Council flogs off Addington Hills cooling station on the cheap

While Croydon Council continues to push through schemes that concrete-over playing fields and public parks – Queen’s Gardens, at Coombe Wood and the site next to Ruskin House – yesterday saw the buffoons who handle the borough’s public property manage to throw away an opportunity to make millions from developing a brown field site in a prime location. Kirsty and Phil would be beside themselves…

Going for a song: £280,000 would have bought you this disused industrial building with tremendous views

A West End property auction saw the disused electricity cooling station in the Addington Hills put up for grabs by our hard-up council at a bargain-basement reserve price of just £75,000. Just across the road from the cooling station, houses on swanky Bishop’s Walk have been known to sell for more than £2million.

In the event, the cooling station reached £280,000. But that still seems cheap since planning permission to redevelop the site lucratively should be a foregone conclusion. The vendors – the council – are also the local planning authority, of course. They had been showing a bit of leg to potential buyers by having the auctioneers make it abundantly clear, “It is considered that the property may be suitable for redevelopment/change of use subject to the necessary consents. Interested parties should refer to The London Borough of Croydon planning department in this regard…”.The cooling station is located not far from the tram lines, in the woods in the Addington Hills beauty spot, sandwiched between Lloyd Park, Bramley Bank nature reserve and the fairways of Addington Palace golf course. There’s even a Chinese restaurant handily placed nearby.

Hidden in the woods, the cooling station might be redeveloped as an ‘Amazing Space’

Clearly, no one wants to see unnecessary development in this area. But the cooling station had been an eyesore since it was built, so to replace it with one, or perhaps even two, family homes might have been a better opportunity for the council’s housebuilders, Brick by Brick, to dive into the shark-infested waters of commercial property development and actually make some money towards building those “much-needed” homes, even council houses, that they keep banging on about.

Yet Jo Negrini’s council has flunked this opportunity and sold off the building and its land for perhaps one-tenth of its developed value – once again to the cost of the residents of the borough that the council is supposed to serve. Now, what was until yesterday public property, will be developed for potentially significant private profit.

However the site is developed – it might end up being one of those “Amazing Spaces” you see on the telly, or one of those impossible projects delivered through Grand Designs, its new owners have not only acquired property with some breath-taking views over London, they have also got their hands on a piece of land associated with some genuinely shocking Croydon history.

The two-floor building was built to cool the electricity power lines, but became redundant once a new electric grid line was installed from Addington to Beddington at a cost more than £11million. Abandoned, the property came into the possession of the council.

It is part of a tradition of public utility buildings on Addington Hills.

Nearby was the reservoir that was probably the source of the Croydon typhoid outbreak in 1937 in which 43 people died.

Confusion regarding responsibilities at the council were the likely causes of that outbreak, according to the public inquiry that the Minister of Health called after his visit to Croydon Corporation.

Infections arising from the reservoir had been ignored for 11 years. Construction at the reservoir saw waste water put into the mains supply at a time when one of the workmen was a typhoid carrier and the process of chlorination was neglected.

The inquiry found that, “the organisation of the administration of the Borough was such as to lead to both misunderstanding and lack of communication between the responsible officers of the corporation in connection with the work”.

Inspectors visit the Addington reservoir after the 1937 typhoid outbreak in Croydon

The case was so notorious that it was even reported on by The American Journal of Public Health noted of the English authority, “the Borough Engineer is directly responsible for the water supply but his duties include highways, lighting, drainage, housing, and many other matters, so that the care of the water is deputed to an assistant, and in regard to the Croydon outbreak, there apparently was a misunderstanding between the Borough Engineer and this assistant, who was directly responsible for the water works and the sanitary arrangements for the men who were working in the well.

“Neither the health officer nor the Borough Engineer was informed of the work going on, nor of the stoppage of the chlorination. The medical officer is there to advise when wanted; the engineer to look after the water; but the medical officer is not even asked to attend the water committee meetings, does not receive copies of the agenda of the water committee, but gets the printed minutes later.”

Such a level of local authority dysfunction will be all too familiar to our loyal reader.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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