A director of the Croydon estate agency which manages the Whitgift Foundation’s vast portfolio of properties in the borough has told Inside Croydon that the council’s move to end permitted development – the planning device which allows the owners of empty office blocks to turn them into flats – will not have a significant impact on the local property market.
Richard Plant works from the offices of Stiles Harold Williams, in sight across the roundabout of the council’s former Taberner House offices and just a short walk through Queen’s Gardens from Fisher’s Folly.
Last week, owners and occupiers of office buildings in what the council has called the “Croydon Opportunity Zone” received letters telling them that the Town Hall is ending a government initiative intended to boost run down town centres.
The “Opportunity Zone” runs from West Croydon through to East Croydon, from South End to Wandle Park. Basically, its is that part of central Croydon closest to where Hammersfield will be spending £1 billion to build a shopping centre. And much of it is on property owned by the Whitgift Foundation and handled for them by Plant’s SHW.
Last year, planning minister Nick Boles changed planning law to allow pension funds and multi-millionaire developers to get planning permission in just eight weeks for changing offices into flats. “Permitted development”, as it is known in the jargon of local authorities, had previously only been used to allow for modest house extensions or very large greenhouses.
“The beauty of permitted development is that it doesn’t attract any affordable housing and it is quick,” Plant called Inside Croydon to say during his lunch break this week.
Plant’s influence in local business ranges wide and far. As well as managing the estate of the town’s biggest property owner, the Whitgift Foundation, Plant sits on the board of trustees of Fairfield Halls and on Croydon Business Ventures, while also being the chairman of the business lobby group, Develop Croydon.
Asked whether he felt that the withdrawal of the permitted development facility for property developers in Croydon would have an impact, Plant suggested not: “In many ways, given the number that have already been done, part of me thinks it won’t have a dramatic effect.
“The period available was due to run out in May 2016 anyway, so the council stopping it now just means that any developers who want to use the scheme will have to try to get them done a year earlier.”
Estate agent Plant suggests that the average cost of renting a two-bed flat in Croydon at present is around £950 per month. But he thinks that the Labour council’s proposal for a landlord licensing scheme – which will charge private landlords a fee to register – is likely to have a bigger impact on the cost of rents. “It’s just another tax,” Plant said.
The local Tory MP, Gavin Barwell, who serves as a governor of the Whitgift Foundation, will be addressing a public meeting organised by the National Landlords Association in Croydon next week to discuss the licensing scheme.
In an email sent to residents this afternoon, Vidhi Mohan, the Fairfield councillor who is the Conservative parliamentary candidate in Croydon North, said that the registration charge “could increase the cost of renting by £200 – £1,000 per property” and that it “will deter investment in housing in the area and be transferred on to tenants as higher rents”.
So it appears that the Tory MP for the Whitgift Foundation and his chums are in firm agreement with the big property owners and the man in charge of managing the Foundation’s property. Just in case that wasn’t already clear.
- Opportunity knocked as council halts office-to-flat conversions
- Rogers calls on planners to build homes in “empty” Croydon
Coming to Croydon
- The Complete History of the BBC – Abridged, Spread Eagle, Sep 19-20
- South Croydon business breakfast, Sep 20
- Croydon Honey Show, Selsdon, Sep 20
- St Peter’s Church Book Sale, South Croydon, Sep 20
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Sep 20
- Music At The Unit, Lives Not Knives, Centrale, Sep 20
- Open House London weekend, Sep 20-21
- David Lean Cinema: A Night At The Cinema in 1914, Sep 22
- Activity to Work back-to-work workshops, Sep 23
- David Lean Cinema: Jimmy’s Hall, Sep 25
- Streatham Common 6M race, Sep 27
- Fancy dress family funday, Sep 28
- Ukrainian choir concert, St John’s Shirley, Sep 29
- Tree Sides, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 2-4
- The Goon Show, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 8-11
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Oct 18
- South Croydon business breakfast, Oct 18
- Croydon 10km road race, Oct 19
- This Was The World and I Was King, Spread Eagle, Oct 23-25
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 407,847 page views (Jan-Jun 2014) If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org