CROYDON COMMENTARY: Today is your last chance to lodge comments – supportive or objecting – to the planning application from the council’s Brick by Brick house-builder to squeeze eight one-bed flats and a three-bedroomed house on a corner of open space next to the Grade II-listed Ruskin House on Coombe Road.
VALERIE HUNTER has read the council builders’ application in detail, and found a number of faults, errors and attempts to mislead
As far as I know, the only public engagement staged over the application for the small site next on Coombe Road was held at Ruskin House on December 13 by consultants NewmanFrancis. They reported back that residents who had seen the proposals were mostly concerned about traffic, pollution and loss of green space. They said that they would make Brick by Brick aware of this in their community engagement report.
In their planning application, Brick by Brick says that it “has responded to the feedback from residents by addressing the following key concerns”.
Yet none of the concerns expressed by residents to NewmanFrancis have been included in the planning application by Brick by Brick. Why not?
According to the planning statement in the documents on this application (5.8), the “aim” of the public engagement event was “to listen to resident’s [sic, unless they were really listening to only one resident] views on the design-related aspects of the proposed development.”
It also states, “Brick by Brick listened to the views of the local residents…” and that “changes made to the design of the proposal have responded, where possible, to the design-related concerns of residents.” Our italics.
In other words, they are not concerned at all about the traffic issues, the air pollution at the site and suitability of, or other problems with the location. All of these matters were raised at the public consultation. None of these matters have been mentioned in the planning application.
Is this how Brick by Brick, which is owned by the council, remember, and is using £250million of public money and assets, “responds” to public concerns on all its proposals, I wonder?
All the drawings and computer-generated photos show the south side of the building with only a thin strip of vegetation (green buffer) between it and a narrow path.
The architects’ drawing also seems to fore-shorten (deliberately?) the distance between the site and the tall, modern tower blocks of the town centre in the background, possibly as an attempt of sleight of hand, to make the four-storey angular blocks of flats look less out of place alongside the elegant Georgian Ruskin House and two-storey Victorian terraces behind it on Edridge Road.
The bedrooms as shown here face Coombe Road. So either this imagined vegetation will block light from the windows, or tall people will be able to see in to the bedrooms on the ground floor, as will van and lorry drivers when they are stopped in a queue by the traffic lights at Park Lane. Traffic is continuously stopped here, back to Edridge Road and frequently back to the High Street. The traffic fume pollution and noise will be terrible for these flat occupiers.
Yet the only mention of this is under the noise report.
According to this, a microphone sited near the fence next to 127 Edridge Road to “determine existing noise levels from road traffic, pedestrians”, noted that the noise “was moderately loud due to traffic along Coombe Road”.
These “moderately loud” readings were taken … in the middle of the night, between midnight and 4.30am.
According to the planning application there is plenty of on-street parking nearby for any residents that have a car. A survey at 11am one weekday showed 34 available spaces in Edridge Road, Heathfield Road and Temple Road, and 41 spaces on a Saturday at 1pm. At 11pm (when most local residents with parking permits might reasonably be expected to have parked up for the night), the survey showed 141 spaces available. Can this be believed? Not if you speak to car-owning residents who struggle to find available spaces for their vehicles.
The application has also paid scant, credible consideration to servicing and delivery vehicles or refuse collections. These, it claims in all innocence, “will be from suitable kerbside positions on Edridge Road and Coombe Road”.
And: “Loading and unloading activities take place on-street immediately outside the site”, both in Edridge Road and Coombe Road.
Anyone who knows central Croydon will already understand how congested this stretch of road can become. Any vehicle stopping in Coombe Road blocks the single lane, increasing queues and congestion, and there is only a very small space outside the site on Edridge Road. Large delivery vehicles for nine residences would have difficulty parking at this junction.
Yet the transport statement concludes that the proposed development would be acceptable in terms of highways and transportation impacts. Clearly, what is acceptable to Brick by Brick is not acceptable to the public or the people who already live near Coombe Road.
There are other, obvious, glaring flaws with the proposal. The three-bedroomed house is so close to Ruskin House that there is a serious risk that it could cause damage to the foundations of the Grade II-listed building, or damage to the equally protected garden wall, during construction.
The four-storey flats dominate 127 Edridge Road.
Despite the purpose of Brick by Brick to use publicly-owned council land to provide “much needed homes in a variety of tenures”, one-bedroom flats are already being built or converted elsewhere in the borough. Another eight here is not what is needed.
Brick by Brick’s application suggests that replacing two one-bedroom flat with a three-bedroom one is “not viable”. So why build there at all?
Oh, and it gets better. Sites to develop fewer than 10 residences don’t have to provide any “affordable” homes towards Brick by Brick’s target quota of 50 per cent “affordable”.
Is this the real reason that Brick by Brick is so keen to overdevelop on these tiny plots of land, to build homes for lucrative private sale, but to no appreciable advantage of residents living nearby or in the borough as a whole?
As an attempt at justification, it is said there were terraced houses on the site previously. But pre-1950s, few people had cars, so traffic and pollution were not a problem then.
As for loss of greenery the planning statement states that “its small size, sloped topography and location on the junction of a main road…”, note that, they’ve noticed that it is on a main road, “… means that its use for recreational purposes is limited. There is other open space nearby such as Park Hill Park and the Queen’s Gardens which are both an approximate four minutes walk away.”
That’ll be the same Queen’s Gardens that the council has granted permission to other developers to build over a large tract, would it? The very notion that apparent proximity to other parks or open spaces makes this green space ripe for the bulldozer is the sort of logic which risks putting all the borough’s open spaces in peril – after all, we’re not so far from the Green Belt, are we?
Nearby houses may have gardens, but many people walk by especially with pushchairs and young children, and others enjoy a rest on the seats watching the birds and flowers out at this time of year. The fact that the grass and trees help reduce pollution on this very congested main road is also discounted.
So this planning application ignores all the main concerns of residents on traffic, pollution and green spaces,
It is yet another case of a council-backed consultation being lip-service only.
- If, having read Valerie Hunter’s critique of this Brick by Brick application, you feel you wish to add comments to the planning application, you can do so online by clicking here
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