A neighbouring Tory-run local authority in Surrey is consulting on bulldozing a golf course and redeveloping next to a Battle of Britain conservation area in a drive to build thousands of homes on the Green Belt, reports WALTER CRONXITE
Croydon’s Tory MPs and other assorted NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yarders) are getting all hot and bothered about the building of a few homes in the leafy suburbs in the south of the borough.
Perhaps they have conveniently overlooked that, literally in their backyard, just across the county boundary in Conservative-controlled Tandridge, there is a similar consultation out on whether to build thousands more flats on Green Belt land, starting with 75 homes on the site of the Grade II-listed Battle of Britain officers’ mess at historic Kenley airfield.
That development scheme is included in the district council’s 2015 Strategic Housing Assessment, part of Tandridge’s strategic development plan for the next 20 years. It is the equivalent of the Croydon Local Plan which has got MPs Gavin Barwell and Chris Philp so hot and bothered over – in comparison with the gargantuan flat-building programme going on elsewhere in the borough – relatively modest contributions to our authority’s 30,000 homes target.
A planning application has already been submitted to develop the Kenley officers’ mess, which is within sight of the Croydon-Tandridge boundary and falls within the airfield’s conservation area as one of the country’s last remaining, intact Battle of Britain airfields.
Last year, the Friends of Kenley Airfield were granted a £881,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant for a project to preserve parts of the historic site, which the Lottery described as “an incredible example of outer London’s heritage”.
In a move which will have the retired colonels and true-blue accountants in the golf club spilling their Sunday lunchtime G&Ts, Tandridge also wants to bulldoze a well-known golf course to make way for 1,076 homes. That’s one-and-a-half times the size of the current development going on at the brownfield site of the former Cane Hill Hospital in Coulsdon.
The Surrey National Golf Club is just south of Old Coulsdon, between Chaldon and Caterham. It used to be known as the Happy Valley Golf Club, and it is among a chain of sports and leisure facilities which were built up over the past 25 years by the late Ron Noades, the outspoken former chairman of Crystal Palace Football Club.
It is fair to say, after some rapid expansion of the number of courses, many of them carved out of former farmland which was sold-off to cash-in on EU set-aside subsidies, the bottom has dropped out of the golf business since the global recession. Now, there are too many clubs chasing after too few members, as corporate expense accounts are no longer picking up the bar bill at the 19th hole.
So the decision to off-load one of Noades’ Altonwood Group’s five courses, which include The Addington, probably makes business sense for them. Goodness knows what the traffic from another thousand households will do for the fraying sangfroid of the residents of Coulsdon, though.
Interestingly, the MP for the Tandridge area of East Surrey is Sam Gyimah, a former business partner of none other than Chris Philp, who recently joined his old mate in the Palace of Varieties when elected as MP for Croydon South. Both have some experience in property development, and both will be well-versed in how much cheaper, and therefore profitable, building on virgin land can be than having to deal with all the mess of a brownfield site.
Despite extensive research (ie. five minutes on Google), Inside Croydon has been unable to find any outcry against the officers’ mess scheme from Gyimah, or from Philp, and barely anything amounting to real opposition from the East Surrey MP to the scale of development on Green Belt proposed by Tandridge.
It is six months since Gyimah passed off the proposals as merely “theoretical”, and dismissed the consultants’ report which made the recommendations as “only… the start of the debate on housing numbers for our area, and not the final word”. How reassuring.
In fact, consultation on Tandridge District Council’s plan closes on February 26.
It will be instructive to see what objections, if any, are submitted by Gyimah and his chums Philp and Barwell or, indeed, by the Croydon Tory councillors from affected, neighbouring wards in Coulsdon and Kenley, such as the overpaid and ineffectual Steve O’Connell, who this is seeking re-election as London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton.
It is not only Tandridge District Council which is seeking to do its bit over the housing crisis by building on Green Belt and potentially changing the character of the region forever. Another Conservative-run authority, Reigate and Banstead, is planning at least 2,440 housing units from 2012 to 2027.
And as well as the golf course scheme and the RAF officers’ mess, there are plans for another 1,011 homes on 19 sites in Caterham, 40 homes in Chelsham and 987 housing units on eight sites in Warlingham, which is just south of the Sanderstead ward where Tim Pollard, the leader of Croydon’s Tories, is a councillor.
Perhaps Pollard doesn’t concern himself with things that go on right next door to his own Sanderstead ward, in his own backyard?
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Would the council build some houses in the backyard of a Labour MP’s house which is in a leafy suburb in the South of the borough?
Has anyone thought about why houses are being built? They are not being built to house the homeless people. These houses are being built for foreign investors, refugees who are being invited by this government and those who are still waiting in Calais.
Of course one cannot leave those who are coming from war torn areas on the streets.
I am refugee who came to Britain in 1987 from a war torn area.
There is a difference between those who are genuine asylum seekers and those who think they can have a better life in the UK (London and particularly Croydon).
The lefties (the cognac socialists) who are so concerned about refugees should perhaps open their homes in the leafy suburbs of the south to refugees.
Visit Gilroy Court and ask the council how much they are paying (£1800 pcm for a small room) just to see the problems faced by those who are homeless or try and volunteer for the Croydon churches floating shelter.
Mr Ratnajara seems to overlook the fact that the Thatcher government implemented policies to divest council’s of public housing stock and prevent them constructing new properties. The Conservatives placed the responsibility for building social housing in housing associations, which has proved a far more expensive approach. However successive conservative governments have not removed from councils the obligation to house the homeless. Therefore the councils are at the mercy of the private sector and must pay the going rate.
I really do not understand how Mr Ratnajara conflates asylum seekers, economic migrants and inward investors. Perhaps he could explain.
In Croydon, as across London, we have a major housing crisis for which there is no real collective ownership. This absence of ownership is driven, in my opinion, by nothing but greed. So long as an acute housing shortage exists then the price available property rises month on month, and the owners of those properties can richer and richer.
Had UK Plc had a more balanced approach to regeneration and promotion of the nation as a place to invest since 1945, then we wouldn’t have this appalling situation. As it is, London and the Home Counties were promoted at the expense of the rest of UK, which quite naturally sucked in economic migrants from within UK, across the EU and from around the world. Had there been a meaningful house building programme to meet demand then the average home in Croydon would probably cost half of what it does today.
The painful truth is that we have no one to blame but ourselves, and only we can solve this problem.
Thank you for drawing the consultation on the first stage of the Tandridge Local Plan to your readers, but we would like to clarify some of the points.
This first draft local plan consultation does not include any plans to build houses in the Green Belt. It does contain, for consultation purposes, sites in the Green Belt which have been put forward for development by land owners. The Council has reached no conclusions about whether any land should be released from the Green Belt and has not said housing should be built in those areas. The land at the Surrey National Golf Club, which you refer to, has been put forward by the land owner and the Council has made no decision about whether this Green Belt land should be released for development.
The aim of the final Local Plan, is to set out the vision for the district for the next 20 years and provide a framework for the future improvement, development and local protection of the area and Green Belt.
It is for this reason we need to hear residents’ views about how the plan should be developed. This can be done via the Council’s website at http://www.tandridge.gov.uk/localplan before 26 February 2016.
“This first draft local plan consultation does not include any plans to build houses in the Green Belt.”
“It does contain, for consultation purposes, sites in the Green Belt which have been put forward for development by land owners.”
Two statements which always tend to amount to the same outcome.
Let’s hope Tandridge District Council contact us again when they refuse planning permission to build on the Green Belt.