Sshhh! Don’t tell everyone, but there’s another poorly publicised meeting later this month where developers are going to tell Croydon residents just what’s good for them, and how they plan to annex the only public open space in the town centre.
“Come and meet the architects and developers, see the plans and have your say!”gush the developers, Hub, who bought the Taberner House site from Croydon Council last year, and have somehow also “acquired” the responsibility to “improve” the adjacent Queen’s Gardens.
Not unreasonably, some suspect this “improvement” as licence for Hub to do with the public park as they see fit, a land-grab that provides a most attractive open space for the potential buyers and tenants of the flats they intend to build in four blocks alongside the Croydon Flyover. The value of the public parkland in such a central location must be estimated as worth many millions.
Now of course, neither Croydon Council nor Hub are saying publicly that Queen’s Gardens was included as some sort of sweetener in the property deal for Taberner House. But to all intents and purposes, that’s exactly what it is looking like as the developers move towards building housing on a town centre site nearly three years after the former council offices were demolished.
Hub describe themselves as “an award-winning developer that specialises in building real homes for real people in London”. They say that, “An important element of the plans for the Taberner House site are to make significant improvements to Queen’s Gardens.” Except neither Hub nor senior council figures, such as Alison Butler, the deputy leader and cabinet member responsible for housing, have bothered to explain why commercial developers would want to “improve” a public open space over which they have no ownership or control.
There has been a sort of consultation over the park plans. Significantly this has been conducted by the developers. Hub say that they “…have commissioned Kaizen to engage local people who live, work and visit the area to help them better understand community needs, aspirations and desires for the development”.
Kaizen are supposed to telephone residents who make it known they have a view to express. What do you mean, this is the first that you’ve heard of it?
It’s been even more hush-hush than that, as Inside Croydon has heard from our loyal reader that the consultation phone call was a long time coming. If it ever came at all.
In all, fewer than 900 people – from a borough with a population of 350,000 – have responded so far to the written, online questionnaire regarding Queen’s Gardens. Maybe that’s exactly how the developers, and the council, like it?
In the latest bit of property developer bumpf, Hub say that they “… are preparing plans to re-develop the Taberner House site in Central Croydon. We are proposing to construct approximately 500 new apartments on the site…” (it’s a good job that they’re not building old apartments) “… arranged in a number of blocks which will also provide commercial space on the ground floors.”
And then comes the bit that no one ever asked for, nor voted for.
“We are also going to make improvements to Queen’s Gardens, working with the community to make sure it gives people who live, work or visit the area the sort of space they’d like.”
This is a sorry turn-round from three years ago, when the council was busy defending the integrity of Queen’s Gardens for the public of Croydon.
Back in 2014, soon after control of the council changed hands, from the Conservatives to Labour, plans to build residential blocks beyond the Taberner House footprint and encroaching out on to Queen’s Gardens were stopped, quite properly.
But as the council’s misfiring CCURV joint venture with John Laing struggled to come to terms with actually building on the site and balancing the financial demands with Labour’s manifesto commitment to provide a minimum of 30 per cent “affordable” housing, the council was forced to seek other “partners”.
In the end, that involved flogging off the site, with it emerging almost as an afterthought that Queen’s Gardens would also be “improved” – which is suspiciously like the latest council euphemism for “taken over”.
It is just another example which shows that the people really running the borough have never been elected – it is the six-figure salaried executives who occupy the council offices, the council officials who determine the borough’s policies, regardless of the colour of the rosettes of those Town Hall politicians who think they are in charge. Building on Queen’s Gardens has been a plan of council officials since 2013.
The maps provided with the latest developers’ papers show no boundaries between the private housing buildings and the public open space, and appear to suggest that two of Hub’s apartment blocks will stray significantly beyond the Taberner House footprint into the area of Queen’s Gardens.
Hub’s meeting to reveal its grand plans for this public open space is on January 19, from 6pm to 8.30pm, at the Friends Meeting House on Park Lane.
The meeting organisers do offer alternative means of contact should you be unable to attend: queensgardens.commonplace.is, call 0203 887 3663 or email
Please do let us know if anyone actually ever calls you to seek your opinion.
Or, indeed, do get in touch with us if they don’t.
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