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.
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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