Brick by Brick ignore public again over Coombe Road scheme

The green space next to Ruskin House: Brick by Brick wants to squeeze nine dwellings on this patch of green space

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 ground floor flats are overlooked and the building has little buffer between it and the busy Coombe Road junction

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.

Look like a cramped piece of greedy over-development to you? Thought so…


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.

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5 Responses to Brick by Brick ignore public again over Coombe Road scheme

  1. mikebweb says:

    Well, how on earth is THAT development in sympathy with its surroundings? Its more like a sore thumb! I am amazed that it is actually possible to get a building this size on the plot, though I do have to agree that this recreational space is a bit small for other than sitting and admiring the toxic view! Better have flats and let the residents breath this 24hrs a day! As for a 3 bed house at the back! Well I am lost for words!

  2. I don’t think this small area is suitable for the proposed type of development as it’s too near the busy main road with the edge of the building around a metre away from the footpath. There are constant noise and fumes from the traffic, including stationary traffic for most of the day.
    Adjacent houses would be overshadowed by the proposed development which is far too tall.
    This development would cause the loss of the pollution-absorbing properties of the vegetation which is there now.
    No new parking places are provided in an area where it’s already difficult to find somewhere to park.
    There would be no garden or outside green area for those living in the proposed development, and it doesn’t include any ‘affordable’ housing.
    It might make some people richer but it won’t help local residents as it will adversely affect the local environment and won’t help local families who will mostly be unable to afford the high prices.

  3. “Was the earth made to procure a few covetous, proud men to live at ease, and for them to bag and barn up all the treasures of the earth from others.” (From ‘The True Levellers Standard Advanced’. April 1649).

    It seems Croydon Council would have learned nothing in 369 years if they grant this Application, which jeopardises one of the few remaining parts of the Borough’s history and takes away one of the few green spaces near the High Street, for the sake of the prestige and profit of few people. Ms Garrod makes the point very well above, about the impact on the local community, so I won’t repeat this. I hope the Councillors will take note of public opinion (for a change, if I may say so).

  4. joeycan says:

    Reading Valerie Hunter’s commentary on Brick by Brick’s asinine proposal to build on the fig-leaf of grass adjacent to Ruskin House calls to mind the obligation placed on the developers of the primary school on Purley Way near the Leisure centre to provide hermetically-sealed windows to guard against pollution. I don’t believe there is anything in this proposal which covers that issue and in any event Brick by Brick have no control over who will live there. Do they even care?

  5. Peter Hanson says:

    It’s important to understand that the great local authority architects departments over the last 50 years ( eg Hampshire County Council) had great social pioneering agendas that were elevated by good design and public engagement. Sir Colin Stanford Smith who ran HCC Architects was awarded the RIBA Gold Medal – the highest accolade.

    Disappointingly, what I’m seeing Brick by Brick do at Coombe Rd is the tactics employed by the private sector – placating the locals and paying lip service to residents. I do not want to see my local authority architects department run like this.

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