BARRATT HOLMES on the latest instance where the council shows that it is more interested in cosying up to mega-rich property speculators than actually delivering homes at social rent
Forget the possible contraventions of building regulations on one of its sites, back in Brick by Brick World, Colm Lacey, the sometime Croydon Council employee who glories in the title of “chief executive” of the borough’s house-builder, is speaking today at the London Real Estate Forum, an exclusive corporate event that costs £954 per ticket to attend both days.
The event is soooo exclusive, that the organisers, which include the Mayor of London’s office, specify that journalists and members of the public are just not welcome. So there won’t be any awkward questions.
Croydon is represented at this plush event held in Berkley Square not only by a delegation from the council, and also from the council-backed Develop Croydon quango, but also by Brick by Brick.
No wonder that Estates Gazette, the trade magazine which is among the Mayfair shindig’s backers and one of the few publications allowed to attend, has been gushing so enthusiastically of late about the “success” of loss-making Brick by Brick with wild, and ridiculously inaccurate, claims.
The truth so far about Brick by Brick is altogether a little less breath-taking.
- Despite being given a free pass on all its planning applications by the Blairites on the council, Brick by Brick has failed to build a single home in three years.
- It made a loss of £1million in its first trading year (which was shrugged off as being “standard” for a firm with so many schemes in development).
- The company’s own annual report shows that it is well short of delivering its target of 50 per cent “affordable” (which is largely unaffordable, shared ownership properties), delivering less than 40 per cent affordable.
- And in the past week, we have learned that it has opted to “capitalise” its debts, rather than start paying back any of the £10million-worth of public funds and interest it has received or accrued.
Quietly, in case anyone noticed during the local election campaign, Brick by Brick has upped its target of new-builds from the 1,000 it started out with to… 3,000. And having dipped into council funding as far as they dare, they are now touting around for private partners.
So today, Lacey is speaking at a session called “Unlocking Public Land”.
Unlocking? For whose benefit?
Well, according to the organisers, Lacey’s exclusive audience today will be “strictly limited to Architects, Developers, Investors, Engineers, Financial Institutions, Landowners, Lawyers and Policy Makers…” and “Places are strictly limited to board-level representatives from consultants and other property professionals”.
So no riff-raff, then. And certainly none of the public who might have a stake in the public land that our Colm wants to “unlock”.
But Lacey won’t be at all lonely.
Among the other attendees is Matthew Bennett, the Lambeth councillor and sometime Westminster aide to Progress’s Croydon North MP, Steve Reed OBE. Bennett is Lambeth’s housing spokesperson, who inherited the estate regeneration – aka social cleansing – policy after his erstwhile boss Reed went on to supposedly bigger and better things.
Bennett’s advocacy for the social cleansing of Cressingham Gardens and other Lambeth estates could be seen as a kind of “unlocking public land”, for private profits.
According to the London Real Estate Forum: “How are key sectors in the real estate industry adapting to change, and what shape will they need to take in the future? Our panel sessions bring business and industry leaders together to discuss.”
The Forum organisers make no bones that this event is about swapping notes on how to make ever-bigger profits. “With agility, talent and wellbeing at the top of many corporate agendas, CEOs HRDs and FDs are exploring the role property can play in furthering their corporate objectives.”
Just the sort of event that you want Labour councillors and local authority officials to attend, at considerable public expense.
Or possibly not.
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