Radically pragmatic Negrini exhibits award-winning chutzpah

Nathan Elvery’s up to his old tricks.

And Croydon Council looks like a shoo-in for another empty “award“, to be handed over by the council’s mates in the property market, for being “pragmatic” planners.

 Jo Negrini: Croydon is an economic powerhouse, apparently

Jo Negrini: Croydon is an economic powerhouse, apparently

MIPIM UK is a property developers conference being staged next month at Olympia. It’s the London-based version of the annual jolly staged in the spring in the South of France, where Elvery’s predecessor and one or two Tory councillors used to enjoy a few days on the piss in the sun at the tax-payers’ expense.

Croydon Council is up for an award, for its town planning. Seriously. A borough which has 130 Compulsory Purchase Orders being taken in front of a High Court judge next year, and which was supposed to have got a detailed transport report from Transport for London last November, which has thus far failed to materialise. Prize-winning stuff indeed.

Elvery is Croydon Council’s chief executive, a job which was never advertised. He has demonstrated in the past that he reckons that garnering bogus plaudits such as these, where insiders slap their mates on the back, provide useful validation for his organisation’s work. And, more importantly, for his own conduct.

He’s done it before, where Croydon Council won an award for which Elvery himself was one of the judges. One of just two judges, with the other being a contractor working for… Croydon Council. Trebles all round!

The MIPIM UK awards, being run with Estates Gazette, appear a little more credible than some in the sector, and there’s no Croydon Council judges to be seen this time round. Nevertheless, winning such a gong will only impress the seriously gullible. And, it seems, Elvery’s new bosses at the council.

“To be recognised as one of the best planning authorities in the country is a fantastic achievement,” Alison Butler, Labour’s new deputy leader of the council, gushed on the official Croydon website.

“We are leading the way with our approach to planning, which has a key role to play in delivering future growth in Croydon. Good planning foundations are vital in attracting developers to invest in our borough.” You could easily imagine the Conservatives who were previously in charge of the council spouting the same load of old flannel.

According to the council’s press office, the judges “were particularly impressed by Croydon’s ‘radically pragmatic approach’ to planning, which they said was an exemplar for how planning authorities should work across the UK.”

For “radically pragmatic approach”, read “Lie on your back and think of Westfield”.

Of course, Croydon’s not guaranteed to be named the winners of the award for sucking-up-to-developers-the-most: Southwark and Sunderland are also on the short-list.

But if you look through the speakers for this three-day jamboree of development, there to give a talk is none other than Croydon’s very own planning chief, Jo Negrini. Or, as the propaganda department in Fisher’s Folly will doubtless be referring to her very soon, “the award-winning Jo Negrini”.

The next leader of the Conservative party, and star turn at MIPIM UK: well worth the £600 ticket price

The Conservative party parliamentary candidate for Uxbridge, and star turn at MIPIM UK: well worth the £650 ticket price

The other lectures on offer at the conference include “New Towns for Britain: Aspiration or Reality?” (the question mark suggests that they don’t know the answer); and “Get Radical! Planning and Delivering Housing Developments at Scale”, where one of the speakers is from Barratt Homes, who are running the massive Cane Hill development on what was publicly owned land.

There is also “What are Investors Looking for in the Shed Spaces of Today and Tomorrow?” Yes. Sheds. Or to most estate agents, “a bijou cottage which needs some work and will suit first-time buyers. On offer at £300,000”.

The usual rogues gallery of outsourcers and developers will all be there, including Taylor Wimpey, Berkeley, Crapita, PwC, and a “keynote speech” from none other than the Conservative party parliamentary candidate for Uxbridge.

On the old Goebbels propaganda principle that if you keep repeating something, however ludicrous, often enough, there will be some daft enough to swallow it, there’s even a session called “Croydon London: the economic powerhouse of the South East”.

Yep, “economic powerhouse”. This seems somewhat at odds with the view expressed previously by one of Negrini’s council colleagues, Mike Kiely, who last year, attending a similar event, drew a football comparison when he said, “We are not in the Premiership. We are not on a par with the Canary Wharfs of this world. We are in the Championship.”

“Economic powerhouse” or a Championship side? Who to believe? They can’t both be right.

Maybe Negrini should be getting an award for chutzpah. The “Croydon London” session, being held at lunchtime on October 15, comes the day before the awards are doled out, and will see Negrini address the conference. Australian-born Negrini was appointed as Croydon Council’s executive director for development having been hired for the role after having worked very closely with Australian-based Westfield on their Stratford scheme.

Oh, and if you want to attend the conference to witness Croydon’s crowning moment or to hear Negrini on the economic powerhouse of the south-east, a delegate’s ticket (including “database plus”) is a mere £545. Plus £109 VAT. But hurry, that early bird price offer runs out on September 30.


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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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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3 Responses to Radically pragmatic Negrini exhibits award-winning chutzpah

  1. Paul Brooker says:

    Having just read the above entry, I nearly choked on my morning cornflakes.

    I was born in New Addington and my parents are still resident there. Over the last few months, my parents and other residents in a terrace have had to deal with an outside developer digging up the back garden, erecting an extension and rearranging the inside of a house they had bought.

    Now I know that with the relaxed Planning Regulations, he is more than entitled to do what he wants within reason. I spoke to Croydon Council Building Regulations and was informed that Planning Permission was not needed but they would look into the matter.

    All of a sudden, a Planning Application was submitted and Croydon Council wanted nothing more to do with me. My parents placed and objection online regarding the excavation and the other neighbours either wrote in or called Croydon Council to object about the work going on.

    My parents received an email stating that Croydon Council had received the objection and one neighbour who wrote in received a letter of recognition to the objection but was also told “not to contact them again now the objection has been noted”.

    The developer did not have any contact with the neighbours regarding this work under the Party Wall Act of 1996 and my parents and the other neighbours who are all over 65 could not afford to get the work stopped by a Court Injunction or employ their own Surveyor to check all work is carried out correctly.

    I contacted Croydon Council on numerous occasions leaving messages or sending emails to get to the bottom of what was going on and I received no response.

    The Planning Application was granted in Retrospect to the work already being carried out.

    My gripes are

    #1 Croydon Council wanted nothing to do with the little people who have lived in New Addington for most of their life. I was told by The Building Development Department that once the objection has been noted, Croydon Council DO NOT contact the objectors to get the full picture of what is going on.
    #2 That the Party Wall Act 1996 is NOT enforceable therefore the little people are not protected at all if they do not have the money for Court Action or Private Surveyors.

    So you can see, I can not understand how Croydon Council can receive awards like this when I have first-hand experience of how they deal with certain issues. It seems that Croydon Council are only interested in getting Developers in to boost the economy which is a good idea within reason but if they are not going to listen to the people that actually count i.e. The Residents the whole Planning System needs an overhaul and re-think.

  2. Alison Butler’s gushing quotes sound exactly like those of her Tory predecessors because they are written by the same PR people who have so far failed to register this year’s change of political control at Croydon Council.

    They are doing what they have done for decades; what Croydon Council is famous for in local government circles. They are bigging it up. They have more front than Allders, with absolutely nothing to sustain it.

    Don’t take my word for it!

    Go for a walk around the town centre, starting at East Croydon station. Look at the number of empty sites with no sign of imminent redevelopment; look at the number of empty office blocks with no sign of a letting in the offing. Look at the council’s ‘report’ (I use the word loosely) on the establishment of a ‘cultural quarter’ with its primitive illustration. That uninformative nonsense is supposed to justify a multi-million pound expenditure by a cash-strapped council on the upgrade of the outdated Fairfield complex.

    Planning? I have to laugh; if I didn’t I would cry.

    Thank goodness the proposed Hammersfield development – the best thing to happen to Croydon in decades – is being driven by Boris Johnson. Not that I’m an unalloyed fan of the Mayor of London, but I think he is more competent (yes, really!) than the self-congratulatory clowns at Croydon Council.

    • east1956 says:

      Oh dear once again an ill-informed opinion graces the pages of Inside Croydon.

      The “empty sites” are far from being vacant plots suggesting economic decline and a failure of Croydon’s regeneration strategy, far from it in fact.

      From the ashes of Croydon’s former low rent tacky 1960’s office scene, this precious land bank is poised to blossom when the time is right and bring forth the sweetness of a glorious future. The employers of yesteryear fled like flocks departing in autumn for the warmer southern climes in Crawley and elsewhere. yet be assured soon the flocks shall return as the economic spring beckons and Croydon’s atmosphere will be full of the sounds of commerce.

      We are at present waiting for those few glimmers of the warming sun rays of Spring, amid what has seemed like an endless winter. As in nature across Croydon we are see in the first shoots rise up above the skyline, almost like crocuses burst through the snow covered ground as symbol of renewal and better times to come.

      So fellow Croydonians, don’t be down hearted but be confident that as surely as the seasons, Spring and Summer shall come. The “empty plots” shall be a thing of the past. And best of all those horrid poor people will have left because they wont be able to afford to stay. Of course there will be some left in places like KZ Lager New Addington
      to clean the officers and wait at table, but only the most attractive and servile – until the better class of people need to remove them to provide Lebensraum.

      Can I apply for the Inside Croydon’s award for the most self-deceptive and daft interpretation of our current situation? Can I be sponsored to attend MIPIM? Please…

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