Action. Of sorts. At long last.
Residents in all communities tend to look to their council to represent their interests in matters of local planning and development. Simple things, to help balance out the pressure of Big Money, so that whole neighbourhoods don’t get bulldozed in order that fat cat developers can build Yuppie tower blocks.
Agreements can be reached, social interest levies paid, and developments which benefit everyone move forward.
That’s the theory, anyway.
There appeared to be a breakdown in that process under Croydon’s previous Tory council, who seemed to prostrate themselves, and therefore the borough’s best interests, to money men and developers. Why, one Conservative councillor on the planning committee even worked for the PR company handling an account for private developers allowed to get their teeth into a handsome chunk of public-owned land.
And reservations about the Menta development, the four blocks of Yuppie apartments on Cherry Orchard Road, have existed ever since it was first proposed almost five years ago. Even Gavin Barwell, the local Tory MP, paid lip-service to the interests of his constituents to speak against the proposal at the planning meeting.
This development will overshadow existing, low-rise neighbourhoods; the developers included virtually no parking provision for the flats’ inhabitants (thus forcing any car-owners to seek parking spaces on already crowded local streets); and an agreement which was supposed to be in place to allow East Croydon Station’s new access bridge to exit to the Addiscombe side of the tracks was ignored by the developers. Hence millions in additional costs to the tax-payer for the now notorious £23 million Bridge to Nowhere.
The absence of any legal challenge from the transport and local authorities against the site developers, Menta Redrow, to enforce the bridge agreement suggests that someone at Town Hall or City Hall managed to deliver a less-than-water-tight legal document, at huge extra cost to the tax-payer and inconvenience to commuters. The council has refused to explain this legal oversight, and no one has ever established an investigation to unearth the reasons.
Menta and Redrow are belatedly getting to work on what they now call the Morello Quarter (Morello cherries; Cherry Orchard Road. Geddit?) which will comprise four inter-connected buildings and 290 one-, two- and three-bed “apartments”, already being flogged off-plan starting at £259,995.
Yes: £260k for a one-bed flat alongside a south London railway track.
Redrow and Menta stand to make tens of millions of pounds profit from the scheme. In return for planning permission, the previous Conservative council got them to agree to a (very modest) £367,000 Community Investment Levy.
But if the agreement to allow the Bridge to Nowhere to exit through their site failed to be legally binding, the CIL certainly is, and it appears that Redrow Menta have forgotten to make the payment.
Warning notices were slapped on the entrance to the site just before the weekend.
Addiscombe councillor Sean Fitzsimons posted on Twitter, “Looks like Croydon Council has put a stop on Menta Redrow doing any more work on Cherry Orchard Rd.”
He added: “Menta Redrow hasn’t handed over £360,000 Community Investment Levy CIL to Croydon for starting works.” And : “Menta Redrow could be fined £20k for carrying on working if they don’t pay £367,000 to Croydon Council as per the planning agreement.”
The council’s enforcement officials are to be congratulated for taking such forceful action, and standing up for the interests of residents and businesses in the area.
Fitzsimons opposition to various aspects of the Menta scheme has been consistent since it was first proposed. The discovery that the developers want to use “poor doors”, for those living in social housing within the scheme, is particularly pernicious.
Fitzsimons called it for what it is at a recent planning meeting. “This is social segregation, we shouldn’t build schemes just for the rich,” he said.
Retrospective amendment of the planning consent is impossible. But it is long overdue that Croydon’s Council, its councillors and MPs started representing the interests of residents, rather than developers.
Coming to Croydon
- Christmas music and jam session, South Norwood, Dec 28
- David Lean Cinema, Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief, Dec 29
- David Lean Cinema, The Beat Beneath My Feet, Dec 30
- David Lean Cinema, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Jan 3
- David Lean Cinema, Mr Turner, Jan 8
- David Lean Cinema, Leviathan, Jan 13
- Norwood Society talk: Penge, the making of a suburb, Jan 15
- David Lean Cinema, The 78 Project Movie, Jan 15
- David Lean Cinema, Hannah Arendt, Jan 20
- David Lean Cinema, The Imitation Game, Jan 22
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
- David Lean Cinema, Night Will Fall, Jan 27 (Holocaust Memorial Day)
- David Lean Cinema, Kon-Tiki, Jan 29
- Norwood Society talk: Crystal Palace and Dulwich, Feb 19
- Norwood Society talk: Charlies Dickens in Norwood, Mar 19
- Norwood Society: Balloons and airships at Crystal Palace, Apr 16
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