Tenants told to quit weeks before planning permission granted

BARRATT HOLMES reports on the latest tacky little twist from Croydon’s Labour-run council in its drive to build more than 500 homes for profit, regardless of the consequences for existing residents

Residents of the council-built Heathfield Gardens are the latest to have their homes blighted by Brick by Brick development

Further proof, if any further proof was necessary, that the council planning committee decisions on the council’s house-building company’s developments are a sham and a foregone conclusion came a fortnight before last week’s meeting.

Because that’s when residents in Heathfield Gardens, South Croydon, started to receive “notice to quit” letters from the council for the garages that they rent. Block by Block, the development machine owned by the council which avariciously aims to build hundreds of homes on pockets of green space or other council-owned land, wants to build a block of flats where the garages now stand.

The eviction notices were dated May 15. But Block by Block did not have planning permission for their scheme until May 24.

Brick by Brick is the development vehicle, devised by council CEO Jo Negrini, that originally said it is to build 1,000 homes in the borough by 2019, half of which are to be “affordable”. Last week a senior Labour council figure admitted that now, only 43 per cent of the homes would be delivered as “affordable” (either shared ownership or rented through housing associations). Not a single property so far proposed by Brick by Brick is what would be recognised as a “council home”.

At last week’s planning committee, chaired by Labour councillor Paul Scott – an additional meeting arranged by the council despite the election purdah period – the Heathfield Gardens scheme for Block by Block was passed by six votes to four, with all six votes in favour of the proposal coming from Labour councillors. It is supposed to be illegal to “whip” planning committee members along party lines.

Scott is married to another councillor, Alison Butler, who is the Labour council’s cabinet member responsible for housing. Scott is currently subject to a formal complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman for his conduct at planning meetings.

The notice to quit letter for Heathfield Gardens garages – issued two weeks before planning consent was even granted for the council’s scheme

The proposal for Heathfield Road is for 20 homes, on the site of 16 existing garages. “The proposed development is cramped and ugly with a density greater than normal standards,” the residents’ campaign has said, also pointing out that 11 trees will be felled to make way for the new homes, “and the green spaces of Heathfield Gardens will be lost”.

Residents of Heathfield Gardens and other properties nearby in South End have complained that that the plans as originally submitted to the council were so misleading and inaccurate that they even omitted one entire storey of the proposed block from their architects’ drawings. The council planning department nevertheless recommended approval.

Stephen Pollard, one of the Heathfield Gardens residents affected by the council-backed scheme, told Inside Croydon: “After having spent the last eight months trying to oppose it, we got defeated along with Longheath Gardens and Auckland Rise and all the others.

“All the plans were passed by six vote to four.

“Every single Brick by Brick planning proposal has now been passed. Something is very wrong.

“It is totally illegal for councillors to discuss or even to talk about each scheme to one another before any meeting. Each Councillor must reach an independent decision. With so much opposition from residents, tenants, councillors and even MPs, it is difficult to believe that every scheme was passed on its own merits.

“In my three-minute slot at the planning committee, I was able to quote: ‘Government Guidance is contained in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), issued in March 2012: Permission should be refused for development of poor design that fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions’.

“This fell on deaf ears, as did all opposition arguments.

“I have spoken to many of the ‘old guard’ housing managers who are also very angry, disappointed, even disgusted at the way that their tenants are being treated, but I suppose are too fearful of losing their jobs to come out in the open to say so.”

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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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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6 Responses to Tenants told to quit weeks before planning permission granted

  1. I saw in the Sadvertiser that Block by Block now want to build even more flats on the Lion Green car park in Coulsdon. Considering the parking chaos that was caused and the drastic impact on local businesses (a lot have staff that park there) when the car park was shut, expect more steamrollering by Scott over the wishes and needs of the local public and business community. Maintaining business and jobs is clearly not a long term priority for them.

    • You know what (as Jeremy Corbyn is fond of saying), I don’t think they’ve even bothered considering the impact on businesses or jobs. They’ve certainly not bothered to consider existing residents in other schemes by Block by Block. Having constructed the shiboleth of the 1,000 homes target, they now must meet it at any cost, regardless of the inappropriateness of the developments, or even their legal duties within the planning department.

      Block by bloody block.

  2. davidjl2014 says:

    The Notice to Quit correspondence looks as if it was signed by a child (And probably was). They couldn’t even put the name of the Director of Housing Need underneath it either! What an utter disgrace the whole shambles is. How can any publicly controlled body pass plans that differ from architects drawings?
    An extraordinary Council Meeting should be called immediately to suspend all activity of the so called Planning Committee, until this, as well as other issues (such as conflict of interests), are independently assessed. The cost of this to be born by Croydon’s Labour Party and NOT Croydon’s taxpayers.

    • Don’t make the mistake of assuming that Labour is running the council. Jo Negrini is pulling the strings of Newman and the Butler-Scotts, doling out little projects while reinforcing her own position and prestige.

      Remember, it was Negrini who brought the idea from Newham. It was Negrini who appointed Colm Lacey to head up housing at the council, and then installed him as MD of Block by Block.

      And Negrini will not have to take any flak when the whole thing goes tits up.

  3. derekthrower says:

    It is for a garage and not the persons home. A bit of a misleading headline, but know you need dramatic tension. You will find that these owners have little protection in law unless they can afford a very expensive legal practice and the Council know it and are acting accordingly. Afraid to say if you are going to provide homes in an already congested zone you are going to have to break a few eggs.

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