Residents in and around Norwood and Crystal Palace, and pub-lovers from across the country, have reacted with disgust at the pusillanimous manner in which Croydon Council officials have failed to enforce the decisions of elected councillors on the planning committee over The Ship on South Norwood High Street. The officials’ inaction has prompted one respected community figure to question whether the council is working too closely with the developer.
As we reported over the weekend, the council’s planning committee has twice refused the owners permission to convert the building into flats. But the developer has gone ahead any way, and despite repeated visits from Croydon’s planning department, they have now rented out seven flats, thwarting locals’ hopes to re-open The Ship as a community pub.
And now planning department officials have caved in: instead of forcing the developers to remove the tenants and return the property in good order to its previous state at their own expense, council bureaucrats have decided to grant permission retrospectively.
One leading community figure, Robert Gibson, has today sent a letter to the six Labour councillors in South Norwood and Upper Norwood wards, as well as to Tony Newman, the leader of Croydon Council, Steve O’Connell, Croydon’s London Assembly Member, and to Steve Reed OBE, the MP for Lambeth South.
In his letter, Gibson says:
I am writing to express my disappointment with the Council’s stance over the illegal redevelopment of The Ship, as highlighted by Inside Croydon.
I am not a member of the Ship Campaign Group but supportive of its aims. That said the stance of the enforcement team is being seen by the wider Upper Norwood and South Norwood community to be completely iniquitous. The developer has shown complete disregard for the planning process. Not once but twice. The sense of neglect of the South Norwood community will only be heightened when there is so little appetite to intervene from the council.
It may be that councillors and officers are trying to negotiate some backroom deal which results in the developer conceding some kind of rump pub on the ground floor. That may or may not in itself be laudable but it will not do the reputation of the council much good.
The community has reported the transgressions of this developer on multiple occasions and the community sees nothing done. When there is no transparency the council appears complicit in the illegal actions of the developer. If retrospective planning consent is granted in some sort of fudge I’m afraid that the reputation of all those involved will be severely tarnished.
I am at a bit of a loss to understand why, given the heritage of this pub, that it was not afforded greater consideration by Conservation officers etc
Done properly the redevelopment of the Ship could be a real asset to the council’s stated aim of regenerating South Norwood. I’m afraid though this applicant has shown blatant disregard to due process, the historic fabric of the building and the will of the community. I hope it is not too late for the council to avoid being perceived as equally flawed.
Gibson, who really should know better, signs off his letter to his local councillors with “yours in hope”.
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