Planning chairman stages urgent meeting over South Norwood

Under-pressure Labour councillor Paul Scott spent part of his weekend writing a 1,000-word justification of the council’s actions in and around South Norwood.

It listed several successful initiatives, some of which had little or nothing to do with his efforts as a councillor or the council, and spent much time passing the buck of responsibility in other areas in which there has been less success.

Paul Scott: chairman of council's planning committee

Councillor Paul Scott: wears more hats than Gertrude Shilling

Beneath the heading, “What is happening in South Norwood?”, Scott did manage to highlight the many hats that he wears, signing himself off as a councillor (for Woodside ward) and as chairman of the residents’ group, People for Portland Road.

He also happens to be the chairman of the council’s planning committee (an important role he forgot to mention in his lengthy report), as well as the string-pulling vice-chair of the Stanley People’s Initiative, the organisation operating the Listed-status theatre and community venue which is bidding for a multi-million-pound Lottery grant.

Scott’s long posting on the resident group’s Facebook page appears to be in response to the anger and outrage expressed by many of the group’s members over the threat of closure of long-established local shops, prompted by massive increases in the council’s street trading licence fees, as reported by Inside Croydon.

Scott has now decided to hold a meeting at Stanley Halls this Saturday, October 29, from 10am, to discuss the economic development of the area.

And towards the end of his missive, Scott even called on people to support a petition from the serial subverters, the South Norwood Tourist Board, which had been raised following the report that some local shops are under threat of closure after Scott’s Labour-run council jacked up their street trading licence fees by 1,700 per cent.

We are delighted to reproduce Scott’s missive below, to make it available to a wider audience:

Many people are asking what the Council and Community Groups are doing to improve the local area. The list below highlights some recent, current and future projects:

Stanley Halls: local residents have obtained charity status to run the re-opened venue

Stanley Halls: Paul Scott is vice-chair of the body which runs this

1. Stanley Halls – Now fully reopened and returned to the community through a long-term lease to Stanley People’s Initiative. The organisation is finalising a £3 million Heritage Lottery Fund bid to restore the Halls to their former glory and improve access around the buildings. SPI have a new Chair, who replaces Cllr Kathy Bee (I’m still the Vice-Chair). Coffee Craft continue to be a great success and there are a wide range of activities and events on, ranging from Yoga to Beer Festivals, and theatre to youth projects.

The idealised visualisation of what the thick-end of two million quid is about to be spent on in South Norwood...

The idealised visualisation of what the thick-end of two million quid is about to be spent on in South Norwood…

2. ‘Public Realm Project’ – works will start early in the new year to transform Market Parade on Portland Road and turn Station Road into a market square, with smart new pavements, street trees, seating, and public art that celebrates the rich history of South Norwood. It is hoped that the changes to Station Road will really support the fantastic efforts of the Clock Tower Market by giving them more space and a better environment. Work on designing further improvements at the top end of Portland Road will be starting soon.

3. Pop-up shops on Portland Road – working with a local property owner the council are getting three long closed shops reopened at the top end of Portland Road, and are supporting three new businesses to occupy them later this year. The new shops will add some interesting new opportunities for local shoppers and will hopefully encourage more shoppers, and more businesses to join them. The council are still looking at converting the disused old toilets into units for new businesses, too.

4. Community Economic Development Plan for South Norwood – in the summer People for Portland Road (PPR), with support from council officers, made a successful bid to the government for funding and support to work with the community to develop a plan to rejuvenate the local economy in a way that really benefits local people rather than gentrification that pushes them out! It is still in its earliest stages but we hope to bring together many local people to help draw up the plans and help to make them work in the new year.

Captain Sensible takes delight in having a small corner of South Norwood named after him - and before he's dead, too

The Sensible Garden had little, if any, input from the local council or councillors

5. Portland Road Community Garden – following the success of the Sensible Garden, PPR are working to develop a community garden around the leisure centre and across Enmore Road outside the Woodside Health Centre. We’ve started with the long empty planters outside the health centre and have put up a community notice board outside the pool. Some really exciting plans are emerging for the rest of the area. Funding is coming from PPR, one of the surgeries, and the local councillors “ward budget” from the council and lots of hard but enjoyable work is coming from the community.

6. South Norwood Country Park – the friends group FoSNCP continue to do great work in our wonderful Country Park. The bees are continuing to do well and the group’s latest project is to create a wetland area for wading birds. This is also partially funded from the local councillors’ budget.

7. Planning for the Future of Portland Road – Croydon’s new local plan, that will guide and control development over the next 20 years, should be adopted next year. It includes re-designating the shopping parades between Dundee Road and Sandown Road to give them the same level of protection as, for example, Market Parade. This area, including the leisure and health centres, will also designated as a Neighbourhood Centre, recognising its importance to the locality and giving it further protection. Stretches of Portland Road are to be designated as Local Heritage Areas, whilst the town centre will remain a conservation area.

We continue to have the problem of shops being poorly converted into cramped, poor quality flats with external space and nowhere for the occupant’s bins! Unfortunately, the Government has given blanket permission under its “permitted development rights” for empty shops to be converted into flats without having to meet any of the space or other standards that would normally be required. The owners don’t even need planning permission!

This is what residents' bins look like with Croydon opting for fortnightly collections, says MP Steve Reed OBE

Councillor Scott, as chair of the planning committee, could have a real influence on landlords’ provision for waste storage

8. Bins and Refuse Collection – the Council are working to tackle the problems with litter and fly tipping along Portland Road and the surrounding streets. We have trialled the split recycling and refuse bins which people living over shops or in flat conversions have been asked to use. Clearly there are problems with this so we are looking at different types of bins. They will soon be introducing a more controlled collection of commercial waste, with businesses only allowed to put their waste over a short time period.

9. Christmas lights – with funding from local community groups including PPR, local businesses and the local Councillors we will once again have Christmas lights in South Norwood. They will be going up soon!

10. Working with local landlords – The council are trying to work with the owners of empty buildings to bring them back into use or where appropriate to redevelop them. Some are willing whilst others are not. There is only certain amount that the council can do though. Some owners continue to insist on inappropriate and unacceptable planning applications that are regularly being refused. Unfortunately, they have the right to do that!

It is good to see that the site of the blown up building on the corner of Addison Road has finally been sold by the people who owned the six flats that used to be there. The new owners are we understand keen to get some good quality new homes built there soon.

11. Building new homes for local people – whilst South Norwood is one of the areas that the new local plan identifies for a low number of new homes to help tackle the housing crisis, the council are looking at a number of sites around the area where new homes could be built and where they would help improve the look of the area and make it safer. This includes the long empty site on Station Road, next to Aldi, where new homes above shops are planned to be built next year. The new homes will also help to fund new community facilities, too.

12. Brightening the area up with new artwork – we are looking at a wide range of opportunities to introduce more public art in South Norwood. PPR have commissioned artists to develop ideas for transforming underneath the railway bridge from a gloomy tunnel into an artistic experience. We are now looking for funding.

There is though a lot more that needs to be done, but everyone can help by supporting local shops and businesses, reporting fly-tipping and other environmental crimes, and if you can by getting involved with one of the many local groups working to improve the area.

I’d also encourage people to support the SNTB’s petition to “Save South Norwood”. It raises lots of important issues, some of which are already being addressed. It is important that South Norwood comes together to help solve its problems.

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2 Responses to Planning chairman stages urgent meeting over South Norwood

  1. Whilst I am pleased that you have reported the update I posted on People for Portland Road and the South Norwood Network Facebook pages, it is disappointing that you reported this Saturday’s meeting as some kind of emergency response to concerns about the long term decline of South Norwood. It is actually a planning meeting for establishing a Community Economic Development plan for South Norwood (point 4 of my update). This is a DCLG funded scheme to support 20 communities around the country to develop plans that help them to regenerate their area in a way that really benefits local people first. Once we have got through the planning stages we are planning to involve as many as people possible in the new year.

    Finally, hands up, I didn’t mention that I’m one of the trustees of Stanley Peoples Initiative that has re-opened the moth balled Stanley Halls, or that I am the Chair of the Planning Committee, but then of course what would have been the relevance in this context?

  2. ardaktos says:

    Some issues that should be raised tomorrow:

    Communication/Engagement – apart from the annual PPR AGM, where a lot of the above has already been mentioned, there’s very little updates on progress. For example the Bridge Artwork, what has been chosen, what were the options, what kind of funding is needed? If there was a more open discussion, perhaps people would pitch in more with ideas/help etc.

    High Street – Santander, Pinch & Pound, Honda garage, and corner unit opposite Albion remain vacant, amongst a lot of other units. These are large, prominent units. What is the Council / Regeneration Officers / Local Councillors doing about this?

    Thornton Heath has a much more organised and focused High Street Regeneration Scheme (despite being not much more expensive than South Norwood’s scheme) – see links below.

    It includes ‘quick wins’ – eg deep clean, and much more than new paving. New shopfronts, new artwork – there is a real strategy for the High Street. Where is the strategy for South Norwood High Street? You could argue that we have too many empty units to have new shopfronts etc – fine – work to have these units occupied!

    Save South Norwood Petition – Cllr Scott has in effect co-opted this petition, despite saying that nothing can be done about the shop conversions, and that in effect existing businesses will not be supported. What is Cllr Scott hoping to achieve with the petition?

    Shop Conversions to Residential – incorrect, these only apply to shops, but NOT to restaurants/takeaways. A number of applications on Portland Road are for former takeaways / restaurants – these do not benefit from Permitted Development rights – as many units as possible must be protected.. blaming the government is not the answer! Furthermore, the developer must first submit a Notice of Prior Approval – it is not correct to say that developer can inform the Council after the works are complete.

    Planning issues in general – In subsequent comments, Cllr Scott has also said that planning is basically stacked in favour of developers, so why bother trying… That’s from the planning committee chair! There are Illegal conversion of 53 High Street was flagged to the Council immediately as soon as works started. An enforcement case was open, but a Stop Notice not issued. Planning application was submitted, and subsequently refused. During this process, the works finished, and there are now residents within the illegally converted 2 flats. So – what’s next Croydon Council?

    Street Litter on PR – what alternatives are being looked at for street bins? The existing small bins are frankly ridiculous and not fit for purpose – ie domestic waste.

    I welcome the pop-up Portland Road initiative, and Stanley Halls and the Clocktower Market are absolutely fantastic, but it feels like our High Street is being left behind in the ‘Coolest London Borough’, as Tony Newman, indeed our local ward councillor, described Croydon as!

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