Paul Scott now wants to see hundreds of cheap, one-bed shacks built in Croydon’s car parks.
That’s the latest architect-led idea to be endorsed by Scott, who was speaking at a conference held in the town centre this week.
Scott is the Croydon councillor who wears so many hats around Town Hall business that he could open a milliners.
In the past, he has admitted publicly that he’d like to concrete over much of the borough. Until recently, the architect with TP Bennett (who just happen carry out work for Westfield) was also the chair of the council’s planning committee, while holding office as cabinet member for environment, transport and regeneration.
And to ensure that there is an unhealthy culdconcentration of power in Croydon’s ruling Labour group, Scott is married to deputy leader Alison Butler, the council cabinet member in charge of housing.
So when someone like Scott endorses a home-building scheme in the borough, however hare-brained, it often means that it could soon become a reality.
Scott was given pride of place in one of the sessions at this week’s Develop Croydon conference – an annual property speculators’ wankfest, staged using considerable amounts of council funding.
When one of Scott’s architect chums, Bill Dunster, from ZEDfactory, started spouting about one of his firm’s pet ideas, of plonking cheap, modular-built shacks over the borough’s car parks, the Croydon councillor was eager to express his support.
Scott actually described this idea as “sensible”.
According to Develop Croydon’s report on their own conference, “Scott said he believed the solution to the housing crisis was to build more homes, that supply and demand was a key aspect, and that 48,000 homes were to be built in Croydon over the next 20 years, half of them in suburban areas.”
Scott said, “We have very ambitious targets in terms of affordable homes and around 2,000 homes in Central Croydon will be affordable.”
Oddly, no one in the conference audience called this out for the bullshit that it is.
Since 2014, on Scott and Butler’s watch, Croydon Council has not built a single new council home. The Brick by Brick house-building company set up under Butler in 2015 has not yet managed to build a single home.
According to Brick by Brick’s own company figures, from the first 1,000 or so properties granted planning permission (with Scott in the chair of the planning committee), fewer than 40 per cent will be affordable. Brick by Brick’s target, set by its owners, the council, was to deliver at least 50 per cent affordable housing.
Despite being elected as a Labour Party councillor, much of Scott’s “ambitious” housing targets revolve around producing housing for private sale, rather than for social rent. Having created a situation where the local authority provides few, if any, homes for rent, statistics were produced at the conference which suggest that young people in Croydon, denied the option of renting council homes, now say that they would rather buy their home than rely on private landlords. And who can blame them?
Whether any of the youngsters surveyed to provide statistics to justify Croydon Council’s under-delivering housing strategy would regard a shed in a car park as their dream home seems unlikely.
Dunster’s architects’ firm has been peddling the car park shack concept for several years, though with limited uptake so far. Maybe Scott will change all that.
Notably, since Dunster first aired the idea, the price of such homes appears to have more than doubled.
The advantage of using car parks is that the homes can be built with little or no land purchase expenditure. Three years ago, Dunster was telling anyone who would listen than his “pod” homes could be delivered for £50,000 each. This week, he reckoned his one-bedroom sheds could be built over car parks and sold for… £120,000.
The Develop Croydon conference report went out of its way to try to prove Disrali’s contention about damned lies and statistics. The car park shacks, they said “would be particularly appealing to young people after a conference survey revealed that 88 per cent of Croydon youths, aged 15-19, would rather buy than rent but only 74 per cent believed it would be possible”. We have italicised the contention that has been made without actually asking any young people whether they really want to live in a shed over a car parking bay.
With Scott looking on approvingly, Dunster told the conference, “If you can design them to go above existing car parks and roads which are owned by the local authority, it’s possible to provide a great number of affordable homes.
“There’s a lot of unhappy place-making in the hinterland around the centre of Croydon, they can suddenly become mixed-use, much more vital, 24-hour places.”
Which would be nice, especially for Dunster’s firm and his architect mates such as Paul Scott, who is fortunate to be the co-owner of two houses, neither of which is just one bedroom or situated over a car park.
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You couldn’t make it up!
Well for once an utterance from Clr Scott seems to be worth more consideration. Surely an upper floor of one bed flats is a good topping for the car park, the ground is already owned. The location is not very nice, but if its cheap then its worth that downside, surely. The sloping roof line will be better than the current open topped concrete, so let here more! I wonder about the access and would ask if this has been included in the price quoted? I doubt if £120,000 is realistic, and who would fund it alongside the council’s other recent speculative purchases.
Elsewhere people are providing similar shacks in back gardens for migrants and others who are unable to find proper housing. Accessibility for people with disabilities is an issue that will need addressing. Fire protection and collision protection to the columns will be another problem to solve.
It might just be easier to build a proper tower block with parking beneath.
Doubt there would be the profit in that for the architects, though, David
Why would there not be more profit for the architects from ”a proper tower block” than from two storey”shacks” [which look as though they are roofed with solar pv panels, and hopefully thus zero carbon]. As architects fees are based on a [small – 1% to 2%] percentage of the building costs, the bigger and more expensive the building, the larger the fee. Better a tower block [with a solar pv roof!] on top of a car park than homeless people sleeping in multistorey car parks….
Of course such a scheme is being touted about in the interests of (at least one) firm of architects, Anthony.
And of course everyone wants to see the homeless properly homed as soon as possible. But I very much doubt that you will find anyone sleeping in a Croydon car park this weekend who would be able to get a mortgage on a £120,000 car park shack (and that’s before anyone questions why such pods have increased in price by 140% in three years).
The crying need is for more social homes for rent. Croydon Council, on Scott’s watch, is providing very few, if any, of those.
How safe would you feel living over an open access public car park in Croydon? There comes a point where the ideas of the “Bald Ego” just appear to be pure desperation. Why not build a platform over an existing terrace and place properties there too?
It saddened me to see support for such awful accommodation from a Labour Councillor. In my time I fought strongly against such sub-standard accommodation and do not believe the poor should be condemned to such slum conditions. I have seen such disgraceful ideas emerge every so often over a long period from architects who know little about housing conditions and care even less, and it reinforces the need to such developments to be controlled by Planners and not Architects. Unlike some architects, planners are required to consider living conditions and how they affect occupiers. Accessibility and quality of life are major considerations, which these proposals fail dismally. Except for secure private parking directly under residents accommodation, there are very serious safety risks and some other London authorities have discovered to their cost.
I am ashamed to read that this is how low this Council may stoop.
I’m not at all in in favour of building over streets, as this would blot out daylight and views for the adjacent houses and flats, but maybe the car park idea has merit, in the case of large car parks only ?.
I think that the logical starter place for this idea –which in some ways makes good sense, of using a huge featureless area of land that has already been sacrificed to the two-headed God of Auto-Mammon, is Ikea’s car park at Valley park Croydon, where a sea of tarmac provides space for shoppers by day, but is empty at night. Ikea could build the kit homes and RENT them out !!
Scandinavian Ikea design would appeal to the envisaged home-making young people.
The problem is that, In the wrong architectural hands, the car park homes would look like a 1960’s US motel in freeway-side parking lot. Stairs, flat roofed boxes, and lots of concrete and tarmac, and not atree in sight. Harsh and ghastly.
The real trouble with building residential accommodation on top of big buildings like superstores and retail or industrial sheds is that the resulting residential environment lacks any external greenery other than window boxes. Deck landscaping at height is fraught with issues relating to waterproofing, so to build a planters bed or tree pit on a deck above a building is very costly indeed.
I think that it should be far cheaper and easier to design something green and humane over a car park, and I am sure that a good designer could do wonders with standardised building techniques with planters and maybe green roofs.
Trees planted in the car park below , between the rows of deck-homes, would be essential, and could then make the new homes feel like tree houses! It could actually be nice and sunny, living up there, and green too, with the tree canopies all around.
The trees would humanise the bleak tarmac and provide places for birds to sing and rest. I would hope that Planners would insist on copious tree planting as an integral part of the project, to green the development.
I am not sure if BEDzed , on the basis of their seriously over-dense and virtually treeless “streets” between the blocks of their iconic Hackbridge development, would be the people to design the new development, unless they radically change their thinking to be come much greener in terms of landscape.
In the right architectural hands, which might be Bedzed if they address this problem, the result could be good, in my view, but it would be important to restrict the area of the houses to around 25% of the car park, as too many dwellings would block out all the light and air to the car park below, re-creating the lawless no-go areas of underground car parks that we see in run-down housing estates.
But why not also think about how to provide simple accommodation for street sleepers?
In the 1970’s and 80’s , decision makers got rid of that useful institution, where tramps could get a safe bed for the night in a cubicle. Should we not build under the croydon flyover a series of pods, like a Japanese “love hotel”, to form a safe dry place for homeless people to find safe refuge? With a shower block and wet weather shelter, and garden ? Or pods that are delivered each night to selected locations, allocated to a sleeper, then collected next morning and stored during the day.