Palace are playing a homes game which council will lose 5-0

KEN LEE, our Town Hall reporter, on the detail-lite presentation at the Crystal Palace stadium public consultation

We have a dream: but details were hard to find at Crystal Palace’s public consultation

If you’re going along to the Crystal Palace stadium public consultation at Speroni’s tomorrow, don’t get too excited.

The football club wants to spend £100million on building one new stand, all for an extra 8,000 added to Selhurst Park’s capacity. Perhaps as a sign of the growing American influence on the club from its new owners, many of these 8,000 additional places will be taken up with top-end boxes for money-spinning corporate hospitality.

So there’s probably not much in this for the average fan to get excited about anyhow…

The club’s hope is that with planning consent, building work can start some time in the next 12 months on something which the club is saying will take three years to finish.

Inside Croydon wandered along to the first of the two sessions yesterday to discover a deeply underwhelming presentation. If anything, it is the details that the consultation doesn’t mention – the result of a transport survey, and the five homes under threat of demolition – which are more interesting.

That, and the incestuous business of consultants, spin-doctors and local politicians involved with these processes, all of them slicing another chunk of money from the budget for the project.

At yesterday’s session, the project team appeared more interested in talking among themselves than even trying to engage with the public who had shown up for the barely publicised public consultation.

It had all been announced just after Christmas, and the casual passer-by outside Selhurst Park would have had no idea anything was going on – there were no notices or signs to encourage people to take a look and get involved.

There’s plenty of glossy boards to look at, but very little hard fact

It was all so very low-key. It is almost as if the consultants already know it is a done-deal.

The consultation is organised by PLMR, the Crystal Palace-registered public affairs firm owned by Kevin Craig, who just so happens to be a Labour councillor in neighbouring Lambeth.

PLMR won the business for the consultation and what in the trade is termed “political engagement”, lobbying in plain English, by beating Newington Comms. Newington was formerly named Bellenden, and that company is owned by Mark Glover… who’s a former Labour councillor, but this time in not-so-far-away Southwark. It was Newington which ran the public consultation to get new homes built at Addiscombe’s World of Golf, so given their dismal failure to make friends and influence people then, maybe that worked against them in getting hired by Crystal Palace.

There may have been other consultancies with strong links with local politicians who might have been interested in the work, such as Cratus and BECG, the Built Environment Communication Group. At the former is Simon Hoar, while a director at the latter is the deeply dense Claire Hilley.

Both were Conservative councillors in Croydon until 2014, where Hilley managed to combine her job representing clients including house-builders Barratts while sitting on the council’s planning committee. It was only after Inside Croydon reported on this clear abuse of position that the local Tory leadership removed Hilley from the planning committee. No other sanctions were applied.

Hilley continues to show a bit of leg to developers, suggestively offering BECG’s clients some political influence through her: “A former councillor in south London, Clare has a large network of contacts across local and national government, as well as considerable experience of both politics and public affairs.”

Lambeth councillor Kevin Craig: his PLMR consultancy is lobbying for Palace’s plan

Who’s to say what “networks” and “contacts” are being utilised by Craig’s PLMR to get Palace’s stadium scheme planning permission?

Given the number of councillors who have received various, properly declared perks from Palace – free hospitality tickets to matches, trips to Wembley, even free tailor-made suits, mentioning no names, eh, Steve O’Connell? – it might be difficult to put together a committee that can be free of even a suggestion that it has in some way been “influenced”.

According to our sources in Katharine Street, for a scheme that has impact right the way across the borough, PLMR has so far done very little to reach out to Croydon’s back bench councillors about the Palace stadium proposals, beyond a lobbying email and letter sent just before Christmas that gave no information on the pre-application consultation process, and a similarly info-lite presentation this week, exclusively for elected members.

This latest part of the consultation “process” consisted of two meetings that, judging by the feedback form, were a tickbox exercise rather than serious engagement.

Given there are elections coming up, you might have thought they’d have engaged as widely as possible with politicians.

And after yesterday’s somewhat desultory presentation, tomorrow is the very last chance the public will get to have any say in the proposals. After that, the next step is a pre-application meeting with planning committee next Thursday, and then the plans will be submitted by the end of the month for approval. As we said, it all smacks of a done-deal.

It’s to be hoped that on Thursday, the consultants will get round to mentioning the five houses on Wooderson Close which, as Inside Croydon reported last month, may need to be demolished to make way for the hospitality boxes – because no mention of the houses was made at the presentation yesterday.

This, though, is consistent with the club’s somewhat high-handed approach to the whole process so far. When it staged its grand launch of the project, it was the first that their site neighbours, Sainsbury’s, had heard about it. Under the scheme, the supermarket will lose a chunk of its car park space.

And perhaps when the football club and their paid consultants tell the planning committee of how their plans resolve existing transport issues, as was being claimed at yesterday’s event, they might be so good as to explain how they intent to achieve that much sought-after goal. Because that was a detail missing from what was presented to the public yesterday.

The houses could be a real problem for Palace.

Four of the five are council houses. With the council under so much pressure to deliver more homes, the idea of just allowing a Premier League football club to bulldoze four or five – even if the club is offering to buy replacements – might cause some discomfort, even for Croydon’s exceedingly developer-friendly planning committee.

Under the London Plan, which sets out strict planning criteria for each local authority, and demanding targets for the number of additional homes that need to be delivered, it states that any loss of homes “should be resisted unless the housing is replaced at existing or higher densities with at least equivalent floorspace”.

How Paul Scott, the chair of the planning committee with a knack of not declaring his own interests, and the council planning department manage to resolve all this remains to be seen. But Palace and PLMR are probably confident that they will – after all, there’s an election coming up.

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10 Responses to Palace are playing a homes game which council will lose 5-0

  1. What a lot of negative tosh? Here the local club try to drag itself up tp date with the rest of London football, and the writer has an agenda for killin’ it. Had rat poison for breakfast or what?

    • Ahh, a devoted Eagles fan applies utter objectivity to the scheme.

      Someone’s being had over here: £100m is more than it cost to build the Millenium Stadium. For an additional 8,000 seats, mainly in high-yield hospitality boxes. And a build programme for a single stand that’s longer than it’s taking for Tottenham to build a whole stadium.

      And meanwhile a bunch of consultants trouser their fees for a go-through-the-motions consultation.

      This scheme might benefit someone, but it won’t be the ordinary fans, the community or the residents of Wooderson Close.

      • James Steele says:

        looking online i am seeing that it cost 121 million, and this was 20 years ago, in wales not london. wembley cost 1.1 billion in today’s money. not saying that you are necessarily wrong but it’s a false comparison.

        • Wembley’s a false comparison, too. That £1.1billion has a hefty amount added into the costs caused by Ken Bates’s involvement in the process. And no one would like to see that.

          So, are you saying that at £100m, assuming no delays and over-run costs, will represent “good value” for a single new stad and 8,000 extra capacity?

          • James Steele says:

            i don’t really know if £100m is good value. i’m trying now to think of a comparable stand redevelopment. looking at stamford bridge rebuild, they will pay £500m to increase capacity by 18,000 and will also be paying £20m to use Wembley temporarily.

            i do think it’s a huge amount of money. with approx 25,000 current capacity at about £40 per ticket, that’s £1m in ticket revenue per game. we play 100 home games in about 5 years. so for the cost of the redevelopment, they could let palace fans in for free every home and away game until 2023. what’s more, it would surely take a huge amount of time to recover the cost (£25,000 per seat), as realistically we are likely to get relegated at some point in the next decade and based on past results we would not even sell out current capacity. this could end up becoming a white elephant. additionally, safe standing would slightly increase capacity anyway, and i expect that to be introduced at some point.

            i imagine the club has a hundred mil to dispose of, but i’d rather they’d give it back to the fans, and there are surely better investments. i believe some of our youth teams currently practice on five-a-side pitches? whether or not we could get a better deal on a rebuilt stand is questionable.

            as a fan, i don’t think there is anything wrong with the stadium. i don’t go to games and think “i wish there were more seats and corporate boxes”. i don’t want redevelopment if it means fans will be sold out for corporatism. the money is simply not needed from ticket revenue and they should be subsidising tickets instead of trying to increase revenue.

            i was going to share this article with other fans (who mostly seem to view the development favourably/passively), but there’s nothing in it that significant. local politicians being buttered up and lack of consultation doesn’t mean the development itself is bad. while distasteful, it isn’t going to sway opinion. if you could show that it was very bad value for money it might be a different story.

  2. One sided load of tosh. CPFC have a 100 year old stand and the club is in desperate need of expansion and modernisation. What do you care about the cost? What we don’t need is luddite nimby’s like you trying to block everything. Go live on a rock somewhere if you can’t cope with change.

    • How charming. Someone who associates themselves entirely with the football club that their personal avatar is the club’s badge.

      Thing is, we’ve never said anything about “blocking” the development of this stand, despite its questionable architectural merit.

      What we have done is highlight how piss poor the club’s “public” consultation is that they fail to mention the requirement to bulldoze through four or five family homes, and take a chunk of property off Sainsbury’s without sharing that information with them.

      If you are uncomfortable with that, tough. That’s what’s really happening in the real world.

      The stand will get planning permission, some architects and consultants will trouser some juicy fees, the thing will over-run and cost the club at least £110m – so no cash for transfers for a while – and when it opens, you and your mates will be belly aching about how expensive tickets for the new stand are.

  3. This does feel like an excessively negative article, and I believe that merely looking at the addition of 8000 seats is somewhat missing the point, as this does not consider that all the existing seats in the main stand will remain, but will be finally served by decent facilities. The improvements in the main stand will also enable the club to improve other areas of the ground that so clearly need addressing. I’m sure it’s true that consultants will do very well out of this, but I’m not sure why the author of this article is so troubled by that? It’s private not public money? The housing is a far bigger issue though. I do feel a little puzzled about why this is a 3 year build plan, but that may be including all the other revisions across the stadium, as the new main stand project also includes work to be done on the other three stands and the pitch. More information to follow I’m sure, but this development will benefit the local community and increase the possibilities for the excellent Palace for Life Foundation, and increase general admission for Palace fans.

    • “More information to follow I’m sure…”

      That’s exactly the point you’re missing. As far as public consultation was concerned, last week was it. That is all you’re going to be given. It’s as if residents and fans are being regarded as mushrooms*.

      Now we know that the house demolitions and Sainsbury’s were left out of the consultation. What else weren’t the consultants telling the public about the scheme?

      And yes, this is an entirely privately funded scheme. But the consultancy companies include directors and staff who are, or have been, elected councillors who insinuate that their local authority contacts can be useful in securing planning permission.

      *And mushrooms? Kept in the dark and fed bullshit.

  4. Jack Iacovou says:

    The housing issue is the biggest problem the developer and Palace will face. Five properties with four of these being Council owned. They will need to be provided with suitable alternative accommodation by the council and this will have to be provided close by as I presume that the families living there have children that go to school etc etc.
    The private property could make it very difficult for Palace. They could refuse to sell, as is their right, unless Palace offers a significant premium to encourage them to leave. This all needs resolving prior to the planning application being considered or the council may place a conditional approval on this being resolved prior to work starting. A little bit sticky.
    With all this money flying around the developer could build a small block of flats someone to mitigate the net housing loss. What’s another million or two !!
    Additional consideration needs to be given to other existing residents whose properties are not required in order to build the stadium extension but who will be hugely affected. How will their amenities, transport etc etc affected by this development. And as for Sainsburys losing part of its car park and not even being consulted I find this astonishing. By the sounds of this local consultation has been non-existent to poor. The developer needs to go back to the drawing board and address all of these issues.
    I would assume that the Council will support as it would want to keep the football club in the borough and I guess because of the pitch’s current location the only way to build is up or out nd the only out would be the non-residential side of the stadium.

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