BARRATT HOLMES, our housing correspondent, on the latest challenge to the Labour-run council’s Block by Block strategy
At least one of the more controversial decisions taken recently by the council’s planning committee, egged on by eager Town Hall officials and the developers’ friend, Jo Negrini, could yet face a challenge in the High Court through a Judicial Review brought by angry residents, Inside Croydon can reveal.
Negrini, now the council’s chief executive, and her former fiefdom, the planning department at Fisher’s Folly, were probably already feeling under pressure after a petition was created, backed by eight residents’ associations, which condemned the planning committee’s decisions and the chairmanship of Labour councillor Paul Scott.
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 accuse Scott of “aggressive chairmanship”, and say that “Elected representatives have been gagged from speaking”.
The petitioners are a group calling itself Croydon Residents’ Communities Groups Brick by Brick Fightback Campaign – or CRCGBxBFG, if you want a really not-very-catchy acronym. They are calling for “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”.
It is understood that other residents’ associations, in addition to the eight listed on the online petition, have also attended meetings of the group, the most recent of which was a fortnight ago.
The residents’ groups who are openly backing the petition are Tollers Estate Residents’ Action Group, the Longheath Gardens Residents’ Forum, Auckland Rise Residents’ Group and Shrublands Residents’ Association, plus Coulsdon West RA, Hartley & District RA, Sanderstead RA and the Kenley & District RA. Old Coulsdon Residents’ Association, one of the largest and most active in the borough, are known to have had representatives at the meetings, but they have not had their organisation added to the list.
There are only the most limited means available for the public to appeal once a local authority has made a planning decision which affects their neighbourhood. A Judicial Review, undertaken by a senior judge at the High Court in London, is one of them, but is far from a bargain option, with even the preliminary legal costs usually coming in around £15,000 just to bring the case to court.
It is understood that the Judicial Review is being at least part-funded by a wealthy individual, with the test case being brought is against the council’s plans to provide a travellers’ camp at Purley Oaks.
There may also be a separate legal case brought against one of the council’s Brick by Brick housing schemes, although this has not been confirmed.
If the latter legal case does get off the ground, it will have the support of Chris Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South. “The council will say that we need more housing – and we do,” Philp told Inside Croydon.
“But I think Brick by Brick has been trampling over residents’ views by imposing totally inappropriate development across the borough. The planning committee is complicit, and it is riven with conflicts of interest between councillors Scott and Butler.
“I would fully support a Judicial Review on Brick by Brick’s activities.”
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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