CROYDON COMMENTARY: One Coulsdon residents’ association is supporting developments proposed by Brick by Brick, the council-owned house-builders. CHARLIE KING explains why
East Coulsdon Residents’ Association will be supporting the four, linked Brick by Brick developments in Coulsdon because, unlike previous proposals, we believe that these are in the interest of both existing residents and businesses of Coulsdon.
The Coulsdon residents’ associations and other interested parties have been in discussion with Brick by Brick for more than a year and now believe we have managed to get to a stage where the developments are in the interest of Coulsdon to assist in keeping it as a vibrant and viable town centre.
We believe that these projects have to be seen in the light of today’s housing shortage, where to obtain a house in Coulsdon you need to be earning £75,000-plus, or you inherit considerable wealth from your parents. That means that too many young people who have been brought up in Coulsdon cannot afford to stay in the area. This also causes problem as their parents get older, with their children living out of the area.
You also have to look at what is in the interest of the town centre not only for local businesses, but also for the residents who shop there and use the local facilities. Today more than 30 per cent of purchases are made either on the internet or by catalogue shopping, delivered by an ever-increasing number of white vans. The results of this can be seen all over Britain, with empty shops and charity shops in high streets and boarded up local shopping parades.
Coulsdon as a district centre has fared better than many other local shopping centres, not only because it is a nice place, but also having a varied and interesting range of shops and other facilities in the town centre. In addition, over the last few years there have been some 300 new dwellings constructed in and around the town centre, which have been occupied by many young people and families who shop and spend time in the town centre.
We are of the view that to maintain a vibrant town centre it will continue to need things that bring people to the town centre and provide what people need in the 21st Century.
The town centre also needs good public transport and parking.
The four projects
Lion Green Road car park: Under the previous council administration, the plan (to which we objected) was to close the car park and hand it over to a new supermarket, with parking for users of the supermarket only. When that project collapsed, the new council administration reopened the car park but gave notice they would want to put some housing on part of the site. The residents’ associations and businesses were approached by Brick by Brick with a plan for residential developments and 50 parking places for the town centre.
We told Brick by Brick this was unacceptable.
We told them that we needed at least as many parking places as there was now – 114 – and this should be increased to 120. There needed to be adequate access to Richmond Hall (the 1st Coulsdon Scouts’ venue). The new buildings should be of good design and reflect the rest of Coulsdon, with a brick exterior matching one of the local bricks.
The development must include affordable units for local people. The London Loop footpath should be diverted to pass the Ancient monument of the Surrey Iron Railway embankment at the rear in order that this becomes visible to the public.
The final plan has 116 public parking places (and they are trying to find more), with 153 apartments in five blocks with a brick exterior with a mixture of apartments for both purchase and affordable rent. These would need around 50 residential parking places. The Scouts maintain access to their hall and the London loop will be diverted.
CALAT Centre: A New Community Centre and a Medical Centre: When the RAs met Brick by Brick the options were to demolish the old Smitham School building and build flats or convert the old building into apartments and build new flats in each of the playgrounds. The RAs suggested that all four projects in Coulsdon should be linked together.
Rather than pull down a building which is part of Coulsdon heritage, we suggested that they could look a converting the building into town centre community facilities and a badly needed, up-to-date Medical Centre.
New Community Centre: We were pleased that Brick by Brick agreed to look at this suggestion, and they approached the existing Community Centre users to see if they would be prepared to move to the CALAT site. After much discussion, the Community Centre users agreed to move if the facilities on offer at the CALAT Centre would be as good or better than their existing facilities. The RAs gave their support to the Community Centre users and would not support a move unless the facilities are as good as those in the existing Community Centre.
We are now at the stage where Brick by Brick are offering the same type of facilities as at the existing Community Centre, but with extra rooms and a new theatre building with dedicated parking in the Malcolm Road entrance. We are waiting final agreement by the Community Centre users.
New Medical Centre: In the original Lion Green Road car park plan, part of the supermarket building would have had a new medical centre. Brick by Brick agreed to approach the NHS to see if they were still in favour of a new medical centre in Coulsdon. After some discussion the NHS came back and agreed in principle that they wanted to update the medical facilities in Coulsdon to what was needed for the 21st Century.
Agreement in principle has been reached between Brick by Brick and the NHS and there will be a new medical centre at the Woodcote Grove Road side of the CALAT site. This will have an entrance in Woodcote Grove Road and parking space for people with disabilities and an ambulance.
These developments are in the town centre and accessible by public transport from all parts of Coulsdon and will encourage people to spend time in the time in the town centre.
The Community Centre Barrie Close: If the existing Community Centre users do move to the CALAT centre, the existing building, which dates from 1938, will be demolished and replaced by 33 dwellings in two rows of terraced houses and two blocks of flats, which will include flats suitable for people with disabilities. This is in an existing residential area and will have 33 parking places for the dwellings.
Overall we believe when put to together these four developments are in the best interest of Coulsdon Residents and business. It will bring more people to Coulsdon, it will enable more people to access these town centre facilities by public transport. It will provide 190 badly needed new dwellings, including affordable ones and some suitable for people with disabilities.
We will continue to press for more conditions such as that Lion Green Road car park should remain open throughout construction, that it should include a mixture of short- and long-term parking, that there should be decent landscaping on Lion Green, the new Community Centre facilities at the CALAT Centre should be as good or better than the existing facilities, and the medical facilities should be available to all residents and from both Coulsdon and the surrounding area.
- Charlie King, pictured right, is the chair of ECRA, the East Coulsdon Residents’ Association
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