Planning chair urged to block scheme for ‘Croydon Carbuncle’

The redevelopment scheme proposed for the town centre risks creating a “Croydon Carbuncle”, according to one concerned resident who has issued an open letter to the council’s planning committee, which is due to consider the revised plans for the £1.4billion supermall at its meeting tomorrow evening.

An artist's representation of how the new shopping centre may, or may not, look

An artist’s representation of how the new Hammersfield shopping centre may, or may not, look

The letter is from a retired chartered engineer, Andrew Kennedy, and is addressed to the chair of the planning committee, Paul Scott. In his letter, Kennedy expresses several concerns about the revised and much expanded plans, published last week by developers Westfield and Hammerson, and he asks the council’s planning committee “to press for the highest possible planning standards”.

“Let it not be a blot on the landscape,” Kennedy writes.

The scheme already had planning permission and was subject a year ago of a Compulsory Purchase Order inquiry, which was formally granted. But Hammersfield, “in response to positive retail demand for space”, last week revealed a project that is 40 per cent bigger and which takes in new properties and demolishes buildings in a conservation area it had previously intended to refurbish.

The developers admit that they will require new planning permission – but with the centre of Croydon awaiting the much-delayed arrival of the Hammersfield bulldozers, it appears that the council has been put into a corner, with little option but to accede to the revised scheme.

Hence the Kennedy letter. He writes: “If we have to have a five-storey car park on top of the new shopping centre, can it at least look attractive, make an architectural statement and not be a bland box?”

Kennedy makes the point that the massive car parking space, with 3,000 bays, “will be visible from Roman Way and miles around as visitors come into Croydon”. He is also concerned at the loss, from the previous approved proposals, of roof-top green space in this area of the development.

There is also worries about the form of the building proposed to accommodate an IMAX cinema on the site of what was Allders, potentially overshadowing the Grade I-listed Whitgift almshouses nearby. Kennedy asks that, “can we ensure that that too is an architectural masterpiece and not another carbuncle such as the Vue cinema on top of the Grants building”.

Kennedy’s appeal to the planning committee – effectively asking them to stand up for the interests of the residents of Croydon who elected them, over the interests of big business – includes a number of other serious questions about the 11th-hour design changes.

A glass-roofed arcade to the car park, which would have allowed natural light into the atrium below, is missing from the revised scheme.

Kennedy is particularly animated about the traffic which the construction and operation of the new Hammersfield supermall will generate, and the planning disconnect which is seeing the council spending millions of pounds now on re-shaping the town’s urban motorway, Wellesley Road. “Surely those works need to stop and be reassessed?” Kennedy writes.

He calls for fresh consideration to be given to a massive park-and-ride scheme to be established, off the Purley Way or at the Coulsdon end of the A25. “We need a large Park and Ride scheme operating from there and frequent trains (or trams). The target market for Westfield Hammerson is the whole of Kent, Surrey and Sussex. People love their cars, they will not all come by train. That’s pie in the sky,” he said.

Westfield consultationThe Croydon Partnership – the name adopted for the redevelopment of the Whitgift and Central centres by Westfield and Hammerson – has issued details of its public consultation exhibit next month.

The exhibit will be held in the Whitgift Centre (on the ground floor, next to the WH Smith entrance) from May 12 until May 15, open from 2pm to 8pm on the Thursday, 11am to 6pm on the Friday, and 11am to 5pm on the Saturday and Sunday.

The developers intend to make another pre-application presentation to Croydon’s planning committee in June.

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6 Responses to Planning chair urged to block scheme for ‘Croydon Carbuncle’

  1. Considering that the council has painted itself in a corner and put all its eggs into one basket, it is highly unlikely that the final outcome will be anything different from what Westfield Hammerson want. If you look closely I am sure you will see the strings being pulled by them as they control their council puppet.

  2. The whole Council planning system is a farce, a toothless lion. The Council will, as centralcroydon says, accede to anything and everything that the developers demand for fear of delays or even postponement, pace Bradford.

  3. I did not urge the planning committee to block the plans, I urged them to ensure they were of high architectural merit and to avoid a carbuncle in what might otherwise become a repeat of the VUE cinema above the Grants building.

    • The headline says block the carbuncle. The article accurately reflects your comments, and the headline summarises this.

      If you’d like to suggest an alternative headline, which is complete in a single deck, includes the words “Croydon” and “Carbuncle”, and with a synonym for “block” that is no more than 4.5 characters, we’d be delighted to consider it.

  4. Lewis White says:

    I haven’t seen the plans, but these changes post planning application are typical.
    So– a typical use of crab-like planning application amendments are…..
    ” Atrium / community meeting zone”–bigged up as a key part of a proposal, is quietly amended to be omitted as “minor changes to enclosure of interior circulation space”. “Fantastic open air roof garden open to public” becomes “roof area with corrugated metalwork surface enclosure, with amendment to restricted access for service use”.

    Certain developers put in plans that they have no intention of executing, knowing that they will slip loads of significant changes in later, under the public radar. Terribly cynical, and our Planning system needs to be changed to stop these quiet outrages.

  5. ……..our Planning system needs to be changed to stop these quiet outrages.
    What Planning system?

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