Croydon Council’s planning department has gone against the views of two MPs, a pair of London Assembly Members, elected councillors and hundreds of angry residents, and has recommended approval of a monstrous expansion of the historic Queen’s Hotel on Church Road in Crystal Palace.
But the officer’s report to tonight’s planning meeting fails to mention the strong objections to the scheme raised by Croydon North MP, Steve Reed OBE.
Euro Hotels, the property’s owner, want to demolish Victorian heritage buildings and build on the site of the hotel, replacing much of it with a hideous 530-room halfway house, from which they can fleece London councils of tens of thousands of pounds weekly in rents for short-term accommodation.
Once the favoured residence in London of Emile Zola and for decades an elegantly grand Victorian building atop one of the highest points in the city, in more recent times the Queen’s has become a rundown hostel for refugees and other homeless people.
The public was scandalised in 2014 when it was revealed that Euro Hotels were accommodating 500-plus people in the hotel. Inspectors found more than four people living in en-suite rooms; one room at the Queen’s was occupied by nine people.
It’s big business for Euro Hotels, who also own Gilroy Court (notorious for the overcrowded, insanitary and dangerous conditions exposed in a BBC Newsnight investigation) and Croydon Court hotels on London Road (which they also want to demolish and replace with another 500-room mega-hotel).
In Crystal Palace, the MP and local councillors have joined more than 250 residents in objecting to the expansion plans for the Queen’s Hotel.
In his objection filed earlier this year, Steve Reed OBE highlighted how Euro Hotels were damaging “the close-knit community” in this part of Crystal Palace by buying up neighbouring properties.
“I have been shown examples of building waste being dumped in the garden of one of the houses, implying they intend to convert it into a multi-occupancy property… wholly out of keeping with the area,” Reed said.
Yet Reed’s comments don’t rate a mention in the council officials’ report to tonight’s planning committee. Council staff want to overrule the MP, other elected figures and hundreds of residents as they recommend approval of the scheme.
The proposals include demolition of existing buildings to the centre and rear of the site and existing extensions to the roof, to be replaced with a new spine building, plus subterranean accommodation, parking for 170 vehicles, a swimming pool and servicing space.
Some of the buildings set for demolition are locally listed in a conservation area, so are supposed to be protected by the council from destruction or alteration. But this does not seem to be important enough for the council’s planning department.
Residents maintain that the scheme doesn’t comply with the council’s policy regarding hotel size beyond the city centre.
The News from Crystal Palace website reports that the North Croydon Conservation Area Advisory Panel “strongly objected”, saying the proposals lack many of the amenities normally associated with large hotels.
The council officer’s report does include the objections from two London Assembly Members, Tory Steve O’Connell and Fiona Twycross, the Labour London-wide AM who lives in the area.
They state that the proposals are out of keeping with the Church Road Conservation Area, which comprises a mid- and low-rise detached buildings, and that the proposed multi-storey car park would overlook residential properties.
Helen Hayes, the Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, said the proposals would demolish a number of listed buildings and are not in keeping with the predominant Victorian-style of architecture in the surrounding area.
The report says objections were also received from the Norwood Society, Fitzroy Wakefield Action Group, Regency Garden management (Upper Norwood) Ltd, and Crystal Palace Triangle Planning Group.
While some of the original plans have been revised by the developers, the residents of the Fitzroy Wakefield Action Group say, “We are challenging the hotel’s plans to demolish heritage buildings and replace them with a huge new extension.
“As the scale of this development has not been revised, we believe the issues already raised by local residents and the wider community have not been sufficiently addressed.
“Some improvements have been made to the design but we’re still worried about the scale of this project and the impact it will have on Crystal Palace. We are still asking Croydon Council to refuse planning permission for this scheme until it is scaled back to a more realistic size.”
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