KEN LEE, our Town Hall reporter, on how a group of residents’ associations have hit back at the controversial conduct of the planning committee’s chair
Paul Scott, the Labour councillor who chairs the planning committee, has managed to unite at least four residents’ associations in anger to start a petition which claims a loss of “faith in the effectiveness and integrity” of that committee and council planning department.
The petitioners accuse the council of conflicts of interest over Brick by Brick, the council-owned housing development company.
“Since 2014, decisions made by the committee have appeared to be partial, partisan and predetermined, angering Croydon residents across the borough,” the petition states. Croydon Council has been under Labour control since 2014.
The residents’ groups backing the petition come not only from Tory heartlands such as Shirley, but also include Labour-voting areas such as South Norwood’s Auckland Rise, a ward where there is soon to be a council by-election following a councillor’s resignation.
The petitioners are particularly agitated by Brick by Brick, which has had all of its planning applications approved by Scott and his committee in the past few months.
Now, the residents’ petition wants “an immediate enquiry into the conduct and moral standing of Councillor Scott”, as well as a call that “all future planning meetings are chaired fairly, with Committee members allowed to vote freely without any partisan pressure.”
Scott is a councillor for Woodside ward who works as a director of the architects’ firm of TP Bennett. He is married to Alison Butler, the deputy leader of the Labour-run council who is the cabinet member in charge of housing policy in the borough.
The petitioners accused Scott of “aggressive chairmanship”, and say that “Elected representatives have been gagged from speaking”.
When it first appeared, the petition named at least two other residents’ associations among its backers, though these organisations have since been withdrawn from the online document. It is understood that the residents’ associations – which are all supposed to be “apolitical” (as if that is even possible) – were uncomfortable with some aspects of the more personal complaints about Scott and his conduct as planning chairman.
The residents’ associations still listed on the petition are Tollers Estate Residents’ Action Group, the Longheath Gardens Residents’ Forum, Auckland Rise Residents’ Group and Shrublands Residents’ Association.
The petition states, “We, the undersigned have lost faith in the effectiveness and integrity of the current administration’s planning committee and planning department.
“Since 2014, decisions made by the committee have appeared to be partial, partisan and predetermined, angering Croydon residents across the borough.
“We believe that the Council-initiated Brick by Brick projects, which span sites across Croydon, are not being approved according to the council’s own requirements and declared policies of openness and transparency.
“We also believe that it is a conflict of interest for the council and its subsidiaries to initiate, approve and benefit from these applications without any form of external or impartial oversight.
“We object to the aggressive chairmanship of the planning committee held by Cllr Paul Scott. Elected representatives have been gagged from speaking.
“We call for a full meeting of the council to discuss openly the Brick by Brick project, and to take the following action:
1. Launch a thorough, impartial review of all planning department guidance and committee decisions on Brick by Brick developments.
2. Launch an immediate enquiry into the conduct and moral standing of Councillor Scott.
3. Ensure all future planning meetings are chaired fairly, with committee members allowed to vote freely without any partisan pressure.”
For more on Brick by Brick and the council’s planning committee decisions, check out the Inside Croydon archive (the petitioners certainly have):
- Anger at Planning Committee as Scott sways Purley vote
- Call for residents to band together over planning issues
- What’s the point of the planning committee with Scott in charge?
- Negrini absurd response over planning conflicts of interest
- Complaint filed to ombudsman over Scott’s conduct
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