Building work on the council’s prestigious development of hundreds of new homes on the site of its former headquarters office block, Taberner House, will not now start until autumn this year at the earliest, nearly two years later than originally scheduled.Planning permission for a residential scheme to provide 420 homes was granted in April 2014, but that was put on pause after the Tories lost control of the Town Hall at the local elections a month later.
The starting date for the build has since slipped from late 2014, as the Labour-run council binned the previous scheme and then took the project out of the hands of original developers, CCURV, its “regeneration partnership” with John Laing.
The council instead set-up its own development company. “By doing it ourselves through the development company we can achieve a triple win, which is more affordable housing, Queen’s Gardens preserved and a much better financial outcome for the council.” Simon Hall, the cabinet member for finance, said 18 months ago.
After delays in the demolition of the 1960s tower block, caused by sensitivities over its town centre location, close to the Flyover, Town Hall and Queen’s Gardens, and the need for careful removal of asbestos, building work was then expected to begin early in 2016.
But a source at the council revealed this morning that the site will now be utilised over this summer as a wildflower meadow and a “haven for bees”, complete with a hive. It is the latest instance of the council having to tread water over the site, which last autumn was used as a pop-up saffron farm.
“No amount of honey will sweeten the lives of the Croydon homeless families who are enduring temporary accommodation, or have been farmed out to homes outside the borough, away from their families, work and children’s schools,” one angry council figure told Inside Croydon today.
“There’s a housing crisis in this city and in our borough, and yet our council is not getting on with the job of building on this important site, and they’re keeping silent over the reasons why.”No announcement has yet been made formally about the site’s future, and council officials and senior councillors did not respond to Inside Croydon‘s approaches today.
The latest delay to what is supposed to be a key scheme by the council to provide social housing will be an embarrassment for Jo Negrini, the council’s six-figure-salaried executive director for planning and development, who is spending this week in the south of France, flaunting Croydon’s wares to the millionaire speculators in Cannes for the MIPIM conference, or “booze and hookerfest”.
Croydon Council is spending tens of thousands of pounds of ratepayers’ cash to send Negrini and a small team from her “Place” department to parrot the usual script about Croydon’s prospects at the annual developers’ piss-up. Trouble is, the delivery is not matching the unremittingly up-beat narrative.The delayed Taberner House scheme is just the latest set-back for the unquestioning devotees of Croydon’s redevelopment.
While at MIPIM, Negrini will doubtless be asked about the fervent opposition to the council’s £30 million flats and concert hall scheme at the Fairfield Halls, or she might be asked to explain why her old friends at Westfield won’t now be starting work on their long-promised £1 billion Croydon supermall with Hammerson until next year at the earliest.
Such delays and slow (or no) progress might explain the apparent lack of interest in the expensively arranged Develop Croydon stand on the opening morning at MIPIM earlier today.
Maybe others have started to see through the empty rhetoric, too.
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