Developers’ own advisors say Sandrock scheme is not viable

Developers who want to build 19 flats in two ugly blocks in what was the car park of a once thriving pub in Shirley have no intention of ever re-opening the Sandrock as a going concern.

Under threat: the Sandrock

That’s the conclusion reached by local residents after reading a report by the developers’ own advisor, made available since the planning application was published by Croydon Council.

Objectors are holding a meeting on September 2, at which local councillors and members of CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, will be invited to discuss the best ways to marshal their opposition to the overdevelopment.

The give away clue that the developers ultimately want to build yet more flats on the site of the 150-year-old Sandrock pub come in a report from their property consultant Nicholas Bignall, of Turner Morum.

In his report, Bignall states that “on all alternatives including affordable housing and no affordable housing, the project is not viable”.

And further, Bignall writes, “The requirement to include the refurbished public house in this application has a negative impact on viability. This consequently means that the scheme’s ability to delivery affordable is diminished – it is for this reason I would suggest all scenarios show as non-viable in my appraisal analysis.”

Under Croydon Council’s recently adopted Local Plan, there are provisions intended to prevent developers acquiring pub buildings and turning them into flats. Already, some developers have proposed schemes which seek to build flats on pub sites, while offering to provide a much smaller pub, of dubious viability as a business.

The council’s and Mayor of London’s additional requirements for the inclusion of some element of affordable housing in all schemes of 10 or more homes puts further pressure on landowners when they seek to turn a quick profit after buying a local boozer.

That certainly seems to be the case with the Sandrock’s owners.

In the viability report produced with the planning application, Bignall has written, “Following discussions with the applicant I understand they have arrived at a ‘commercial decision’ to proceed with the scheme on the basis of 16 per cent on site affordable housing.”

Bignall estimates that if the developers go ahead with the 19 flats – including three of them being “affordable” – and a refurbished pub on the site, they could lose nearly £300,000 on the scheme. Bignall suggests that it is unlikely that any housing association will co-operate with the scheme and therefore the developers would have to opt to pay the council £80,000 in lieu of the affordable housing.

The Sandrock, on Upper Shirley Road, was built in 1867, and has considerable history, and a ghost. The usually bustling pub, which had a large restaurant area, was owned by Mitchell and Butlers, but was closed earlier this year after its sale to developers.

The Addington Hills, popular with walkers, who would visit the Sandrock after their hike

Residents living near the Sandrock, or those who used to use the pub as their local, have seen through the developers’ plans.

“The proposal to keep a refurbished pub on the site is a cynical attempt to obtain planning permission to build the flats and then after a respectable amount of time to say that the pub is not viable and therefore there is no alternative to a change of use to more flats,” one resident told Inside Croydon today.

“If the intention is really to keep the pub, why was it closed immediately after the purchase by the developers and its tenant thrown out against his will?

“Even under their plans disclosed as part of the planning application, there will be no pub open on the site until 2020 at the earliest, so no pub for all that time. In view of the opinion expressed by their own expert, the likelihood of it coming back after that time must be infinitesimally small.”

The local opponents of the scheme also highlight that the Sandrock was a “destination pub”, popular with walkers coming off the Addington Hills, or which many customers would drive to. That is unlikely to be possible under the redevelopment plans, which reduce the large car park to just 16 spaces, including those for the occupants of the flats.

“Even if customers thought they would take a chance and park in the few streets nearby that are not yellow lined, they would be competing with the residents who are already obvious prefer to park near their own houses,” the resident said.

Objections to the plans, which can be viewed on Croydon Council planning website, must be made by September 9.

The residents’ meeting will be held at the Surprise pub on Upper Shirley Road on September 2, from 7pm.

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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
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