Government reaches for the sky – and puts Philp in a corner

Our housing correspondent, BARRATT HOLMES, on an awkward situation for the Nimbys of Purley

The building of a residential tower in Purley has been delayed by objections led by the local Tory MP

Tory MP Chris Philp’s loud and frequent complaints about what he continues to call “the Purley Skyscraper” (which is not tall enough to be a skyscraper) could be about to be silenced – by his own government.

Prime Minister Theresa May delivered a speech today in which she announced a shake-up of the National Planning Policy Framework and introduce measures to encourage a faster pace of building.

This includes a relaxation of regulations governing the height of buildings.

“It will be quite surprising how easy we want to make it for people who want to build upwards,” Sajid Javid, the housing secretary, said in an interview yesterday.

In advance of the speech, Sajid Javid, the housing secretary, warned councils that he will be “breathing down your neck every day and night” to ensure house-building targets are met.

An overhaul of planning laws will give councils, like Croydon, targets for how many homes they should build each year, taking into account local house prices, wages and the number of key workers such as nurses, teachers and police officers in the area. Higher targets will be set for areas with higher “unaffordability ratios”, Javid said in an interview with a Sunday newspaper.

If councils fail to deliver on the target they will be stripped of planning powers, and independent inspectors will take over.

‘Now Chris, about these much-needed homes you’re stopping being built in Purley…’. Sajid Javid’s position today seems at odds with Philp’s

“We have a housing crisis in this country,” Javid said. “We need a housing revolution. The new rules will no longer allow ‘Nimby’ councils that don’t really want to build the homes that their local community needs to fudge the numbers.

“We are going to be breathing down your neck day and night to make sure you are actually delivering on those numbers.

“At the moment there is nothing in the system that checks to see they are actually delivering.

“There’s no comeback or sanction and that is going to change.”

Javid said homes would not be built on Green Belt, but any area outside “naturally protected land” would be free for construction.

Where this gets all a bit uncomfortable for the Tories in Croydon, including the voluble Philp, is their constant Nimby-ism over any suggestion of home-building. Entire campaigns opposing house-building in Shirley have been orchestrated by Croydon Conservatives, while opposition has been whipped up by Philp, the MP for Croydon South, to plans to finally develop a long-derelict plot at Purley Cross – the “Purley Skyscraper”.

The development, on behalf of the Purley Baptist Church, has been delayed after it was referred to Whitehall by Philp and residents’ groups for a ministerial ruling. The minister to hand down the final decision is … Sajid Javid.

Philp, though, does not see a contradiction between his Prime Minister’s stated desire to build upwards to resolve the housing crisis, and his objections to the Purley scheme.

“The new policy is allowing building ‘up to the prevailing roofline’,” Philp told Inside Croydon. “The prevailing roofline in Purley is not 17 floors. It is three or four floors.”

  • Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
  • Inside Croydon is the borough’s only independent news source, and still based in the heart of Croydon
  • ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS 2017: Inside Croydon was source for two award-winning nominations in Private Eye magazine’s annual celebration of civic cock-ups
  • If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or a local event to publicise, please email us with full details at


About insidecroydon

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
This entry was posted in Chris Philp MP, Croydon South, Housing, Planning, Property, Purley and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Government reaches for the sky – and puts Philp in a corner

  1. jackgriffin1933 says:

    There was, I thought, an interesting take on all this recently by Matthew Parris in the Spectator:

    “Supply being constrained, and appetite sharpened not by need but by acquisitiveness, even the most strenuous attempts to boost production will not bring prices within the reach of an increasingly large part of the population”.

  2. derekthrower says:

    Cannot wait for Javid’s decision about this application. Have a funny feeling it will be delayed for sometime to let it disappear from immeadiate recall and with what Philp hopes is a safely entrenched Tory council to cover his tracks. Lets make sure their double standards are not forgotten.

  3. My understanding is the same as Philp’s. The relaxation of rules on extending upwards is about being able to add an extra floor or two onto buildings whilst generally remaining in keeping with the surrounding area. As your graphic shows, a 17 floor tower is not at all in keeping with the rest of Purley Cross. Something in the region of 4 or 5 floors would probably be about right.

    • Which then raises the matter of viability, a matter which Philp is very aware, since his companies would never invest in speculative property deals if there wasn’t a tidy profit to be had at the end of it (his conflict of interest in these matters, as an MP objecting to other, possibly rival, investors’ and developers’ schemes, is for another time).

      Until recently, Croydon Council allowed developers – Westfield, Brick by Brick – to keep their viability reports secret.

      The only way to provide a volume of social housing and for the developer to wash their face is to build a lot of it.

      At the twee levels suggested by Philp and the Nimbys, that would never happen, ensuring that the derelict site remains derelict for another 20 years or so…

      • Viability is, as you suggest, widely abused. Viability should not be based on whether a property speculator overpaid for a piece of land in the hope of overdeveloping it. Councils need to be far quicker at using compulsory purchase orders to get the sites back into use, and the land value for the CPO should be based on what the surrounding area can bear. If speculators make a loss from not being able to overdevelop that is the risk of being a speculator, it shouldn’t be down to the local community to bear externalities so speculators can make a profit.

      • Michael Hopkins says:

        And you think a derelict site is worse than a grossly over developed site ?

        • Purley was grossly over-developed when Tesco’s moved in and the place was carved up as some sort of motorway intersection.

          It has been blighted ever since by the failure to develop the derelict site opposite. The local planning authority, the council, has little or no power to influence private developers over their proposals and designs, beyond the binary granting or refusing of permission, the latter which may lead to a costly legal appeal.

          The current housing minister has a presumption that builiding homes is better than doing fuck all, which is what Philp and the Nimby tendency would prefer.

        • I’d rather the site was sensibly redeveloped, but I have no sympathy with arguments that support inappropriate development in order to develop property speculators profits. Dumping a tower block on the hideous mess that is Purley Cross is not sensible. A derelict site is not ideal, but it is better than a site that makes existing problems even worse, especially when a sensible development is possible. One part of the current problem with development in the UK is a system that underwrites speculator profits, it should be easier to CPO land such as this at a compensation level based on sympathetic development. At the moment speculators are encouraged to overpay for land (driving prices higher) safe in the knowledge they can either coerce the planning authority into inappropriate development on the basis of ‘viability’ or simply bank the land and extract an economic rent later on.

  4. Lewis White says:

    It will be interesting , as your article says, to see when Secretary Javid makes (or annnounces) his decision. Any betting odds on 4th May 2018 anyone?

  5. Michael Hopkins says:

    These are five sites within 200m of the Purley Tower site that would yield more homes than the Purley tower and would have to be no more than three stories in height.

    These sites are all owned by Croydon Council.

    The Purley Tower is being built in Purley because Croydon Labour Party want to give Purley Conservatives a taste of their own medecine. Labour like to serve up their revenge cold – they even changed the Local Plan to make it difficult to stop the Purley Tower being built.

    Paul Scott, Labour Chair of the Croydon Planning Committee, is married to Alison Butler, who is in charge of housing in Croydon. No, you haven’t misread this. Chair of Planning married to Head of Housing – both are staunch Labour and both are wetting themselves laughing at the thought of a very tall building in a Purley.

    This is local politics at its most rotten,

    • What utter bollocks.

      The proposal is from a private developer, the Purley Baptist Church, which has been based in the area for 100 years. We are not aware that the Baptists have any affiliation with the Labour Party. Even if they did, it is the height of folly to suggest that they would spend tens of millions of pounds to develop a site just out of political spite.

      The Labour-run council is controlled by planning laws and constraints, which Scott, as chair of the planning committee, sometimes follows when it suits.

      The decision is in the hands of the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, a member of the Tory government.

      But good to see you calling for more development in Purley. Am sure Scott-Butler will be glad of your support when they get round to developing the five sites as you suggest.

      • Michael Hopkins says:

        The owner of the site, the local Baptist Church, wanted to build a smaller building, which included community facilities. The council made various demands (including a £2m cash payment to the council and a significant social housing component which requires a subsidy) meaning that the only way the scheme is financially viable is to build 16 floors. At this point the Church partnered a private developer.

        The council also threatened a compulsory purchase of the site if the Church did not co-operate with the skyscraper plans. The council is doing nothing illegal here – this is how developments happen.

        None of this justifies a 16-storey tower on this site which is blantantly wrong in pure town planning terms.

        If the council drop its demands for the £2m payment and the social housing (because there are already community facilities included in the smaller plans for the benefit of everyone) then a much smaller building will be financially viable. But that doesn’t make news and doesn’t screw up the views for Purley.

Leave a Reply