BARRATT HOLMES, our housing correspondent, reports on the latest deeply unpopular development being inflicted on Croydon by the council-owned Brick by Brick venture
Another week and another controversial Brick by Brick scheme, pushed through relentlessly by the Town Hall husband and wife team of councillors Paul Scott and Alison Butler, to the bitter resentment and anger of the people living near the affected site.
This time, it seems that the whole of Coulsdon is up in arms over proposals to build flats on Lion Green Road car park, and to redevelop the former CALAT site off Malcolm Road and the Community Centre off Chipstead Valley Road.
The influential Old Coulsdon Residents’ Association issued a monthly newsletter this week and said, “There are flaws in all these proposals.”
The main fear in Coulsdon is over the lack of car parking for local businesses. When Lion Green Road car park was closed previously, for the abortive supermarket and health centre development put forward by the Tories’ CCURV project, several local businesses folded, blaming the lack of parking for the loss of trade.
Now, the council, through its Brick by Brick housing developer, wants to take over a large chunk of the council-owned car park, leaving just 130 spaces for traders, their staff or shoppers.
In the planning application, the council claims to have surveyed the car park’s usage and that no more than 120 spaces are used, even at peak demand, and that on-street parking is an alternative option.
“The council doesn’t have to provide parking spaces for traders,” Scott, the chair of the planning committee, said recently.
But Coulsdon locals maintain that the council surveying must have been done in the evenings, when there is still considerable demand for parking spaces in a town centre where there is little on-street parking to spare since the construction of several blocks of flats which offer its occupants no off-street parking.
“The common thread here is that if you live near a station, you won’t want a car as you won’t want to go anywhere that doesn’t have a station… so no trips to the garden centre, stately home etc or all the other reasons why reliance on public transport is not feasible in the 21st century,” the OCRA newsletter states.
“We do appear to have gained acceptance that Coulsdon needs a central car park with at least 120 spaces but can only see a future of clogged traffic and inadequate parking when Croydon insist on building housing with little or no provision for parking.”
Inside Croydon went on a field trip yesterday to monitor the car park use on Lion Green Road. At lunchtime, the car park was entirely full.
If this is typical of a weekday, then it seems obvious that a reduction in parking spaces will cause difficulties for businesses and residents, potentially jeopardising the livelihoods of traders based in the district centre.
It is also apparent that whatever “research” the council planning department undertook as part of the proposal was seriously flawed, perhaps deliberately so to make a more positive case for the development.
The car park has been operating at reduced capacity for many months now, with barriers fencing off part of the car park at the end closest to Cane Hill, the vast housing development where Barratt’s – having been handed the old mental hospital site by Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London – are about to complete work on more than 700 homes.
The current Labour administration, with Town Hall elections less than four months away, is unconcerned about losing any political capital in Coulsdon, which steadfastly votes Tory.
But there seems a growing risk that simmering resentments over Brick by Brick’s on-going attempts to concrete-over other parts of the borough will cost Tony Newman’s Labour group votes – and council seats – come May 3.
Last week’s meeting of the Croydon Trades Union Council – hardly the most likely supporters of Conservative housing policy – voted unanimously to campaign and oppose one Brick by Brick scheme next to Ruskin House, in Fairfield ward, a Labour target in the local elections.
One of the CTUC’s complaints about the Brick by Brick development is that it is overtly commercialised.
Using public money and land, Brick by Brick aims to build 1,000 homes, but more than 630 of them (so far) are to be for private sale or rent. Under Alison Butler, the Labour council’s cabinet member for housing, Croydon has failed to build a single council home since 2014.
Meanwhile, the number of families forced to live in council-provided temporary accommodation has increased since 2014.
Meanwhile, Brick by Brick’s proposal to demolish the Coulsdon Community Centre and replace it with 17 houses and 16 flats is unlikely to make many new friends in the south of the borough.
In a statement posted on the community centre’s website, Richard Lloyd wrote, “Now there may be certain advantages to this proposal, including new, improved facilities and more space, or there may not.
“We’re engaging with the council, their development company and the architects, to consider all the options, and to make sure that any scheme that does go forward (and there’s no guarantee it will) meets the needs of all our many user groups and the wider community.
“If – and it’s a big if – we feel we can reach an accommodation on a scheme and a deal which we feel able to recommend to our users, then we’ll make sure everybody knows about it and is happy with it.
“If we can’t, then we will vigorously defend our right to stay exactly where we are, and to continue operating very successfully as we have been for many years.”
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