No content with taking on the Tories at the local elections on May 3, Croydon Labour leader Tony Newman is now confronted by the mass anger of 17 residents’ association and groups, from all parts of the borough.
Residents’ associations are, usually by virtue of their constitutions, supposed to be apolitical.
But what has unified the residents groups on this occasion is their opposition to housing schemes being imposed on their neighbourhoods by the council’s house-builders, Brick by Brick.
“Residents groups in Croydon have not united in action for many years,” a Town Hall source explained.
“That they have done so now, just before the local elections, over such an emotive issue is bad news for Tony Newman and the Labour council. These groups represent thousands of residents, many of them well-motivated.
“They’ll be doing the Tories’ campaigning for them.”
The residents’ groups last week issued a joint letter to Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader, and Sadiq Khan, Labour’s Mayor of London, appealing to them to force Croydon to have mandatory ballots before going ahead with any development schemes.
Corbyn and Khan have both called for the ballots to be held in cases of estate regeneration in places such as Southwark, Lambeth and Haringey, where the Labour-run local authorities are handing over swathes of social housing to private developers, for them to demolish and replace with high-profit private homes.
In Croydon, there’s no equivalent estate redevelopment being proposed. Brick by Brick is using £250million-worth of council cash and land to develop 1,000 homes on small sites and “in-fills” between existing council properties.
In their letter to Corbyn and Khan, the residents’ associations said, “Following your combined statement, on plans for mandatory ballots of residents ahead of major housing regeneration schemes, the following communities in Croydon appeal to both of you to implement the ballot process immediately to save our residents, before it is too late, from the imposition of Croydon’s Labour-controlled council’s devastating building schemes on our communities, through their wholly owned Brick by Brick development company.”
The letter was signed on behalf of:
Longheath Gardens Residents
Heathfield Gardens Residents
Sylvan Hill/Auckland Rise/Church Road Residents
Bramley Hill and Albury Court, South Croydon Residents
East Coulsdon Residents’ Association
Homefield Road Residents
Goodenough Way Residents
Drovers Road Residents
MAKRA, Montpelier Road/Kingsdown Avenue Residents
Cargreen Road, South Norwood Residents
Purley and Woodcote RA
The residents groups listed are far from alone in their opposition to inappropriate overdevelopment on their patch: even Croydon’s trades unionists have raised objections to Brick by Brick’s schemes, in particular a proposal next to Ruskin House.
“Many of these residents’ groups are from what are already Tory-held areas of the borough, and include the ‘usual suspects’, such as East Coulsdon, where the Tory councillors are active,” said a Labour group source.
“But these groups also include parts of Labour-held and Labour target wards at the local elections. Brick by Brick has been poorly handled and has presented the Tories with a real target to take aim at.”
Indeed, Croydon Conservatives are staging a public meeting next week where the sole topic of discussion will be Brick by Brick.
But it’s thought unlikely that anyone from Brick by Brick, or the council chief exec, Jo Negrini, will be able to attend to defend their record. Because next week, they will be too busy, “hard at work”, handing out free Cronx beers or eating at beachside brunches in the South of France, meeting with international property speculators at the “booze and hookerfest” that is MIPIM.
Or what Croydon Labour leader Tony Newman once described as a “junket” on the rates.
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