Developers’ bulldozers ordered to get off Queen’s Gardens

Queen’s Gardens, the much-loved open space between the Fairfield Halls and the Town Hall, could yet be saved from going under developers’ bulldozers after John Laing, the council’s “partners” in an “urban regeneration” joint venture, have been ordered back to the drawing board by the Labour group now in charge of the council and told to come up with a scheme for the redevelopment of the Taberner House site that does not eat up a significant chunk of the patch of the park.

Queen's Gardens: have they been saved for future generations of Croydon residents from greedy developers?

Queen’s Gardens: have they been saved for future generations of Croydon residents from greedy developers?

Croydon Council and John Laing are 50-50 partners in the Croydon Urban Regeneration Vehicle. CCURV is the not-so-wizard wheeze dreamt up by the Tories who were in charge of the council until May which aimed to make mega-profits from redeveloping council-owned buildings and land.

But rather than making dosh, Croydon Council has found itself having to bail-out CCURV by borrowing millions of public money.

The glass palace that is Fisher’s Folly, the new council head offices which are too hot to work in during the summer and too cold in the depths of winter, all built at a cost to Croydon residents of £140 million by the previous Conservative administration, was supposed to be paid for, in part at least, by developing the site of the former council offices at Taberner House.

But as the Tory-run council found itself in ever-greater debt, the size of the “plot” for redevelopment got ever larger, while the amount of affordable housing it was due to deliver got ever smaller.

By February this year, details were released that showed that they wanted to build five tower blocks, including one of 32 storeys, between the Croydon Flyover and across almost half of Queen’s Gardens.

Even the council’s own committee for conservation area planning approval rejected the scheme, dismissing it as “looking like as design from the Eastern Bloc”.

Concerned residents’ associations described the design, which replaced the park area with a “courtyard” between the tower blocks, as being “like sitting on someone’s front door step, and about as big”.

But with the proposed apartments likely to net the CCURV joint venture at least £100million, adding a few more concrete tower blocks to the centre of town didn’t seem to matter to the developers’ friends on the council when the Tories granted permission to the scheme in April, just weeks before the local elections.

The demolition of Taberner House began even before planning permission had been granted, and this is continuing in painstaking manner, it is understood because of the large amount of asbestos used in its construction in the 1960s.

The new Labour group, under Council Leader Tony Newman, after taking control of the Town Hall at the end of May, has discovered that Laings and the developers have no rights to build on to Queen’s Gardens, because the area had never been transferred by the council from “Parks and Recreation” over to the development company.

Doh!

“They already have Taberner House,” a well-placed council source told Inside Croydon. “The developer was told  we will not transfer Queen’s Gardens into the development ‘pot’.”

They continued: “It will impact on the profit from the scheme and the number of units built, but we hope that a re-drawn scheme will include more rented or shared ownership properties. The detail has all to be negotiated.”

Before being elected, Newman and Labour had promised to “open the books” on the controversial CCURV deal with Laings, since the Conservative group under Mike Fisher’s leadership had denied even elected representatives any access to the detailed contracts. The Croydon public, to this day, have never been allowed to know the financial details of the deal, valued at at least £450 million.

The example of Queen’s Gardens – where Laings appeared ready to build on land that was never supposed to be developed – will surely encourage more calls for Newman to deliver on his election promise of total transparency over CCURV.


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About insidecroydon

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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Bernard Weatherill House, Croydon Council, Environment, Planning, Taberner House, URV and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Developers’ bulldozers ordered to get off Queen’s Gardens

  1. davidcallam says:

    We need to know the details of the CCURV now, or we need to be told why the figures must remain confidential. Come on Mr Newman, do you know? If so, can you tell us now? If not, why not?

  2. sed30 says:

    Reblogged this on sed30's Blog and commented:
    The Queens Gardens should be kept as it is

  3. Valerie Hunter says:

    I was delighted to read this.

    Having spent so many hours of my life writing Emails to the council and others on Queen’s Gardens, as well as Masterplans and other subjects, and having been fobbed off with comments about consultations with stakeholders (here today, gone tomorrow), my questions unanswered, and generally arrogant and disdainful responses, I was getting to the point, like so many others, of thinking why bother.

    A positive response at last!

  4. mraemiller says:

    I wonder if the Open Spaces Society have anything to say about this? Perhaps we can in future prevent a repeat of this by getting Queens Gardens properly registered/recognised as a park / common land … which at the moment it isn’t …leaving it easy prey for greedy “regenerators”

  5. arnorab says:

    Tory Councillors should be held legally responsible for their near criminal negligence and astonishing arrogance in combination with unprecedented levels of incompetence.

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