Time for our planning councillors to take back control

CROYDON COMMENTARY: The conduct of the council’s planning committee in respect of its granting permission to housing schemes by Brick by Brick is subject to a legal challenge. For CHARLES CALVIN, pictured left, the lack of proper scrutiny offered by committee members is also an issue

I recommend readers view the webcam coverage of the council planning meeting on March 22, where you’ll see just how dangerously dysfunctional our planning committee has become.

At this meeting, Brick by Brick developments were waved through hastily, despite overwhelming and very coherent (in planning law) opposition from residents.

I was really impressed by the by the strength of the arguments made by residents against these schemes – articulate and completely relevant in planning terms. However, while the council’s officers were given unlimited time to speak to their reports on the applications (recommending approval, always), Paul Scott, the chair of the committee, had his pathetic three-minute rule and stopped each speaker mid-sentence.

And then you have the shockingly poor level of debate, scrutiny and understanding about planning from Scott’s fellow councillors. Their lack of engagement is quite shocking – they appear to make up their comments 20 seconds before their microphones are switched on. They are like repressed students in front of an over-bearing school teacher.

One very significant project in Coulsdon that was given a green light will have significant and long-term impact on parking in the area for years to come. And what did Councillor Jamie Audsley sheepishly raise when he was given the “special” smile and nod from Scott? He raises an issue about numbers of visitor cycle parking spaces.

Jamie Audsley: the councillor for bike racks

Audsley appears to raise the same issue at every application. I’m using Audsley as an example here, but does he or any other committee members actually read the applications before attending committee?

Does he actually know his position allows him to ask more than questions about cycle parking? Or is he so under the cosh with Scott that he freezes on the spot?

Audsley is the councillor who says on his website: “I could have pursued any number of professional careers in law, medicine or finance and so on…”.

But he didn’t. He became a secondary school teacher, or “Educator”, as he likes to put it.

I have huge respect for teachers – I am married to one. But I do not have respect for people who put themselves forward for public office and then fail in their duty by not scrutinising and forensically investigating applications on our behalf and instead follows a partisan party line, jettisoning everything else.

Audsley is typical of the other committee members, regardless of party. They are all under the thumb of an over-domineering chair who believes he has mission is to build, build, build, and the people of Croydon will have to swallow his bitter pill.

I found it quite disgusting to see the chair of planning asking the public gallery to shut up after they collectively made a vocal response to something that had happened in committee. It demonstrates why Scott must go.

The other problem with the planning committee’s dysfunctional operation is that the council’s planning officers appear less inclined to address legitimate public concerns. Why should they, when Scott will just say, “Well, I do not think that is entirely applicable in this case, I propose a motion to approve, who will second it?”

Over to Jamie…

  • Charles Calvin was born in New Zealand, lives on the Croydon-Surrey borders and worked in the financial markets in London and Frankfurt
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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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Brick by Brick, Croydon Council, Jamie Audsley, Paul Scott, Planning and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Time for our planning councillors to take back control

  1. Nick Mattey says:

    If you want to climb the greasy pole in local government then approve planning applications that are close to the heart of Mr Soprano. This sucking up can do wonders in getting you on to high paid positions . Questions that will endear you the cabal include are bats being catered for , has the site been investigated for architectural heritage items , what will be done to protect the great crested newt etc

  2. The sooner the better: our council should go back to a democratic committee system of government rather than the present quartet of autonomous, ungoverned, unchecked fiefdoms.

    • Charles Calvin says:

      Yes, and this begins with strong leadership. Jo Negrini is a light weight and should not be CEO of Croydon Council.

      Anyone who witnessed the passing of the Revised Croydon Plan would have seen the little nod of approval she gave Newman after Scott had seconded it. Quite disgraceful that we are paying the CEO the best part of £250 k and she doesn’t even have the presence of mind or good grace to conceal her support of Newman’s band.

      Doesn’t 250k at least buy a straight face?

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