Planning chairman: I can do nothing to stop overdevelopment

CROYDON COMMENTARY: According to Councillor PAUL SCOTT, pictured left, residents who complain about their neighbourhood being overdeveloped are just Nimbys, and there’s nothing he or the council planning department can do to avoid the over-development that is being inflicted on the borough by … the council

It would be interesting to hear from those people who say they understand the urgent need to build new homes, but don’t want them built near where they live. Where do they think the new homes should be built?

Boris Johnson as Mayor of London identified that Croydon needs to build almost 32,000 new homes over the next 20 years. About one-third of those could be accommodated in the town centre. A further one-third can be built on what is commonly known as “brown field land”. Where should the rest go when most of us want to see the green belt protected?

For those that complain the character of the borough is changing, maybe they would like to enlighten us all to a time when it wasn’t changing? The reality is of course that it has always been changing ever since our ancestors first settled here.

Councillor Scott says that current developments are fine, because there has always been change

The old market town expanded hugely as the railways spread development across farmland, country estates, woodland and pasture in the 19th century. Rows of high density terraced houses and villas sprung up. The advent of the car spread it even further with lower density “suburbs”. Post war redevelopment transformed the town centre into a mini Manhattan. High-density housing replaced low-density mansions and cottages in areas like Park Hill and the Lawdon Estate in Shirley. Small blocks of flats and cul-de-sacs of small houses started to replace large detached houses along Pampisford Road over 40 years ago. Since then the number of homes just along that road has massively increased. So at what point should we say things should stop changing?

To what extent should those people who own a home already say that we should stop building them for those who don’t?

Some people chose to blame the planning committee because the constantly changing skyline of Croydon keeps changing. The reality though is that the planning committee have to make their decisions based upon planning policy. They are not at liberty simply to go with whatever view takes their fancy! In particular they are guided by the Government’s “National Planning Policy Framework”. Introduced in 2013, this makes it very, very clear that planning committees and the councils they represent are expected to make their decisions based upon a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”. “Sustainable” is defined very broadly.

Some people claim that the planning system is undemocratic. They assume that if local people object to an application then it should not be approved. There is a misunderstanding around the nature of the consultation process. It is not a referendum. It is an opportunity to raise concerns and identify issues that should be considered. The decision-making is then a quasi-judicial process – it operates in a similar fashion as courts. Whatever everybody else thinks, it is for the “jury” to make the decision. In the case of planning committees the democracy relates to the selection of who is eligible to sit on the committee (councillors elected to the council).

And of course there is also the concern about the planning system being biased in favour of the developer/applicant. It is, and always has been. It was set up that way because it removed the right of land owners to do what they wanted with their own land. It remains along with the NHS arguably one of the most socialist things this country ever did! Despite that, new house-building is at a woefully low level – the lowest since the 1920s according to many sources!

If residents want to change the way things are done with regards to planning, then I suggest they lobby the next government and try to persuade it to change the system. They could suggest ways of trying to ensure that the homes that all major parties recognise are needed, do actually get built. A new system would have to ensure that everyone doesn’t veto new development in their own backyard though, which could be rather difficult!

  • Paul Scott is a Labour councillor for Woodside ward. He is married to Councillor Alison Butler, the cabinet member responsible for housing. The council planning committee, of which Scott is chair, next meets tomorrow night when it will consider another batch of applications put forward by Brick by Brick, a housing development company owned by the council

  • 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
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10 Responses to Planning chairman: I can do nothing to stop overdevelopment

  1. What a nasty, mean-minded swat at anyone who dares criticise him.

    It’s almost worthy of the Donald in his pomp with the distortion of facts and the aggression.

    Sure we need more houses. No one disputes that. About 1% of the flats and houses currently being built in the rampant overdevelopment of the town and its centre are actually affordable by the majority of those who live there.

    They are all, almost without exception, aimed at upwardly mobile high-earners without families and cars. Its planning gone mad, a virus. There is virtually nothing being done in housing or quality of life that is actually just for local people.

  2. The ridiculous part is that there are currently up to 2,709 houses that could be build, they have planning permission, but are listed as having ‘issues to overcome’, maybe these issues should be looked at before they start building.

  3. mikebweb says:

    Paul Scott does make some poionts accurately! Presumably his committee is also going to deal with the Whitgift Centre development as a matter of urgent concern and allow the developers to introduce more and more apartments here – well as he says they have to go somewhere,and as I say, why not here? Without them any Whitgift Centre development is going to be totally worthless as the trade has already passed to Purley Way and similar areas, and clearly what we dont want to see if the present situation in St Georges Walk – why dont we get on with more apartments here and in Nestle House?
    However what is of more concern to many residents in, shall we say a bungalow, is having a 10 storey (or more) block of flats built next door in what has been a quiet residental area. I quite see the point about Park Hill, but this was a big integrated planning development (Well the Pub never arrived!) unlike Pampisford Road which has been uncontrolled ad hoc development.
    The Croydon planners should be able to look at the overall picture of an area and allow, or otherwise, only development that fits in with the general scheme of things. Further to the East, The Whitgift Estate is seeing a gradual move from smaller traditional properties to larger properties of three floors with facilities adequate for a family of 10/15 from boundary to boundary, of the site. Though the accommodation would be adequate for 10/15 the occupancy is more like 2 Adults and 2 children. Should the Council planners disallow this? From Paul Scott’s comments it seems that the planners will not even look at this aspect of the proposals.
    Finally,as for it being judicial and democratic, many proposals are never seen by the committee and are down to a one person in the office affair! To get a proposal reviewed by the planning committee the “BIG gUNS” HAVE TO BE BROUGHT IN AND PETITIONS MADE UP!

  4. Lewis White says:

    Great debate above, and good to have Cllr Scott’s views stated clearly!.
    Regarding the redevelopment of Central Croydon away from offices to flats, many of which will sadly be unaffordable to locals. I dare say it all comes down to economics. It costs a huge amount to demolish and rebuild, or to strip out and convert office blocks to flats.

    We have a stark choice– as fewer offices are needed, and more flats– more of the existing town centre will become a semi-derelict area ( not just St George’s Walk) unless much of the current business and shopping area is comprehensively redeveloped for flats, which will be affordable by “yuppies” and overseas investors.

    Hence, we really do need the redevelopment. It will bring more residents to Croydon, and they will spend a lot of their hard earned cash in the town, which the town needs.

    Outside of the town centre, we need those affordable homes for locals. How to achieve it?
    Maybe the selective release of some areas of Metropolitan Open land, and Green belt, but also the continued demolition of properties on large sites, and replacement with flats or more houses. …….. if it is all designed and built well.

    There are also pockets of very run-down residential and commercial, which need to be renewed comprehensively. This can be good, and many more people housed, if what goes back is better architecturally than what was there.

    Let’s carry on the debate. Thanks, Inside Croydon, for raising these important matters.

  5. And there it is in a nutshell. If you believe that the reason for residents’ objections is they do not like change and are ‘nimbys’ (as clearly expressed above), then you are coming to planning committee meetings with neither an open mind nor an appetite to examine and scrutinise evidence effectively.

  6. The NPPF states, Sustainable means ensuring that better lives for ourselves don’t mean worse lives for future generations.
    AND… Planning should be a collective enterprise. Yet, in recent years, planning has tended to exclude, rather than to include, people and communities. A result of targets being imposed, and decisions taken, by bodies remote from them, people have been put off from getting involved because planning policy itself has become so elaborate and forbidding – the preserve of specialists, rather than people in communities.
    ALSO…Inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding should be avoided by directing development away from areas at highest risk, but where development is necessary, making it safe without increasing flood risk elsewhere.

    So essentially the public have been excluded, ignored and historic local knowledge deemed unnecessary for continued overdevelopment in old Coulsdon, is NOT sustainable because it increasing strain on an already delicate infrastructure, thus increasing flood risk (which Croydon council as LLFA must by law manage), making lives much worse for future generations of homeowners downstream.

    Last June my home was flooded with three foot of surface water and raw sewage (a result of decades of overdevelopment and non-maintenance), thankfully we were able to apply for Flood RE, however homes built after 2009 are not able to apply (creating flood poverty where new homeowners can’t afford to insure their biggest asset), yes we need more home but MUST stop building them in flood risk ares.
    Joined up thinking and common sense should be adopted as opposed to ‘hiding’ behind a quota.

  7. Geoff James says:

    Cllr Paul Scott stated “The decision-making is then a quasi-judicial process – it operates in a similar fashion as courts. Whatever everybody else thinks, it is for the “jury” to make the decision. In the case of planning committees the democracy relates to the selection of who is eligible to sit on the committee (Councillors elected to the council).”

    Whilst what Cllr Paul Scott states above is true in principle, the reality is that the Croydon planning committee has been subverted by Cllr Paul Scott. He has implemented a highly politicized planning process that is being allowed to ac outside of effective scrutiny and oversight. The planngin committee is no longer fit for purpose. Cllr Paul Scott has even implemented an application call-in process that no other planning committee in the country has implemented.

    The Labour Councillors have the majority, and Cllr Paul Scott decides how the labour block will vote. He therefore dictates all decisions made by the planning committee.

    The Croydon planning committee is certainly not quasi-judicial – this would mean the Labour majority exercised independent thinking and were allowed to vote based upon their considered opinions rather than any political affiliation.

    If Cllr Paul Scott delivered what he is espousing then there would not be the constant accusations of conflict of interests, whipping the Labour vote, shouting down and being rude to members of the public, and the telling off of committee members when they say something he does not like.

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  9. Mavis Howard-Jones says:

    The council need to remember that people also need quality of life and for that reason let us keep our green spaces. I regularly walk my dog on Shirley Church recreation ground and it was extremely uplifting last weekend to see a culturally mixed group of young men aged around 18 playing a social game of football. They weren’t stuck indoors on their PS4s, glued to their mobile phones or mugging people, they were in the park having fun and enjoying the fresh air which is good for their health both mentally and physically. Yes build more “affordable” homes but don’t take away the green spaces we all need to keep us healthy in body, mind and spirit.

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