CROYDON COMMENTARY: Coulsdon resident LEWIS WHITE, pictured right, gave evidence at the planning inspector’s inquiry held earlier this year. Here is his take on this week’s controversial ruling on the Purley ‘skyscraper’
The decision of the Secretary of State for Communities and Housing, James Brokenshire, to block the planning permission granted to the Purley Baptist Church’s development is a massive surprise. It was clear that residents did not like the height of the proposed tower. The minister has taken this on board, in the face of the council and, it seems, the Inspector.
I was allowed to speak to the public inquiry as a local resident who is also a landscape architect and without any involvement in the project of any kind. I had supported the project overall, as I felt that the architectural design quality of the low rise and the tower, with use of good quality brickwork, and other materials of quality, designed sensitively, justified the redevelopment of this too-long derelict site.
However, I spoke out against the negative impact of the dominant and cage-like architectural design feature on the top of the tower, a large concrete portal structure, containing and framing a penthouse suite surrounded by pine trees (planted in a narrow trough along the perimeter), which would look rather like animals seen in the now (thankfully gone) cages on wheels of the old circus days.
The portal feature was probably intended to make the top floor section look less dominant, but weirdly, its proportions actually emphasised the verticality, hence making the tower look much higher.
In my view, the proposed trees were a kind of “green” design statement that was entirely negated by the concrete portal.
The trees, shown as large, bright green elliptical shapes in the original artist impressions, were finally proposed as pine trees, no doubt due to designers realising that pines are about the only trees tough enough to stand any chance of surviving in the high winds that would be experienced at that altitude.
They might have grown like wind-sculpted pines you sometimes find on the coast, like large bonsai subjects. My guess is that they would have looked rather dark and grim.
My hope is that the developers get rid of the penthouse and the portal entirely, as they made the building look over-high, and get rid of the misguided green statement.
Ideally, two more floors should also be removed, leaving a simple, lower rectangular outline. If they do, I personally consider that the bulk and the visual and daylighting adverse impacts of the scheme will be reduced, and its design quality will actually be improved.
The tower is at the south end of the shopping area of the Brighton Road section of Purley.
It would block out sunlight for part of the middle of the day to some of this street, but I was unable to find a drawing that showed the extent of overshadowing. The light-toned brickwork proposed would have avoided a dark effect, in my considered view.
I feel really sorry for the Baptist Church that he project has stalled again, and hope that their developer will bite the bullet and reduce the height of the tower. Can this be done, and avoid turning the project into a loss-maker?
Everyone knows that this site has blighted Purley for decades. I do hope that they avoid making a financial loss on the project. That would rub salt in the wound, and be cruel
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