Council backs developers to allow Croham flat conversions

Inside Croydon Towers received the following letter in its bulging sack of mail this week. It is a damning account of how Croydon Council’s attitude to planning protection is affecting residents’ lives adversely

Tram mapI moved from Wallington to Croydon in 1986. At that time there was a strong community spirit, low crime levels, excellent communication links from South Croydon (via Thameslink) and a good selection of state and private education which catered for the mixed community that comprised this area.

Croydon generated the highest business rates in southern England, next only to Oxford Street, and there was a thriving retail centre. We had Grants, Heals, Allders and our old faithful, Turtles with staff as old and knowledgeable as the store itself. I could have moved to a larger house in Tooting, Earlsfield or Wandsworth within the same budget, such was the desirability of this area.

I’m not sure if it’s just coincidence or by design, but the decline in Croydon South started within a couple of years of the election of (Sir) Richard Ottaway. The only brief respite was under Andrew Pelling as MP, when Croham was rezoned as part of Croydon Central.

Croydon South's stayaway MP Richard Ottaway: won't be missed when he retired in 2015

Croydon South’s stayaway MP Richard Ottaway: won’t be missed when he retired in 2015

Andrew Pelling was like a breath of fresh air. We finally had an MP living locally who genuinely cared about local issues over and above party politics. He is scrupulously honest. We are disgusted by Richard Ottaway’s neglect and laziness, which is faithfully mirrored by our local councillors. Only one fact is more depressing; residents re-elect the same councillors and MP over and over again.

As a neighbourhood we have been struggling to control unscrupulous developers that prowl this area with greedy schemes to generate maximum profit at the expense of residents.

I have many newspaper articles showing residents outside the planning offices holding banners petitioning the numerous meetings held sometimes on little more than a day’s notice, all in an effort to defeat one planning application after another. We won, on paper, then the council did what it wanted to anyway. There is no democracy at Croydon Council.

It is against this backdrop that I am appealing to you to let others know of our plight in Campden Road. The local Guardian newspaper was brilliant before it became a council mouth piece, and without the support of the local press it’s very difficult to let others know about the wrong doings of the council.

There is a unique character to Campden Road, one full of local history, and which, house by house, Croydon Council is allowing it to be destroyed for the benefit of greedy developers.

Many of the houses in Campden Road date back to the 1880s and were built by the East India Company as homes for senior members of staff. Every house in the road has a different design.

The quality of the buildings is exceptional. They are not the sort of houses being built now. There is a real shortage of these sort of houses.

The council’s planning department has either deliberately, or through blunders, already adversely impacted the character of this road, close to Lloyd Park, to the detriment of its existing residents.

46 Campden Road was not only converted into flats but the council’s planning department left the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol with no option than to also permit an extensive development of flats to be constructed in the garden of that property.

11 Campden Road was converted into flats without any consultation at all. Locals organised to oppose a planning application to convert Nos 9 and 11 Campden Road into 14 apartments (seven in each house). That planning application was refused.

Instead, Croydon Council granted planning permission to convert 11 Campden Road into two four-bedroom semi-detached houses, which was agreed with the residents. Notwithstanding the limited scope of the permission, the planning department colluded with the developer to create 14 studio apartments in one house, when planning permission for 12 flats in two houses had been refused.

Most recently, we have been required to register objections to an application to convert the family home at 8 Campden Road into 12 studio apartments.

The plans for No 8 are almost identical to the plans implemented at 11 Campden Road. The latter was developed without permission or consultation with residents and in direct contravention to the existing planning permission for that property. Residents campaigned in their own time and at their own expense for five years to prevent the conversion. In direct contravention to the then current planning permission the developer converted just one of the houses into 14 studio apartments. We complained time and again to the planning officer who delayed any action by us, promising enforcement if and when the studios were sold or let.

By the time the property was released for rent (to the council itself), documents appeared online in support of planning permission to convert the house into studios. The documents show no objections.

This is because not one resident was ever consulted about the application. The supporting documents misrepresent not only the previous number of occupants in the house but also the House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) status of the property, which had expired many years previously. The council told me to mind my own business as residents have no part to play in the granting of HMO licences.

Google Streetview of Campden Road. Which will be the next property that Croydon Council allows to be chopped into flats or have an extra block built in the garden?

Google Streetview of Campden Road. Which will be the next property that Croydon Council allows to be chopped into flats or have an extra block built in the garden?

The previous owner of the house had died many years previously, and the property was held in probate by a lawyer who sub-let it to the same tenant who was renting 9 Campden Road. The two properties were further sub-let to tenants, some of whom set up a business in the front drives where they repaired written-off cars and shipped them off to Poland.

No amount of complaining about the noise and disruption caused by cars getting delivered and removed throughout the night, the domestic fighting (including a stabbing and several drugs raids) and other anti-social behaviour made any impact on the council. It was as deaf to our complaints as were our councillors.

In the end, the law firm was behind the development of 11 Campden Road, sold the property as 12 studio apartments to someone living in a bedsit-free zone in the Webb Estate conservation area (lucky them). Actually, I can’t blame the recent purchaser who has finally invested some money improving the property. Nevertheless, is it appropriate to have more than 24 people living in such a confined space? It hardly seems possible the council has allowed each room to have a mezzanine floor installed to create the space for a bed. Literally, the room has been cut in half, horizontally.

Croham councillor Jason Perry: has failed to provide residents with feedback on his work over development on Campden Road

Croham councillor Jason Perry: has failed to provide residents with feedback on his work over development on Campden Road

Not one existing resident was consulted about the development of 11 Campden Road into studio apartments, making a mockery of the entire process. The residents’ campaign was organised with immense time and effort. We managed to convene a meeting held in St Paul’s church attended by more than 200 residents in opposition to the original planning application. Many residents subsequently moved from the the area as they were so disgusted at the underhand tactics employed by the council in allowing 14 studio apartments in one house and by the lack of assistance by local councillors who had somehow insinuated themselves into the campaign.

Jason Perry knocked on my mother’s door campaigning for support at the local elections and became aggressive when, in response to his request for feedback on local issues, she requested him to make investigations into the history of the development of 11 Campden Road. She’s not easily bullied, even by the likes of him, and she never heard from him again. Perhaps he is hoping time is on his side as she is 82 years old.

8 Campden Road The same tactics have been employed this time by the planning department, when the council again failed to place notices on lamp posts (councils no longer have to write to neighbouring properties, as Eric Pickles changed the law to save them the cost of a few postage stamps). We only discovered submission of plans for 8 Campden Road by chance, when a party wall surveyor contacted me offering its services in connection with the development. I knew the house was for sale because many families were knocking on our door desperate to view No 8, having been told by the estate agent they would have to wait four days to view.

When I contacted the estate agent within a day of it being advertised for sale, I was told the house was sold to a developer (very cheaply, based on the guide price) to whom the council has already granted permission for the development into studio apartments. All this within a day of the house being marketed for sale.

When contacted about its failure to place the planning notices as required, grudgingly the council then placed a limp piece of wet paper on a lamp post. By the time the notice was posted on the lamp post, Christmas was upon us and existing residents’ attention elsewhere. Residents to the rear of the property have no idea of the proposed development and neither do the residents living more than three houses away.

I’m not sure if there’s anything you can do to help us. We feel completely overwhelmed by the council and knowing the outcome to the last battle, we know we can’t fight this alone.

Apart from the intelligent well researched items, Inside Croydon has created a community in Croydon once again and we wait eagerly for your posts each day.

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This entry was posted in Andrew Pelling, Croydon Council, Croydon South, Jason Perry, Maria Gatland, Michael Neal, Planning, Richard Ottaway MP, South Croydon and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Council backs developers to allow Croham flat conversions

  1. Rod Davies says:

    While I may have some sympathy with the author, we are basically living with the consequences of 40~60 years of UK Plc’s policies.
    In the post-war era while the established industrial / commercial areas of the North & Midlands England, Scotland and Wales were urged to generate wealth to service the national debts, they did not receive sufficient re-investment to maintain and develop their entrepreneurial base. Many of those industries were still struggling on with pre-war production equipment.
    In London & the Home Counties, there was massive investment to clear up the mess of WW2 and government incentives for new industries to locate here. The FCO and others busily promoted London and the Southeast as the place to do business and barely mentioned the other parts of UK well into the 1990’s. (If mentioned at all, the “regions” were described as being rather gauche and rough, devoid of culture etc)
    The consequence of this imbalance has been that very large numbers of people have poured into the Southeast from the rest of UK and from the EU. This has generated demand for housing in an environment where existing property owners could delay developments, thus driving up final costs. Of course existing property owners benefited from being able to defend the status quo and reap massive profits through sales as property values rocketed skyward leaving wage inflation far behind.
    The inhabitants of London and the Home Counties could have thought about this and realised that eventually it couldn’t go on. London businesses can only continue to survive if their workers can afford to live & work here. The answer is to develop high density accommodation in any environment available, tower blocks, multi-occupancy conversions etc etc; unless there is to be a mass building programme across all and any land (good-bye the Green Belt!)
    We could start to resolve this issue by getting the Mayor & the GLA to start a relocate to the North programme, which should be all very feasible in this Internet World. Reducing demand would reduce pressure to develop housing in every possible location.
    But there’s a real danger that if a trend develops with many businesses relocating outside of the Home Counties that demand for housing will fall and so will the market values of people’s homes. This could mean that tens or hundreds of thousands of people in the Southeast facing negative equity.
    The truth is that if you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind; and we are living with the consequences of ill-thought out decisions made decades ago.

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