The full horror of the over-tall overdevelopment of tower blocks on the site of Taberner House is beginning to be revealed, as documents with some design drawings have been published and the planning process has been opened up for public comments.
Croydon’s Labour-lite council is expected to wave the development through, even though the buildings will encroach on to public open space in Queen’s Gardens.
The scheme – which will include some apartments for sale at £800,000 – has the public backing of Alison Butler, the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member responsible for housing, while her husband, Paul Scott, just happens to be the chair of the planning committee.
It has taken the council’s planning department four years since the demolition of Taberner House to reach this point, after bungling two previous proposals with other developers.
The 500 homes being built in four blocks on the site of the former council offices by private developers Hub have all the visual appeal of buildings from the Stasi-era eastern bloc, and completely dominate Croydon’s 19th century Town Hall.
Some of the residential blocks do have the “advantage” of balconies facing Fisher’s Folly, the new(ish) council offices, so that residents in the pricy apartments might sun themselves while watching Croydon staff working at their desks. Or they can watch the clouds of air pollution rise up as thousands of vehicles race past each hour over the adjoining Croydon Flyover.
The public are now able to comment on the proposals – even if the council has not gone out of its way to advertise this facility. The planning documents and comments area for the proposals can be found by clicking here. Of course, there have already been other public “consultations”, at which comments critical of the plans have been made and seemingly promptly binned.
Earlier this year, Inside Croydon reported how Steve Sanham, the managing director of developers Hub, had seriously suggested that flats on the site costing up to £800,000 would be “affordable” for “real people”.
“It’s all about homes for real people,” Sanham said. “Homes priced in the £400,000 to £800,000 bracket, homes that people can afford.”
At the time, Butler defended those remarks, and she has since maintained that a proportion of the homes being built on the Taberner House site will be “affordable”.
In this recent video from Croydon’s own Ministry of Truth, you can see Butler, as she stumbles and bumbles her way through a carefully drafted script (held to somewhere to the right of the camera; Butler fails to address the viewer through the entire, cringeworthy minute and a half).
But given this public support, the council’s approval for the project is clearly a foregone conclusion, however bad the designs might be.
Yet the proposals appear to go against some of the principles for development in the town centre which were agreed in the Mid Croydon Masterplan less than five years ago.
The local planning authority might usually be expected to persuade developers away from proposals such as the dominating 35-storey tower proposed, and it might have been hoped that a Labour council would defend the interests of the widest number of residents and businesses by refusing to hand over a chunk of public open space to private developers, just so that they might annex the parkland for their new flats.
The Mid Croydon Masterplan promised to “enhance” Queen’s Gardens, so that they might provide “a new ‘green’ heart for Mid Croydon”.
“What’s proposed here by Hub, with the full backing of the Labour council, is not a green heart for Croydon, but something which will choke the life out of the town centre through overdevelopment, blighting the lives of existing residents and town centre workers,” a Town Hall source said today.
“The shadows cast by these tall buildings will be dark and cold most of the time. The proposals are completely out of scale with the Town Hall and the landmark Clocktower – the developers are clearly just trying to squeeze as many flats on to the site as they can to maximise their profits.”
There’s also a suggestion that the designs put forward with the planning application are a little less than entirely straightforward, with images seemingly foreshortened to reduce the impact of the new buildings as they overshadow Queen’s Gardens and dwarf the Town Hall.
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