Architecture review panel could cost council £100,000 a year

Fears that Croydon’s Place Review Panel could amount to little more than an expensive exercise to flatter council CEO Jo Negrini, with Council Tax-payers picking up the tab, are mounting – with some Katharine Street insiders predicting that the architects’ talking shop might end up costing the local council more than £100,000 per year.

Celebrity designer Wayne Hemingway put himself forward for Croydon's Place Review Panel

Designer Wayne Hemingway put himself forward for Croydon’s Place Review Panel, which could cost the council £10,000 per month

As Inside Croydon reported earlier this month, even one of the co-chairs of the Place Review Panel, or PRP, has been kept in the dark about what Croydon development projects she will be “allowed” to review, and without any indication whether the revised proposals for the £1.4billion Westfield supermall will ever get to be seen by her and her esteemed expert colleagues.

“I would love to have a look at that scheme,” PRP co-chair  Angela Brady said. “I believe that we could really add value to the proposals.”

Senior Town Hall figures were shocked by our report and its implication that the review panel might not even get to have a say over the redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre. “What’s the point of having a review panel if the one scheme it doesn’t get to review is the single biggest project in Croydon for a generation?” they said.

They also expressed concerns about how much the Place Review Panel will cost, with monthly meetings of senior architects, figures from the fashion world such as Wayne Hemingway, and others with strong connections to RIBA – the Royal Institute of British Architects – to take a look at the various developments planned across the borough before they are presented to the council’s official planning committee of elected councillors.

Angela Brady: former RIBA President. Demands to see Westfield plans

Angela Brady: former RIBA President. Demands to see Westfield plans

“We expect that four or five of the panel members, plus a co-chair, will meet once a month, and we’ll be looking at three or four schemes each meeting,” Brady said.

“We won’t just be turning up and looking at these schemes for the first time. We’ll be putting some work in on them.”

But the panel members won’t be doing this out of charity and the kindness of their hearts. A council insider said, “The panel members will be paid their expenses and a daily rate for their time. For a named partner in a major architects’ firm, that could be as much as £2,000 per day,” they said.

“I’m sure that fashionista Wayne Hemingway doesn’t get out of bed for less than a couple of grand.”

With six panelists attending each month, such meetings could end up costing Croydon Council Tax-payers at least £10,000 every four weeks – not bad at a time when the cash-strapped council is having to make cuts to almost all the services it provides to residents.

Council CEO Jo Negrini: house building is easy, apparently

Council CEO Jo Negrini: empire-building, again?

The panel was launched last month by council CEO Negrini in a flurry of self-aggrandising publicity in front of her property speculator and developer chums. How the panel members were actually “selected” remains opaque.

The council source said, “The cynically inclined might suggest that Negrini is using her position and Croydon’s money to dole out a few favours and a load of public cash to her new mates at RIBA – and at the same time managing to finesse any decisions to be reached by the elected councillors on the planning committee over the various projects coming foward from the private house-building firm, Brick by Brick.”

Negrini was recently announced as being the recipient of a fellowship from RIBA – soon after Croydon’s Brick by Brick had signed up an architects’ firm whose senior partner is the next President of RIBA.

The council’s propaganda department described the review panel thus: “The 22 multi-disciplinary and high calibre panelists with expertise in architecture, planning, landscape architecture, urban design conservation, engineering, placemaking and culture, will complement the services already provided by the council’s award-winning spatial planning and development management teams.”

But that’s not the end of the bullshit. They go on: “With an increased number of high profile development proposals being submitted in Croydon, the panel will play an important role in scrutinising and challenging design quality, to allow the borough’s renaissance to fully flourish and create places that continue to attract investment and that people care about and want to spend time in.”

But no mention of the panel reviewing Westfield, though.

Suffice to say, the whole thing is warmly endorsed by the council planning and rdevelopment husband and wife Progress double act Alison Butler (deputy leader, in charge of house-building and regeneration) and Paul Scott (Woodside councillor, chair of planning committee, architect and RIBA member).

In addition to three co-chairs, the list of panelists is:

• Hiro Aso (Gensler, Head of Transport and Infrastructure)
• David Bickle (Victoria & Albert Museum, Director of Design, Exhibitions & FuturePlan)
• Harbinder Birdi (Hawkins Brown, Partner)
• Darryl Chen (Hawkins Brown, Partner)
• Jim Coleman (Buro Happold, Head of Economics)
• Tom Coward (AOC, Founder&Director)
• Russell Curtis (RCKa, Founding Director)
• Nick Hayhurst (Hayhurst & Co, Founding Director)
• Wayne Hemingway (Hemingway Design,. Founder)
• Donald Hyslop (Tate, Head of Regeneration & Community Partnerships)
• Barbara Kaucky (Erect Architecture, Founding Director)
• Richard Lavington (Maccreanor Lavington Architects, Founding Partner)
• Holly Lewis (We Made That, Co-founding partner)
• Laura Mazzeo (Farrells, Partner)
• Jo McCafferty (Levitt Bernstein, Director)
• Christopher McCarthy (Battle McCarthy, Managing Director)
• Tim Murphy (Waterman Infrastructure, Principle Heritage Consultant)
• Hugh Pearman (Journalist; RIBA Journal, Editor)
• Daniel Rea (Periscope, Co-Founder)
• Biljana Savic (Academy of Urbanism, Director)
• Prisca Thielmann (Maccreanor Lavington, Associate Director)
• Glynn Tully (Levitt Bernstein, Associate Director)

We Made This designed the street furniture layout for South End, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds

Architects We Made This were behind the designs for the street layout for South End. Now, they are on the Place Review Panel

There are one or two architects’ firms represented on the panel whose work is already familiar to Croydon residents – including the “team” behind the Bridge to Nowhere at East Croydon.

In fairness to Hawkins Brown, it was not their fault that Croydon Council, Network Rail and TfL failed to secure legal permission to build their £22million access bridge on to land being developed by Menta, whose properties are among the principal beneficiaries.

To this day, three years since it was opened, there remains no access to the bridge from the Addiscombe side of the station.

Also among what has been called the “architecture A-list” on the panel is Holly Lewis, the founder of a firm calling itself We Made That.

Lewis’s firm has been involved in the spending of the thick end of £12million of riot recovery money in the DisConnected Croydon project, where council flower beds have been uprooted and replaced with saplings and random seating overlooking busy roads.

On one key public realm site in South End, a civic flower bed, with sapling, was removed, to be replaced at vast expense by these benches and a sapling

On one key public realm site in South End, after We Made This and the DisConnected Croydon project rolled through, a council-maintained flower bed, with a sapling, was removed, to be replaced at vast public expense by these benches. And a sapling, to truly enhance the street scene. Or not

And now Lewis will be passing her judgement on what constitutes good “design” across the whole of the borough.

Meanwhile, this video from Negrini’s favourite broadcasters, ABC of Australia, gives an interesting persepctive into the sort of social cleansing that is going on elsewhere in London under Labour-run councils egged on by big-name architects…

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This entry was posted in Alison Butler, Angela Brady, Brick by Brick, Connected Croydon, Croydon Council, Jo Negrini, Paul Scott, Place Review Panel, Planning, Property and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Architecture review panel could cost council £100,000 a year

  1. Just wondering how many more ways Negrini can find to piss our money away. Cuts to services, massive overspends, rock bottom staff morale, more redundancies likely and yet her and Newman can find ridiculous amounts of money to massage their own egos.

  2. Just to remind the reader that almost all of what you see in central Croydon was designed by Architects and Engineers, considered by Planners and approved by the Council at the time. This time round there is to be the addition of a review panel dominated by Architects and similar professionals. Will this change Croydon’s reputation as an architectural wilderness?

  3. Graham Coupe says:

    If that is what the figures are, they are. If that is the current price for those services then so be it, but they are still a drop in the ocean considering the overall spend on those things under discussion.

    • You’ve hit upon an important point. What is the price for the “job”?

      No one is subjected to any sort of procurement process under Negrini’s review panel cash for mates scheme: those who applied and were “accepted” get an agreed day rate. With little external scrutiny.

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