CROYDON COMMENTARY: The Tories’ parliamentary candidate for Croydon South has financed multi-million-pound housing projects around London. Does this influence his views on schemes in our borough? By JON BIGGER
Chris Philp, the Conservatives’ parliamentary candidate in Croydon South, has been talking about a proposed development in Purley. The Purley development, on a long-vacant plot, is set to include a church with community centre, plus some housing to increase the profitability of the scheme.
Under planning regulations there needs to be some “affordable housing” included in the development and in order to make enough cash out of the scheme, the proposal is to make the building 16 storeys high.
Here’s what Philp is reported to have said to the Sadvertiser: “The council is being greedy, it wants everything. It wants the money, the housing, the community facilities, and so to do that they need a big building.
“I think given all the community facilities, they could compromise.”
The report suggested that Philp thinks the compromise should be reducing the number of affordable units built as part of the development. Philp also mentioned the project on Twitter, saying that being 16 storeys meant that the new building wouldn’t be in keeping with the rest of the area.
Philp knows all about this from his day job (soon to be his second job because an MP’s £67,000 a year is just not enough). As the co-founder and partner of Pluto Finance, Philp has had a great deal of experience when it comes to housing developments. His business provides multi-million-pound loans to the companies that build such developments.
Pluto has been involved with developments across the capital, some of which contain some social housing. Pluto has even provided finance for a get-rich-quick office-to-residential scheme elsewhere in Croydon.
With his apparent lack of enthusiasm for social housing in the Purley project, Philp is crossing a line. We all know that housing is the biggest issue in London at the election, where people who have lived in communities all their lives are finding themselves priced out of the capital.
Croydon South is in dire need of affordable homes. People trying to get on to the bottom rung of the housing ladder are perceived to be less likely to vote Tory than people with very expensive property. It’s therefore possible that Philp might not want poorer people getting their mitts on homes in his constituency; it might cost him votes in the future, and dent the 16,000 majority he is about to inherit.
But it is Philp’s potential role as a financier of such developments that needs to be looked at closely. One matter of clarification that would be useful at this stage is whether Pluto was ever in the running to help finance the Purley development. Perhaps Philp, who we know is an avid reader of Inside Croydon, would like to post a comment to this piece to clarify that particular point?
I’ve been involved with a Class War campaign to highlight the use of Poor Doors since last summer. Poor Doors are often built where developments (like the one proposed in Purley) include private and social housing tenants. It is a kind of Apartment Apartheid.
In developments with Poor Doors, the social housing tenants have separate entrances, normally round the back or through a side door, while the private occupiers are able to walk in through the front door, often with a fancy lobby and picturesque gardens or courtyards, and serviced by a concierge.
We believe this kind of social segregation is wrong and that it reinforces the class divisions we have to suffer in our failed economic system. Our weekly protests have centred on One Commercial Street in Whitechapel, developed by Redrow, the same people who are involved with the Menta scheme at East Croydon.
Eventually, we were invited into the Whitechapel property by a resident who was ashamed by the division. This enabled us to see that the divide in the building could have been solved by simply opening up a flimsy fake wall. The owners refuse to do that, though, and so the protests continue.
Just a couple of weeks ago we marched from One Commercial Street to One Tower Bridge where social housing residents will not be allowed to use the gardens. Yes, now there’s even poor gardens.
Being interested in Poor Doors and in the work Philp does at Pluto, I decided to write to him. I asked him if he financed any developments with Poor Doors. Philp never replied.
But in a tweet to Inside Croydon this January, Philp replied to a question about whether he or any of his companies had financial interests in Poor Doors developments, he went on the record to say he has no such interests “…personally and none indirectly that I’m aware of either”.
Along with a small band of Class Warriors, I have done some work on the developments that Pluto has financed.
In West Hampstead, according to his company’s own website in April 2014, Pluto/Philp is providing £12 million for a development.
The West Hampstead development will plug a gap where a tyre depot used to be. Having seen the artist’s impression of the new building and having walked down the terraced street myself, it doesn’t look like the design is in keeping with the rest of the area. But it has already sold well, with only one flat of the 36-unit scheme remaining unsold, according to the developers, Reichmann Properties. This development does not include Poor Doors, but another scheme on the same road does have segregated entrances.
Does Philp change his tune depending on which audience he is addressing? When it comes to making millions with Pluto, he’s happy to fund a development regardless of what it might do to an area.
Meanwhile, when it comes to his electoral chances in Croydon South, he’s straight in there with ethical considerations such as the height of the building and speaking out on behalf of constituents he has barely met and hardly knows (while keeping a close eye on his own electoral considerations, such as trying to reduce the number of social hosing tenants on his patch).
In both cases what we witness is greed: the greed of a rich businessman wanting to turn a profit at Pluto and the greed of a Tory wanting an extra £67,000 a year plus expenses so that he can legislate against the very people he is supposed to represent.
Here’s what we need from Philp now. He needs to decide what he wants to be. Is he going to be Philp the businessman, or Philp the politician?
We can see that doing both is going to get him into a frightful mess. If I were to believe that capitalism could be made good I’d propose the following: he needs to reform how Pluto goes about deciding what developments to finance. His business should add ethical considerations to its decision-making process.
On March 28, Class War will march through Purley. We will start at the Croydon Conservative offices on Brighton road, opposite Tesco. We want to show people that there is an alternative to having the rich dictate our lives. We need more affordable housing in Croydon South. Our policy of a 50 per cent Mansion Tax might help us achieve that.
We need to be able to see the plans for the Purley development fleshed out further before anyone can say whether it fits into the area or not, but if Philp believes it should have less social housing, he should specify where he thinks poor people should be living. He makes a fortune out of his property investments. I’d hate to think what he’s going to do as an MP.
- Jon Bigger is the Class War candidate for Croydon South in May’s General Election
- How London’s property boom has been built with “dirty” money
- Londoners being priced out of London by social cleansing
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