstead (do write in, dear reader, if you ever notice any impact from the efforts on your behalf of Mrs Hale), also holds down a state-funded job working for that renowned champion of the poor and the downtrodden, “Sir” Tricky Dicky Ottaway, the absentee MP for Croydon South.

Another Tory back-bencher who can always be relied upon to vote the “right way”, last night she delivered a lengthy, and some said deeply dull, pre-prepared speech about the merits of the CCURV scheme to build on Queen’s Gardens. It is unclear who may have written the speech for her.

Helen Pollard

Helen Pollard

Helen Pollard

Deemed not good enough to be re-selected by the local Conservative members in Heathfield ward – at least eight of whom bothered to turn up for the selection meeting – Helen Pollard will instead be seeking the votes of the residents of Fairfield ward come May 22.

Quite how Helen Pollard managed to get selected in Fairfield ward under the local Tories’ “rules” over sitting councillors applying to stand elsewhere in the borough remains unclear.

But we think there’s a good chance it has something to do with Helen Pollard being married to the deputy leader of the Croydon Tories, Tim Pollard, and the need of their household to continue to bring in a lush £67,000 a year in councillors’ allowances for their part-time duties.

Suitably grateful to be given another chance to benefit from such generous largesse from the public purse, Helen Pollard duly voted as she was told last night, to build blocks of flats on a rare piece of public open space in … Fairfield ward.

Sue Winborn

Sue Winborn

Sue Winborn

A sitting councillor for Fairfield ward.

How many of the residents in her ward did Councillor Winborn consult for their views about the brutalist blocks being built on Queen’s Gardens which she approved blithely yesterday evening?

And how many residents will be as loyal with their vote for Winborn on May 22 as she has been loyal to her party whip in her career as a councillor?

Richard Cahtterjee

Richard Chatterjee

Richard Chatterjee

Another Tory backbench councillor who has risen without trace, yet somehow manages to pocket more than £21,000 of Council Tax-payers’ money each year for his part-time elected duties.

Chatterjee will be standing once again in Shirley ward, alongside his party’s leader in Croydon, Mike Fisher.

The six Tory councillors above were all it took on the strategic planning committee last night, as the Conservatives’ in-built majority in such meetings gave them an advantage of one over five Labour councillors, who all voted against the scheme.

Given that the scheme is submitted by CCURV, the joint venture between developers John Laing and Croydon Council (the council provides the property, the builders the build), you might think that the local authority might want to do more to address the housing crisis in the borough by making more of the proposed 420 flats “affordable”. But apparently, that might adversely affect the development’s profitability.

There are many flaws with the scheme proposed on the site of the old council offices in Taberner House, many of which have been aired on Inside Croydon previously. In the officers’ report (which you can access by downloading from this link) they admit that fewer than 40 of the proposed 420 apartments to be built will have three bedrooms, even though the council’s own policies demand at least 20 per cent of all residential developments should be three-bedroom homes.

This, the officers say, “is considered acceptable given that the developer has indicated that market conditions could not support a higher proportion of three-bedroom units”. Oh well, if the developer says so, then it must be right. And if “the market” dictates what is required, then who needs a borough housing policy?

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

When consulted, English Heritage raised a number of strong reservations about the height of the blocks and the impact on the existing listed buildings. The Greater London Authority said that Croydon Council should “ensure that the maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing is achieved in accordance with strategic and local policy…”

They added: “Further efforts should be made to increase the level of family housing”. Such as affordable, three-bedroom properties, for instance.

But last night, the six Tory councillors voted for a development which will offer only 15 per cent of the properties – around 65 – as affordable homes. Housing crisis? What housing crisis? These flats will be marketed at well-heeled Yuppies, to help max out the development’s profit, and also to Gerrymander votes in the marginal parliamentary seat of Croydon Central.

You might want to consider whether you are voting for someone to represent you, or someone who unaccountably represents multi-billion development interests when casting your vote in the local elections on May 22.

Recent Inside Croydon election coverage:

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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11 Responses to These councillors voted last night to build on a Croydon park: next month they will want you to trust them with your vote

  1. davidcallam says:

    There is no such thing as a free lunch. This is the price you pay for a swanky new council headquarters if you don’t have the cash. The CCURV is a financial disaster that is only now starting to become clear, some time after the man who recommended it has moved on to greener pastures. These people couldn’t run a bath.

    The councillors are mere lobby fodder. I suspect the senior councillors have known for some time that since the land is worth less than it was, the developer will need to use more of it in order to make the previously agreed level of profit.

    In other words, the CCURV privatises the profit while leaving the risk in the public sector: that is, banker’s syndrome.

  2. Effectively CCURV is a land-swap with all the details being kept “confidential” at the time when the deal was ‘agreed’. Laings built BWH was built for ‘free’ and would be paid for by future Taxpayers using forced and inappropriate developments on (former) Council Land. Queens Gardens is merely the start of this. There will be lots more over-development to come.

    Your point about consultation is a good one. Time and again the Conservative administration make decisions behind closed doors and keep the details secret with no consultation of the residents of Croydon.

    In the past Labour have been little better at their consultation with residents on major issues including major developments.

    UKIP want to open-up the council to true democracy.

    In a previous article it was stated that if UKIP were to hold the balance of power in 26 days time that we would keep the Conservative administration in power. Please do not assume that. Any decision will be by individual voting of the elected UKIP Councillors. Since UKIP does not have a whip the group leader (whoever he or she may be) will not decide and everyone follow.

    Do not forget that UKIP takes votes from Labour as well as Conservatives so to assume that we agree with the Conservatives and disagree with Labour is totally wrong. We are the party of democracy.

    • Peter: This current administration has always kept the details of the CCURV deal secret and have never subjected them to any public scrutiny. What we have been able to fathom (since various PRs and others have let it slip) is that the land values of the public property which the council has put into the pot of this speculation deal were estimated as being worth £450 million, and as to the cost of Fisher’s Folly, we know that Croydon Council had to borrow £140 million to fund the work, and that they have spent millions more since in furnishing and decorating it since.

  3. I was interested to see that it is not just in Coulsdon that the Councillors DO NOT support their constituents. I used to live in Tandridge and there the Councillors actually listen to the people and I was a strong supporter of my local Councillors. Since I “crossed the border”, I have become increasingly more dissillusioned with my original party of choice and become a floating voter and my crosses will go to the people (of whatever party) who I feel are the more likely to benefit my local area!

    • The trick in Croydon is not to look for which people are being represented (that is not what politics is about), but where is the property profit. You soon learn to play spot the property interest.
      In Pikerty’s recent economics book: Capital he suggests that we need to create a new cadre of ethically moral leaders, it was never more true in Croydon. We are crying out for good, moral, ethical and competent governance – we must all make sure it happens because no-one else is going to.

  4. Danny Stanzl says:

    I think it’s going to look awesome when it’s done… driving in on the flyover already looks so much better. That park was only full of drunks and people having a wee at night.

    It’s the Town Centre it should look big, bold and impressive. An aerial shot of Croydon shows just how much green space there is for everyone, a small park that nobody used in the middle and being remodelled to more usable space that people can pass through, experience everyday as a better overall environment, is surely better.

  5. I cannot agree with Danny that nobody uses the Queen’s Gardens. I recall it being very busy in the summer, particularly at lunchtimes where it was popular for eating one’s lunch. It is the only green space in the centre of Croydon that workers can reasonably make use of in a lunch “hour”. The alternatives are too far away.

    • You’re absolutely right, of course, David.

      And the Gardens have also served as the backdrop for thousands of couples newly married at the registry office, too.

      I think Danny’s trying to use a technique about Queen’s Gardens and who uses it which is much favoured by Mike Fisher and Gavin Barwell. It’s called lying.

  6. Danny Stanzl says:

    Hehe, To be honest I quite like the gardens, but life moves on and I think overall the design makes a better Croydon, we can’t live in the past, because the past has just seen Croydon decline.

    • Croydon has been blighted by too many ill-considered bad developments. These shabby and cheap developer-driven projects of themselves hinder “progress” and encourage decline as much as anything else.

      Croydon Council is party to this development, so the only explanation for it running roughshod through the planning process is absolute greed.

      A well-designed building, using just the foot-print of Taberner House, and which delivered on the requirements of bodies such as the Greater London Authority and English Heritage, and even the council’s own housing policy, would not have hindered progress. It just would not have made quite so much money.

  7. markrlsamuel says:

    Hi all, I’m standing as a candidate in Croham ward for Putting Croydon First!
    I have a great deal of experience of how council meetings have gone, over the last years some bad and some not so good. Yes, there has been a very cosy “duopoly” and we must show the big boys and girls that smaller parties and like-minded independents mean business.

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