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.
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.
“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.
- These councillors voted last night to build on a Croydon park
- Advisors reject Taberner redevelopment as ‘Eastern Bloc’
- Council wants to build high-rise flats on Queen’s Gardens
Coming to Croydon
- South Norwood Arts Festival, July 5-20
- Conan Doyle talks, South Norwood Library, July 16
- David Lean Cinema: Half of a Yellow Sun, July 17
- Love Norbury launch event, July 19
- Boom Band plays the Half Moon Putney, July 19
- Summer butterfly walk, Farthing Down, July 20
- Picnic in Grangewood Park, July 20
- David Lean Cinema: Pantani: Accidental Death of a Cyclist, July 21
- David Lean Cinema: Tracks, July 24
- Fragile, Spread Eagle Theatre, July 24-26
- CODA’s Midsummer Night’s Dream at Wandle Park, Jul 30-Aug 2
- David Lean Cinema: Locke, July 31
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, Aug 10
- Warlingham rugby dinner with international Richard Hill, Sep 12
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- Streatham Common 6M race, Sep 27
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 407,847 page views (Jan-Jun 2014)
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