WALTER CRONXITE reports on how a council-backed housing scheme to build flats on “infill” spaces between existing homes on Auckland Rise fails to deliver on even the lamest promises of 50 per cent non-affordable affordable housing
The council’s private house-building company, in its desperation to build on any spare pocket of public land, disused garages or the gaps between blocks of flats, is now being watched closely by… the Church of England.
The company Brick by Brick has submitted a planning application to build “infill” homes on the Auckland Rise and Sylvan Hill estates in Upper Norwood. The application was filed to the council’s over-worked and under-staffed planning department on December 23, so perhaps a deliberate ploy to delay potential objectors from noticing until early in the New Year.
The estate backs on to St John the Evangelist Church, a noted Victorian building. The church is to be the venue tomorrow evening (from 7pm) for a public meeting to rally opposition to the council-backed plans.
“St John’s takes a keen interest in the built environment of its parish, and in the quality of life of its inhabitants, and will be following these developments closely,” the church’s website notes, somewhat portentously.
Has Alison Butler, the cabinet member driving through the Brick by Brick privatisation of the council’s landbank assets, got on the wrong side of God?
Butler and Brick by Brick’s plans have certainly sparked the Norwood Society into action, and they have filed a detailed set of objections to the scheme. You can see their document here.
The estate, which runs from the top of Church Road down to Auckland Road, has in the past been praised by the noted architecture historian, Nikolaus Pevsner, who in his post-war series of books The Buildings of England, said that the council homes on Auckland Rise were “good housing taking advantage of the trees on the site”.
“The new proposals for a large increase in building density, with significant loss of trees and open space, will effectively ruin this,” Philip Goddard, the chairman of the Norwood Society’s planning committee, has written in the latest issue of the society’s magazine.
Goddard is the latest to highlight the lip-service planning system, which is prejudiced in favour of council-backed schemes. “Since the developers, Brick by Brick, are an arm of Croydon Council, permission will certainly be granted and the public consultation is no more than a formal exercise,” he writes.
As reported by the News from Crystal Palace website, among the particular worries of residents is that the application includes the “demolition of buildings (unspecified)”.
The scheme provides for the seven new buildings varying between three and four storeys to provide 29 two-bedroom and 28-one bedroom flats, as Butler, Brick by Brick and the council CEO, Jo Negrini, tick off another few dozen homes towards their target of 1,000 by 2019.
Of the 57 properties to be built on the Upper Norwood estates, only 19 of them would be for shared ownership as “affordable” housing (where “affordable” usually means nothing of the sort). All the rest would be flogged off or rented out privately.
That amounts to just 33 per cent of this development being “affordable”, a long way short of the 50 per cent which Butler has often cited as being provided through Brick by Brick developments.
Indeed, Brick by Brick’s own FAQs section states: “The council and the company’s objective is that 50 per cent of the overall programme will be affordable homes and 50 per cent private homes for sale.”
Not a single one of the 57 homes proposed under the Auckland Rise scheme is what could be described as a council home.
Whether or not these plans are being watched over by some god-like entity, Butler clearly believes that she has the backing of a being far more powerful being at Croydon Town Hall. Her husband, Paul Scott, just happens to be the chair of the council planning committee.
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