Negrini refuses to act on ‘conflicts of interest’ over planning

Jo Negrini, the chief executive of Croydon Council, has refused to intervene over complaints, from the public and one of the borough’s MPs, over potential conflicts of interest of senior councillors in the planning process.

Block by Block: Croydon Council CEO Jo Negrini

Croydon’s cabinet member for housing and regeneration is Alison Butler, who is driving the council’s policy of building 1,000 homes through the Town Hall-owned company, Brick by Brick. Butler is married to Paul Scott, a councillor for Woodside ward and the chair of Croydon’s planning committee which sits in judgement on all planning applications, including those from Birck by Brick.

Brick by Brick is the development vehicle introduced by Negrini when she was head of the council’s planning department; she appointed her council planning department deputy, Colm Lacey, as the company’s managing director. It would be fair to suggest that Negrini’s professional reputation has much at stake over Brick by Brick.

By a happy coincidence (for those firms being handed the juicy, publicly funded contracts), Brick by Brick appointed around a dozen firms of architects to conduct the design work on its housing schemes, just around the same time that RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects, made Negrini an honorary fellow.

Chris Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South, has written to Negrini to complain of the potential conflict of interests in having Scott ruling on planning applications effectively submitted on Butler’s watch.

But Negrini refused to act, saying that there is no connection between Butler, the council’s deputy leader, and Brick by Brick.

“That’s just absurd,” Philp said today. “It is a wholly inadequate response.”

Philp has also requested that the council’s planning meetings should in future be webcast, “so that there is a clear record of Scott’s behaviour”. There are mounting complaints about the abrasive manner in which Scott conducts meetings from the chair, over council-backed schemes as well as those put forward by private developers.

At a planning meeting last month, when a developer submitted an application for houses to be built close to the London to Brighton railway line at Purley Oaks, Scott was witnessed to pressure one of his fellow committee members into changing her vote so that the application would be approved.

Tory councillors on the planning committee accused Scott of “whipping” the wavering committee member, something which is illegal under planning law. Scott claims he had clearance for his actions from the Borough Solicitor.

An extract from the council press release on Friday regarding the Brick by Brick applications. According to Jo Negrini, there is no connection between Alison Butler and Brick by Brick

Scott, himself an architect, had originally excused himself from the matter, saying that he knew the architect involved with the application. Nonetheless, Scott ensured that he used his casting vote to have the application approved.

Last week, Scott and the planning committee approved applications from Brick by Brick for 101 homes across eight sites around the borough, using council land and funding. Half of the properties will be put up for lucrative private sale.

And not a single one of the new properties is to be a council home in the usual sense of the phrase.

It is not only the council’s own schemes which are causing disquiet over overdevelopment. In the past fortnight, an appeal has been sent to Sadiq Khan, as Mayor of London, from existing residents whose homes will be affected by the Purley Oaks scheme.

Calling the council’s drive for development a “debacle”, the residents outlined the relationship between Butler and Scott, half of the Gang of Four which controls the Labour group at the Town Hall.

“Immediately one can see that there is a conflict of interests right there,” the residents’ group writes. They accuse Scott of being biased in his chairing of planning meetings, with “legitimate concerns and objections from residents not being taken into account, data deliberately being withheld and facts being manipulated”.

The area around Purley Oaks Station has been prone to flooding, yet an expert report to be submitted to the planning committee in connection with the application was withdrawn on the day of the meeting.

The residents wrote to Mayor Khan: “Planning permission has been denied by Croydon Council in previous years because they considered the land to be ‘unsuitable for development’, yet now suddenly Paul Scott has pushed, and gotten through, plans to build six blocks of flats in a flood zone that will be concreted over, with the ground level raised, and which will obviously compromise the existing properties and businesses bordering the site.”

  • Inside Croydon is Croydon’s only independent news source, still based in the heart of the borough. In 2016, we averaged 17,000 page views every week
  • If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or a local event to publicise, please email us with full details at

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in Alison Butler, Brick by Brick, Colm Lacey, Croydon Council, Jo Negrini, Paul Scott, Planning and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Negrini refuses to act on ‘conflicts of interest’ over planning

  1. No conflict of interest? Mmmmmm. I would suggest that Negrini also has a conflict of interest considering her role in the whole thing. It will be interesting to see if she flip flops after next year’s local election when the new ward boundaries take effect.

  2. purley1 says:

    Why not ? Anyone will know there shouldn’t be a conflict of interest. Maybe she has no power to override this couple !!!

  3. Hi Negrini,

    If you can not see the conflict of interest please make an effort to view the sight that they are planning to erect these propostorus 32 flats. They will be within metres of the Gatwick and Brighton express trains, squeezed between the ten metres that separate the railway from our back gardens. They even plan to build a children’s playground next to the electric transformer…

    To the residents of our community the conflict of interest is so obvious.

  4. Kathrine May says:

    Totally agree how many of those councillors have even visited the site before they attended the meeting?

  5. What is happening in the planning department is a disgrace. You approve to build on a flood zone ( increasing the flood risk to the existing residents), a block of flats that cannot have their windows open due to noise pollution (with a proposal for mechanical ventilation) , build 2 meters away from a mainline with trains running up to 90mph, have a children’s play area next to a busy station approach (and an electrical housing unit), allocate 20 car parks for 37 flats ( the excuse from the developer being “most of the residents will not be driving” !! ), conduct car parking surveys on a day running up to a holiday ( which is by the way against the guidelines), … the list is endless. How these people are able to get away with these are beyond me.

    There is no doubt there is a need for development, but this is not the place to do it. This development will only bring problems to the existing residents as well as the future residents. The area is already affected by subsidence. With the developers proposing to build underground holding tanks (their way of dealing with future floods !!!) they are going to start digging as soon as they start the development. This is only going to disrupt the surrounding area which may destabilize the embankment. Why take such a big risk for a mere 37 flats ? Is it worth it ?

    This site is not to be built on. Previous applications to build on this site were rejected, what makes it ok now ?

  6. Councillor Scott has acted in breach of the Probity in Planning. In addition, the Development Management Team has ignored the key substance of residents’ objections and views submitted in the consultation. They have failed to provide a clear and thorough exposition of the development plan, site, related history and full material considerations for e.g. the concerns that have been raised by Network Rail to clearly justify the recommendation for the planning application to develop this narrow stretch of woodland, which is right below an extremely busy rail line with high speed trains thundering through every minute. One has to question whether the report submitted by the Development Team constitutes mal-administration? Was the solicitor’s decision to allow Councillor Scott to pressure a fellow councillor to change her original decision from “abstain to approve” in breach of the behaviour expected of officers set out in Probity in Planning?

    It is therefore, extremely concerning that Jo Negrini, who is supposed to protect the interests of the local people in Croydon has deemed that this a not a cause for huge concern and conflict of interest!!

    Croydon’s logo proclaims “A Safer, Greener, Cleaner Croydon”. Well, the approval of the Land between Derrick Avenue and Station Approach completely shouts out what a lie this proclamation is!! This narrow stretch of land is populated by trees, vegetation, a variety of wildlife and is located in Flood Zone 1. A quiet, secure cul-de-sac where residents have lived for over 40 years in peace and quiet will be irrevocably changed to an open approach for vehicles, pedestrians and opportunists. Trees will be cut down for 37 concrete block of flats and the helpless wildlife will be destroyed. On top of all this we will be exposed to greater risks of flooding. How can approval for this development be even allowed? Will Croydon Council take full responsibility for the suffering and damage to properties as a result of this?

    Jo Negrini, surely even you cannot fail to see that this is an extremely unsuitable development. Are you prepared to close a blind eye and allow current residents and innocent, unsuspecting people pay large sums of monies they can ill afford for flats in a noisy, dusty, flood zone, that are not safe, exposing them and their children to mental and physical health problems? Please, if you have a conscience and believe in the logo that Croydon so proudly proclaim do not turn a blind eye to us!! You have a Duty of Care to the local Croydon residents.

Leave a Reply