BARRATT HOLMES on another prestigious scheme in the town centre which seems to have come to a grinding halt
Five years since Taberner House was demolished and almost a year since planning permission was granted for the site – including building on part of a town-centre open space – and there’s still no firm date set for when construction work to begin on the site.
For the past two summers this valuable piece of real estate, in the midst of a growing housing crisis, has been used as a … pop-up saffron farm.
The community volunteers were back on the site at the weekend, apparently preparing for another season of crocus-growing and saffron-harvesting.
Inside Croydon approached the developers, Hub, who had been hand-picked by Croydon Council to take on the landmark project, and asked when they expect construction work to begin.
“Hi, thanks for getting in touch!” they responded cheerily.
“We’re gearing up for site investigations in the next couple of weeks and will post updates on our Twitter feed as well as the project website,” they said.
Planning permission was granted for one scheme on the site as long ago as April 2014. But a change of council administration saw that version junked, originally for the site to be handled by a council development company. But that bright idea was quietly dropped, too, and Hub then appeared on the scene.
It was on May 18 last year that planning permission was granted for the latest scheme of four tower blocks, of between 13 and 35 storeys, to provide 514 new homes (179 of them “affordable”), 13,000 sq ft of retail and office space, and also a takeover of Queen’s Gardens public park to provide those moving into the properties with a new play area, pavilion café and re-landscaping.
The forthcoming “site investigations” might have taken place at any point in the past two years, even before planning permission was granted formally.
So we asked Hub to explain the slow rate of progress.
Hours later, and after this article was first published, a response came which seemed to suggest that Croydon Council’s planning department may have been dragging its feet in terms of drawing up the agreements for the development to go ahead.
Most planning authorities enter into Section 106 agreements with developers, under which the developer pays the cost of some elements of social infrastructure in return for planning permission. “The S106 for Taberner House was signed in August 2017,” the spokesperson for Hub said.
“As it takes a long time to gear up to start a major construction project like this, the time-frame is not unusual.”
Though this does not answer the point about the failure to carry out any of the on-site preparatory work in the meantime.
Now, it could even be that there will be no construction work before July, or even the autumn. Consultants working for Hub on the property developers’ annexation of the public park space in Queen’s Gardens have released dates for public events right through to July, with a “celebration” event planned for September.
The lack of progress is hardly something new in this part of Croydon, with this site being right alongside the Town Hall, opposite Fairfield Halls – currently running six months behind schedule on a £30million refurbishment programme – and just a short walk from the Whitgift Centre, which has been waiting since 2012 for the Westfield bulldozers to move in.
It all puts into a different context council leader Tony Newman’s slogan “Delivering for Croydon”.
*This article was updated at 4pm to include the secondary comment from Hub.
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