The developers of one of the biggest town centre schemes have been accused by a Labour councillor of only wanting to build homes for the wealthy, and of trying to keep their viability assessment out of the hands of pesky residents who might want to review and question their figures.
Menta Redrow, who have been involved with developments along Cherry Orchard Road near East Croydon Station which have dragged on for all of this decade, have revised proposals for consideration by Croydon Council which offer to provide barely half the required amount of affordable housing. The 445-flat scheme could be worth nearly £150million in sales once completed.
Residents living in East Croydon have been subjected to a carpet-bombing of leaflets lately, with the glossy little numbers coming from the speculative developers some six years since Menta pitched up with a hideous 55-storey tower proposal. That scheme had little to commend it and was opposed by the local Tory MP and Labour ward councillors alike, but nonetheless was granted planning permission.
Since when… tumbleweed.
Suggestions that a touch of “land-banking” has been going on are probably not far off the mark.
Sure, a marketing “suite” (or shed to you and me) has been plonked on the site without having first been granted planning permission, and now the head-in-the-clouds residential tower scheme has been binned, replaced with a couple of shorter, cheaper, higher profit-margin towers. “Turgid towers”, is how one local councillor has described them.
Part of the original deal was that the developers would allow a link bridge, running across the railway lines at East Croydon Station and providing a property value-enhancing access route from Addiscombe to Dingwall Road and central Croydon. Built at a cost to the tax-payers of £24million, Croydon’s “Bridge to Nowhere” has been left hanging, literally, for five years because Redrow and Menta have blocked its completion.
And now the developers are asking for “support” from the very same residents they have regarded with disdain for seven years.
Part of their leaflet claims, deviously: “Menta Redrow is committed to funding, constructing and installing a new bridge link, subject to Croydon Council and Network Rail consents”.
This despite rather more important “consents” having been granted, enthusiastically, nearly six years ago, when Redrow-Menta agreed then to provide the land for the bridge access, and with the major part of the bill for the bridge having been funded not by Redrow-Menta, but by Network Rail, TfL and the local council.
One worried East Croydon resident who has received the promotional leaflet and response card – to be used by the developers to demonstrate local support for the project – and they told Inside Croydon, “The document is a one-sided diabolical piece of railroading propaganda. The response card only asks for support of the application.”
The resident is particularly concerned at the lack of urgent activity from the local residents’ association. “I am not aware of any planned objection to the application from the community.”
The deadline for the submission of all comments on the application – whether supportive or opposing – is this Thursday, November 9.
Labour councillor Sean Fitzsimons is urging residents to object to the scheme.
On the Addiscombe ward councillors website, Fitzsimons has written, “Make sure you have your say over Menta’s new planning application for their Twin Towers proposals and a new building on the old Cherry Orchard Gardens site, next to the entrance of Oval Road…
“Many local residents breathed a sigh of relief when after 10 years Menta finally abandoned its plans for a 55-storey skyscraper for its vacant site on Cherry Orchard Road next door to Billington Hill. With its scrapping, hopes were raised that the new proposals would be more in keeping with the surrounding area, that the link to the new bridge would be delivered, and that homes that local people could afford or rent would be built.
“Sadly, it seems Menta only want to deliver one of these three things, which is the link to the bridge, and there is no guarantee whether this will be built first, as local councillors are pressing for.”
Menta’s revised plans are for two 25-storey rectangular blocks with a central plaza that links Cherry Orchard Road to the new bridge.
“Compared with the original skyscraper proposals, these blocks have little architectural merit,” Fitzsimons says. “Thankfully, the towers will be clad with a brick façade, but the choice of dull-brown means they will be rather turgid in appearance.
“Menta’s own glossy planning documents point out that the new plaza will be rather windswept and not a comfortable place to linger without mitigation. Menta’s proposal to plant trees in this new plaza is welcomed, and will probably make a difference in summer, but there is a lot of scepticism that the trees will make much difference in winter when there is a Siberian wind blowing, and the trees have no leaves.
“But the main reason to oppose this planning application is Menta’s proposal to only deliver 15 per cent affordable housing for the site, way below the 30 to 50 per cent threshold that the council and the Mayor of London are asking for.
“Of the 445 homes proposed 67 will be for shared ownership and none will be for affordable or social rent. This follows the pattern of Menta’s previous development on Cherry Orchard Road where they made every effort to ensure they didn’t deliver any affordable rented homes on their site.
“It does seem that Menta only wants to develop homes for the wealthy.”
Menta says, “The level of affordable housing is lower than the current target sought by policy however this is due to the financial viability of the development. It is, however, in accordance with the minimum level of on-site provision that is expected under emerging policy. A fully evidenced Financial Viability Assessment is being submitted with the application which demonstrates that this affordable housing offer is the maximum which the scheme can support.”
But Councillor Fitzsimons accuses the developers of keeping the viability assessment report secret. “Members of the public are unable to review their calculations. As local councillors, we have asked that Menta make this document public.
“Croydon has a housing crisis and ordinary residents on average incomes have been priced out of the housing market, with both rents and house prices that are out of reach.
“Croydon doesn’t need any more buy-to-let flats that are sold abroad to private investors. What we need are decent homes that ordinary people can afford. We therefore ask all residents to object to Menta’s application and demand that affordable family homes are included in the scheme.”
- You can object to the planning objections by emailing Development.Management@croydon.gov.uk, quoting the planning application number 17/05046/FUL
- View the planning application for the turgid towers by clicking here
- And click here to read the application to, finally, provide the bridge link from the East Croydon Bridge to Nowhere
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