CROYDON COMMENTARY: Last week, the so-called chair of the council’s so-called planning committee responded to complaints about overdevelopment from the people he is supposed to represent by accusing them of Nimbyism and claiming that his committee is unable to do much, if anything, to amend or ameliorate the impact of applications, especially if they are from the council’s own development company, Brick by Brick.
Now, so-called councillor PAUL SCOTT, pictured, goes to great lengths to justify his committee’s controversial vote over one scheme in Purley
Tom Moorhouse gives his own personal view based upon a single application that he was strongly opposed to. He recognises the need for new homes but does not want them built near to his home because in his opinion the site at the end of Derrick Avenue is not appropriate, and there is no doubt that it is a challenging site. It sits adjacent to the railway in an area that is prone to flooding. These issues were carefully considered by the officers, and I have no doubt that all the members of the planning committee considered them carefully too when deciding how to vote.
The design of the proposed housing had been carefully designed to address these issues however. The buildings are raised up above the maximum flood level with flood basement areas below them to contain the water in the case of a future flood. Following the governments [sic] Environment Agency guidance a safe, dry access is to be provided. These are important measures that contributed to the independent “Lead local flood authority” removing its initial, and in the circumstances fully understandable, objections to the planning application. If it had maintained its objections the application would not have been approved.Modern construction techniques, with high levels of insulation, allow new housing to be built close to railways and maintain the very high environmental standards demanded by the building regulations. As the acoustic and vibration report stated the proposed development would meet the requirements of British Standard 8233: 2014. Many properties, old and new, are built close to railways and provide excellent homes. Network Rail did not oppose the application. Quite rightly they take a safety first approach.
The housing development will be in the form of a cul-de-sac with limited traffic moving through it. This will mainly be the residents themselves. Instead of a traditional road and footpath arrangement [sic] it has been designed as what is known as a home zone, where there is a “shared surface” for both pedestrians and slow moving [sic] traffic. This is a common arrangement for small estates and there are many examples around Croydon.
Each of the new homes will have balconies and/or roof terraces that in many cases significantly exceed the required standards. A children’s play area with controlled access is also to be provided.
I shared the view of the professional officers and advisers that the design would provide 37 high quality [sic], modern new homes.
It has been suggested that I somehow imposed my will upon the committee to get the result I wanted. This is absolute nonsense.
What actually happened when it came to voting on whether to approve or refuse the application, was I initially asked the members to vote on refusing the application. Five members of the committee voted in favour of a refusal. When I asked for the votes against refusal, the committee clerk initially announced five councillors had voted against, but I noticed the one of those councillors appeared to not have voted. I asked her if she intended to vote as she seemed to still be making up her mind.
She explained that she was considering whether to abstain or vote against refusing the application. She decided to vote against the refusal. Normally committee members vote immediately having made their minds up, but they are quite within their rights to spend some time deciding. This is especially reasonable on complex applications such as this where lots of concerns and issues had been raised.
The solicitor who was presiding over the committee was consulted on whether this was a valid vote. He confirmed that it was. Subsequently the council’s chief solicitor has reviewed the decision and agreed with the initial ruling.
As set out in the Councils [sic] constitution, in the event of a tied decision, it falls to the Chair to use their casting vote. I used this to support my opinion that the application was acceptable. The motion to refuse the application therefore fell.We then voted to approve the application. Again the vote was 5/5, and I used my casting vote in favour. The application was therefore approved.
Whilst I appreciate that some local residents were disappointed with this outcome, the whole decision making [sic] process was taken in absolute accordance with the rules that guide the planning committee.
From subsequent correspondence with some local residents it was clear that there was some misunderstanding as to the role and responsibilities of the Chair. The Chair is responsible for ensuring that the meeting is run fairly and in accordance with the constitution of the Council, however when it comes to the decision making [sic] they are full voting member of the committee. They can (and in my experience over 15 years, always do) take a full and active role in the debate, putting their point of view. As in any debate there is always an element of persuasion as one puts one’s point of view and listens to what the other members of the committee have to say. Ultimately though it is for each of the 10 members of the committee to make their own minds up. That is what happened with the Derrick Road application and every other application heard by the planning committee.
Whilst generally the Planning Committee follow the recommendations of our professional officers and advisors, we do over turn their recommendations sometimes, when the majority of us do not agree with them. That’s democracy.
- Paul Scott is a Labour councillor for Woodside ward. He is married to Councillor Alison Butler, the cabinet member responsible for housing. Between them, Scott and Butler own two properties in the borough, neither of which have been affected by any Brick by Brick developments
- The council planning committee, of which Scott is chair, next meets on Wednesday when it will “consider” more applications put forward by Brick by Brick, a housing development company owned by the council
- Residents opposing overdevelopment by the council are invited to join forces with people affected by the planning committee’s decision in Purley by contacting email@example.com
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