CROYDON COMMENTARY: The council’s narrative on its housing policy and Brick by Brick is failing to convince an increasing number of residents. Loyal reader CHARLES CALVIN responds to Cllr Paul Scott’s recent explanation of planning decisions
Paul Scott citing a pan-London “housing crisis” as the reason we should all put up with the decisions and antics of Croydon’s planning committee under his chairmanship should not be believed or countenanced.
This is not an accurate picture and should not be used as the excuse for sub-standard planning at local level and the consequential long-term harm it will cause this borough.
I am angered that Councillor Scott believes people might believe him.
His simplistic and repeated reference to “massive demand” and “massive growth in population” are not issues that require the direct response of our planning committee, or more specifically the reason to chuck away good sustainable planning practice.
We do not look to the chair of our planning committee to dispense the bitter pill nor do we need some kind of reverse Robin Hood derivative forcing through consent after consent without balanced discussion or listening to Croydon residents.
Scott talks about 33,000 housing units and how, in his opinion, it might be distributed in 11,000 unit chunks in different parts of the borough – central, brown-field and Purley gardens. This is fag-packet socio-politics and equates to Scott giving consent to 120 housing units at every single fortnightly council planning committee meeting for the next 20 years. It’s rubbish.
I don’t begrudge Scott his opinions, but I do object to his manipulation and cohering of planning committee outcomes to suit his own “Wolfie Smith” world view.
The majority of “intensification” consents that see larger houses converted or bulldozed to make way for flats in quiet suburban streets do not get built. They do not materialise. But they do become part of growing micro-economy of developers who are land-banking and trading in “consented” sites.
I know of sites that have exchanged hands three or four times and during this period they’ve been back to Croydon planning to add units or increase the size (and value) of the development. During the whole period, nobody had any real intent to develop the site.
It’s like sort of bitcoin mania and Scott is playing right into it.
Croydon council planning committee’s rejection of good planning practice and wholesale dismissal of the opinion of residents is doing little more that fueling speculation in the property market that adds to house price inflation, not shortage of supply.
When the “fuel” of private capital, mortgage credit and cash from the bank of Mum and Dad is supplemented by government subsidies and tax breaks, house prices rise. What Scott doesn’t understand is that building more houses on the scale he is advocating is not the answer.
House prices won’t fall until the tide of cash flowing into the market abates, for example by tightening mortgage credit, or shrinking the pool of buy-to-let investors. This may already be starting to happen as real incomes continue to fall, the Bank of England toughens up buy-to-let mortgages, and stamp duty rises are phased in for second properties.
Then factor in the impact of Brexit and an ageing population, and you’ll see that Scott was not only off-message on housing, he was off-message by a country mile on schools, too.
Charles Calvin, pictured left, was born in New Zealand, lives on the Croydon-Surrey borders and worked in the financial markets in London and Frankfurt. “I’m passionate about the environment and now starting to put my money where my mouth is,” he says.
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