Scott offers account of controversial Purley planning meeting

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.

Designs for housing being put forward on behalf of Brick by Brick by Coffey Architects. These would make Boozepark, which is made out of shipping containers, appear elegant by comparison

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.

Another Block by Block, this in Thornloe Gardens, by architects vPRR. According to a recent planning committee presided over by Scott, none of these will be for ‘affordable’ housing

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

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This entry was posted in Alison Butler, Brick by Brick, Chris Philp MP, Housing, Paul Scott, Planning, Purley and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Scott offers account of controversial Purley planning meeting

  1. dave1152 says:

    I agree Croydon needs more housing and I also don’t want new houses in my back yard, so to a degree I am a hypocrite.

    However, what really annoys me is the Council’s inability to really take into account residents’ concerns. They say they consult and they do, but then ignore it. ‘We have consulted, the majority object but we know better’.

    I also look at the continuing decline of the town. Buildings that have lain empty for years (Segas House etc) and continue to do so. But instead, detached houses in residential streets are demolished to make way for another generic block of flats. The easy option. But the street is ruined (Pampisford Road for example).

    I guess the problem lies with a team of executives that like the sound of their own voices, full their own self importance and want to say that development is happening. But are incapable of dealing with the real challenges. (Westfield etc). It is a real shame the Executives cannot be voted in or out by the public.

  2. There is a lot of totally understandable confusion about what consultation means in the planning system. The following explanation sets out the situation well and relatively succinctly, and will hopefully help to explain what the planning committee does and why:

    The public have a right to be consulted before any planning application is decided by the LPA. Land owners immediately adjoining the application site are usually notified, a public notice may be posted in nearby streets, and sometimes a notice is published in the local press. Planning applications must be decided in a timely manner and only 21 days is normally allowed by law for the public to express their views. Planning applications can be viewed on the LPA’s website and comments can be submitted by email.
    Most planning applications are decided by an authorised senior officer of the LPA – under what are known as “delegated powers”. Only major or controversial applications are decided by elected councillors meeting as a “Planning Committee” of the authority concerned. The agenda of the committee meeting with a report by planning officers on each planning application is usually published at least five working days before the meeting. The report on any planning application should contain a description of the development, a fair summary of any public comments received, state the relevant planning policies which have a bearing on the decision and a discussion of the issues raised – all leading to a recommendation to either grant or refuse planning permission. The elected Planning Committee may act on the advice of their professional planning officers, or occasionally may take a different view.
    Planning Committee members should vote to represent the interests of the whole community they represent, including those who will later live or work in any new development, rather than any narrower local view. The committee may refuse planning permission for development when their own professional planning officers have recommended that planning permission be granted, or allow an application that officers recommend should be refused.
    Refusal of an application, whether by committee or under delegated powers, may be challenged by an appeal through the Planning Inspectorate. If officers had recommended the application, the LPA usually has to rely on the same officers to make the case to the Inspector against it. Objectors to a successful application have no right of appeal, except by a legal challenge to the courts, although for some significant applications (e.g. involving major policy matters) the Secretary of State may “call in” an application for review.
    Subject to making arrangements in advance, many LPAs will invite applicants and members of the public to address the Planning Committee before making their decision. However, the Committee is “a meeting conducted in public”, rather than “a public meeting”; although given an opportunity to speak at the outset of the meeting, members of the public will not be allowed to join in the committee’s debate. There are a number of LPAs that still do not permit the public or the applicant to speak at the committee meeting at all.

    There are often different views as to what constitutes “fairness” in deciding planning applications. Many public objections to new development are explicitly based on a perception of unfairness that developers and landowners should be allowed to profit, while near neighbours, the local environment or the community as a whole do not. More specific objections may also be given, but this apparent unfairness is the fundamental of many if not most public objections to new development. The process of development and re-development is seen as an immediate cost or inconvenience to those living nearby, and any benefits are invariably to the community as a whole, over a wider geographical area, and over time. The most obvious beneficiaries of any development are those who will later live or work within it but their views are not heard when a planning application is being decided. Even a well managed LPA, making decisions in light of published planning policies and after extensive public consultation, will still attract accusations of unfairness.

    Unless a member of the public raises one or more material planning considerations which were not apparent beforehand, it is unusual for public views to override the relevant planning policies when the decision is made. The importance of public opinion is in adding flavour to the issues from the point of view of the decision maker. They can be especially important in deciding how much “weight” to give to different material considerations. Unpopular proposals often attract well orchestrated public opposition and it is not unusual for an LPA to receive multiple copies of the same pre-written letter of objection from a large number of people, or petitions with numerous signatures. It is not unknown for LPAs to receive letters of objection to a proposal with fake names and addresses in an effort to increase the level of apparent public opposition to a planning application. Some objectors to a development will also write to their Member of Parliament or to other people who are mistakenly believed to have influence over the outcome of a planning application but MPs will scrupulously avoid seeking to influence the proper functioning of a democratically elected LPA. Although members are democratically elected, they should not decide applications on the basis of strength of public opinion, but according to planning law; if there are no substantial planning grounds for refusing an application, a planning inspector at appeal could well order the LPA to pay costs.

    The most effective method of influencing the outcome of a planning application is to make representations to one or more of the elected councillors who form the LPA, whose contact details are readily available on the LPA’s website. Local councillors who are also members of the LPA’s Planning Committee may be reluctant to meet with applicants or members of the public in person in order to prevent subsequent allegations of bias or pre-determination when the Planning Committee comes to make a decision.

    Elected Councillors who are Members of the Council’s Planning Committee are subject to their Council’s general Code of Conduct which requires them to register interests, declare personal interests and withdraw from the meeting if they have a prejudicial interest. As Members of the Planning Committee, however, they are subject to additional legal restrictions derived from the common law of bias. There have been several recent legal decisions on this and the present position (following the decision of the Court of Appeal in Persimmon Homes Teesside Limited v. Lewis 2008) is that whilst Members may have a predisposition to a view on a particular application, they must not have predetermined it in the sense that they come to the Planning Committee with their mind closed to the arguments of fellow members and the advice of the Officers. This causes difficulty, because members of the public, action groups etc. not only ask Councillors to listen to their views, but also try to persuade them to commit for or against a Planning Application without understanding that if they do so they will be precluded from voting at the Committee.

    Most LPAs are receptive to public complaints and seek to learn from them. The great majority of public complaints about planning matters concern an alleged error in procedure, rather than the outcome of a permitted development as later built. A member of the public whose complaint is well founded and who has suffered genuine injury or injustice as a result of maladministration can pursue their complaint through the UK’s Local Government Ombudsman.

    I hope this helps dispel some of the misconceptions

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