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.
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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