WALTER CRONXITE highlights the latest egregious example of hypocrisy and misrepresentation from Croydon’s Conservatives
In the week of the government’s housing White Paper, when the focus was on resolving the housing crisis, Croydon Conservatives led by Tim “Nice But Dim” Pollard have launched an attack on the council granting permission to building new flats in Sanderstead – within one mile of the Tory housing minister Gavin Barwell’s comfortable suburban home.
The latest outbreak of rampant Nimby-ism among Croydon’s Tories – who always seem to be quite content to stack overly tall slums of the future anywhere in the borough provided it is not anywhere near their own front door – demonstrates the fundamental contradiction and hypocrisy in Conservative claims to wish to find a real solution to the housing crisis.
With local authorities disincentivised from building real social housing for rent – with the Tories greedily snatching homes from Housing Associations to fulfil the political dogma of “Right to Buy”, and now extending that to other public property – the Conservatives maintain a dependence on profit-driven private developers building the hundreds of thousands of homes which most experts say are needed.
Except, it is clear, if the buildings proposed are in Tory wards.
Not that the chairman of Croydon’s Labour-run planning committee, Paul Scott, hasn’t given Dullard and his cronies some ammunition for their gripes about ruining the suburban character of large parts of the borough in an apparent effort to concrete-over any spare pocket of green space going.
Two weeks ago, the often hot-headed Scott told the planning committee that there is nowhere in the borough where it is inappropriate to build flats.
And at the Town Hall on Thursday, Scott’s planning committee waved through a scheme to demolish a family house in Hyde Road, to be replaced with a block of seven two-bedroom flats.
“It will be totally out of character with the area and will put increasing strain on this narrow and already heavily parked road, but that doesn’t bother Councillor Concrete,” wailed Dullard on the Croydon Tories’ website.
There were a total of 36 public objections to the proposal, including from the Riddlesdown Residents’ Association and the application was refered to committee by Sanderstead councillor Lynne Hale. Hale’s day job is as a member of Croydon South MP Chris Philp’s parliamentary staff, and she was so animated by the injustice of the proposed scheme that she didn’t manage to turn up to the planning meeting.
Also absent from the meeting was concerned Sanderstead resident G Barwell who, as the housing minister charged with delivering 1million new homes by 2020, might have been expected to speak on behalf of providing the much-needed new flats. Oddly, Barwell failed to find time in his busy schedule.
Maybe Barwell was trying to work out what alternative there is to over-developing existing neighbourhoods with “inappropriate” blocks of flats, if, as the Nimby housing minister has been telling broadcasters all week, he intends to maintain the protections against development in the Green Belt.
In any case, and as Dullard should know only too well, it is not the quantity of objections to any scheme which count, as much as the quality of their argument.
The planning committee, whether it has a majority of Labour or Conservative councillors, is legally obliged to follow the advice it receives from the council’s professional planning staff. Unless there are strong legal grounds for opposing a building proposal, the planning authority has no choice but to grant permission.
Saying: “Oooo, there goes the neighbourhood” really does not cut it.
Or, as Dullard put it, “I am very angry at the vandalisation of our borough by this hopeless council administration”, even as the council goes ahead and implements the planning policies advocated by this Conservative government and its hopeless housing and planning minister, Gavin Barwell.
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Barwell loves quoting disingenuously from government press releases. Let quote him this one from latest Housing White Paper.
“measures to reduce the obstacles to house building and help local authorities, developers and SME builders build the homes Britain needs.”
Just as long as it does not impinge upon the vested interests of his pork barrel politics. The intellectual bankruptcy of Barwell and his ilk and their gross inadequacy in dealing with the severe Housing Problems this country faces.
It’s a pity Councillor Dullard didn’t acquaint himself with planning policies and laws and actually read the application paper for this development before jumping in. Had he bothered himself, he would have seen it set out that:
“The Committee is required to consider planning applications against the development plan and other material planning considerations.
The development plan is:
the London Plan July 2011 (with 2013 Alterations)
the Croydon Local Plan: Strategic Policies April 2013
the Saved Policies of the Croydon Replacement Unitary Development Plan April 2013
the South London Waste Plan March 2012
Decisions must be taken in accordance with section 70(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990”
What do all of the above have in common?
They were all made by Conservatives – Thatcher’s government, Boris’s Mayoralty and Croydon’s Tories.
It’s not clear whether Dim Dullard is pig ignorant or guilty of gross hypocrisy, but the latter charge sticks firmly to his mate Gavin Barwell MP. At a recent speech at the UK Housing Delivery Summit, Barmy said his government will try to ensure that “when someone comes forward and proposes building homes that are desperately needed, that proposal doesn’t meet with political resistance at a local level”.
Files this one under classic NIMBYs…
However, one minor point of detail re this point: “The planning committee, whether it has a majority of Labour or Conservative councillors, is legally obliged to follow the advice it receives from the council’s professional planning staff. Unless there are strong legal grounds for opposing a building proposal, the planning authority has no choice but to grant permission”.
The Planning Officers provide their recommendation – Councillor are free to ignore it, and frequently do, but need to have legitimate reasons. Disagreement over impact on amenity/character/appearance are more subjective, and no reason why members cant come to their own conclusions. Of course this could get tested at appeal, but Appeal Costs are rarely awarded against Councils.
According to a report on this subject in the Architects Journal of 4 November 2016, “Local authorities paid out nearly £12 million in costs awarded in planning appeal cases between 2010 and 2016”.
Responses to FOIs from 178 planning authorities showed that over the past six years UK councils spent a total of £11,965,077 paying the costs of victorious developers following failed attempts to fight planning appeals.
Cornwall Council spent the most. It was penalised £981,332 for unsuccessful defences.
Poole Borough Council had the highest number of cost decisions made against it – 30 – and Halton Borough Council paid out the highest average sum per lost appeal – £360,735. Tory Wandsworth had the fifth highest average per lost appeal, at £74,806 a go.
In general, such costs are met from the local planning authority’s budget.
Chartered Architect Peter Stewart suspected that in a lot of cases the costs awarded at successful appeals were the result of elected members refusing applications against planning officers’ advice, with members sometimes ‘grandstanding’ at committees in the presence of objecting voters. “Members are of course entitled to go against officers’ recommendations. My view is that in circumstances where they choose to do so, there should be a formal requirement that they are presented with a publicly available assessment of the likelihood of costs being awarded against the council as a result of their decision, and how much this might be, and then a requirement for members to state that they are taking the decision in the knowledge of those circumstances.”
There’s nothing to stop Croydon Tories asking for that information to be provided by council officers when controversial planning applications are being considered by the Planning Committee. Nor is there any barrier to Croydon Labour putting this political point-scoring opportunity to rest by beating them to it.