A London-based property developer has launched a legal challenge against the decision announced by a Conservative Government minister to block plans to build 220 flats plus community facilities at Purley Cross.
The scheme, which includes a 17-story tower block dubbed “the Purley skyscraper” by Croydon South Tory MP Chris Philp, had been granted planning permission by Croydon Council, had the blessing of City Hall and was also approved by the planning inspector.
But last month James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Local Government, Communities and Housing – to the professed “delight” of Croydon Tories – announced that he was over-ruling the experts and going against his own government policy because he was not satisfied with the scheme’s design.
Philp, whose constituency includes the site beside the Purley gyratory system which has stood derelict for 40 years, just happens to be Parliamentary Private Secretary to Brokenshire.
And this morning, the developers who were stalled for two years after Philp had the scheme called in by the housing minister, confirmed that they would challenge the decision in the courts, saying that, “The discrepancy between the recommendation of the Planning Inspector and the Secretary of State’s decision is a cause of deep concern.”
The judge in the case may have to decide whether Brokenshire acted unlawfully in handing down a decision which was seen at the time as being deeply political.
The housing proposed for the site, which is owned by the Purley Baptist Church, is reckoned to be worth more than £50million.
In a statement issued this morning by lawyers acting on behalf of the developers, the Thornsett Group, they said that the “community-led” scheme, called Mosaic Place, “has wide local business support, including from the Purley Business Improvement District” and that it had “also garnered high praise from Design South:East, an independent expert design panel. The nearest residents’ association, the Purley and Woodcote RA, has also expressed its support for the Mosaic Place development”.
The development proposed 181 affordably priced homes and 39 affordable homes to be made available through Optivo Housing Association, as well as new base for Purley Baptist Church and “many publicly accessible community facilities”, according to Thornsett’s lawyers, including an indoor sports hall, a 450-seat auditorium, classroom and exhibition space, and it would also house the Purley Cross information centre, which is run by the Church.
As part of the process to block the scheme, a full public inquiry was held in January last year, at which the project received a “strong recommendation for approval” by the Planning Inspectorate. Philp had been a key witnesss at the inquiry.
In his report, the inspector accepted the statement that the development would “be by far and away the highest quality modern development in Purley” and recommended that the scheme – which had received planning permission from Croydon Council as long ago as December 2016, “should be approved without delay”.
Thornsett’s lawyers said today, “Despite the scheme aligning with the Government’s key objectives, especially in relation to housing delivery and town centre regeneration on brownfield sites, the proposals were refused by the Secretary of State.
“The decision by the Secretary of State to disagree with the Inspector and refuse the plans, which would have brought this brownfield site back into use after having lain derelict for over 30 years, is therefore all the more disappointing.”
The legal challenge was lodged with the High Court last week, listing Croydon Council and the Greater London Authority as “interested parties”.
Gerard Cunningham, Thornsett’s executive chairman, said: “Given that proposals for Mosaic Place have received approval from all necessary statutory planning bodies, including most recently the Planning Inspector, we are disappointed that the Secretary of State has decided to reject these plans.
“The discrepancy between the recommendation of the Planning Inspector and the Secretary of State’s decision is a cause of deep concern, particularly given that Purley may now be deprived of 220 new homes, significant community facilities and the catalyst for much needed regeneration.”
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