A group of neighbours in South Norwood have started a crowd-funding appeal to raise money to pay for a legal challenge against Croydon council and planning chair Paul Scott over a Brick by Brick development which will overshadow their homes.
Alex Toogood’s CrowdJustice page went live this morning, seeking to raise £30,000 towards a Judicial Review against the decision of the council’s planning committee, which she claims has shown bias in favour of the developer – the council’s own housing company – and demonstrates multiple conflicts of interest while ignoring significant elements of the council’s own planning officials’ reports.
“We are concerned that the council is driving through decisions without the usual democratic safeguards because the council is simultaneously the land-owner, developer and planning authority,” Toogood said.
“We feel there is a clear conflict of interest with this planning process.”
Judicial Reviews are a last-chance for ordinary people to challenge decisions by local authorities and government through the courts, though they are notoriously expensive and hard to win against the massed forces of public-funded civil servants and council officers.
In this case, Toogood and her friends and neighbours have been amassing a large volume of evidence of what they claim to be bias from Labour councillor Scott’s own public remarks.
Planning permission was granted at the end of March for a Brick by Brick scheme to build a three-storey tall block of flats on garages and a forecourt north of Avenue Road in SE25.
Toogood’s CrowdJustice page explains, “We are fighting Croydon Council and their developer Brick by Brick to stop them building a development that will impact our families, block out our light, overlook our homes and damage our community.
“This huge wall, towering over our home will be overbearing, oppressive and will block out our light.
“We are concerned that the council is driving through decisions without the usual democratic safeguards because the council is simultaneously the land-owner, developer and planning authority. We feel there is a clear conflict of interest with this planning process.”
The potential for conflicts of interest have been highlighted before.
- Brick by Brick’s managing director, Colm Lacey, is employed as Croydon Council’s director of development.
- Brick by Brick is overseen by Councillor Alison Butler, the council cabinet member for homes, regeneration and planning.
- Butler is married to another Labour councillor, Paul Scott, an architect by profession who also happens to be the chair of the planning committee.
Toogood’s appeal page states: “We feel there is clear conflict of interest within the council’s planning committee, and a bias towards their own developer.
“They will tear down our family’s rear garden wall, which is currently one-storey high, and replace it with a three-storey, 9.8-metre wall. The developer’s own planning experts have admitted that this building does not meet lighting guidelines, and will therefore reduce the light coming into our home and garden.
“This developer is building all across Croydon on in-fill sites, green spaces and play areas. The majority of the housing they are building will be for private sale and there will be minimal affordable and council housing.”
As one Katharine Street source said this morning, “All the leaflets and petitions and banners on the steps of the Town Hall can be shrugged off by Scott, Butler and Jo Negrini, the council chief executive who is pushing through this pet project.
“But a court challenge is something else, and planning policy has strict rules and guidelines that demand that decisions are made individually, on a case-by-case basis, without any prejudice or predetermination. There’s a chance that this group could be joined by residents from elsewhere in the borough to examine what Scott, and others, have said about their schemes, and the instructions that have been given to members of the planning committee about having to grant permission to all Brick by Brick’s schemes.
“And if that were to happen, Scott and Negrini could have a few problems.”
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