Brokenshire faces court battle over ‘Purley Skyscraper’ ruling

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.

Day in court: James Brokenshire

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.

The architects’ drawings of the Purley development, which include a church, a community hall and 220 new homes on either side of the road near the busy junction

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.

MP Chris Philp: has sought to block the Purley scheme

“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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12 Responses to Brokenshire faces court battle over ‘Purley Skyscraper’ ruling

  1. derekthrower says:

    Will Philp and his Tories be hoisted by their own petard. Just the type of brown field development they claim their legislation wants to encourage, but of course when it conflicts with their political interests they immediately reject. More legal costs for the “slimmed down” state to pick up.

  2. bobdaintree9388 says:

    It’s not the development of the site its the size and height. Are the sewers man enough for all that extra waste? It seems that there is a vast amount of infill already where flats and houses are being built. The 36 and 44 storied building in Croydon are surely going to challenge the sewers and services in that area. They may look good but that’s on the outside, how much space inside?
    And I’m sure the Purley site hasn’t been derelict for 40 years either.

  3. derekthrower says:

    Where has the Government shown any consideration about the appropriateness of infrastructure to support massive speculative development anywhere? Yet another nimby who can’t accept the implications of the Conservatives plans for property development when it is too close to home.

  4. sebastiantillinger7694 says:

    I didn’t see what the fuss was about – a small tower could have worked on this site.

    The developer has played the application poorly though.

    He has being pulling political strings since day one and unfortunately Paul Scott (the bald ego) stands to attention when the developer calls.. He personally rewrote the Local Plan to facilitate the developer.

    Don’t kid yourself, describing the scheme as ‘community led’ is bo*****s. The developer was set to make a very substantial amount of money on this project. Unfortunately he and his advisers have blown it. He will never win in the High Court. HM Government would have to give evidence against itself. Not happening.

    • The financial viability of the project, and providing a source of income for the Purley Baptist Church, clearly not a priority for you, then, eh, Seb?

    • Hatim Chakera says:

      Under what legislation and authority did Scott rewrite the Local Plan?
      Who approved it?
      Was an independent impartial review carried out of what Scott rewrote?
      Were full disclosures made?

  5. Philp is now coming out against a planning application to replace a two-storey house with a block of 9 flats in leafy Kenley’s Hermitage Road on the grounds that it will “destroy family housing” and (much to the horror of Steve O’Connell and Mario Creatura) have too much parking. Croydon Tories are truly NIMBYs.

    • Nine is the magic number. Developers who cut and shunt family houses into flats know that if they develop no more than nine homes, they don’t have to provide any affordable homes.

      Many people chose to move to areas in and around Croydon because they liked the character of that neighbourhood. Converting family houses into multiple flats often changes the character of the area. It’s being done not with any great town planning behind it, but all for developer greed.

      • Hatim Chakera says:

        You need to examine the drawings, the parking allocation changes the outlook for an area, and possibly not keeping in with appropriate planning policies.
        In addition the so called??qualified???? planning team gloat at the £70000 that the council may recieve as a levy.Do they know that it costs over £70000 to educate a child at state schools up to the age of 16-let alone other social needs like medical care etc-which this borough has been cash strapped for?This borough is overpopulated, cash strapped and adding more housing wil lead to further curtailment of services.No doubt the labour councillors will dream up purchasing more loss making entities like The croydon park Hotel, by borrowing money from Central Government -INCREASE OVER ALL DEBT that will need to be serviced-look at Brick by Brick aka Debt by Debt.
        This will put further pressure on the Council.

  6. Lewis White says:

    Dear Mr. Editor,
    Re : The Purley tower …I would like to know– please can you help us here Inside Croydon ? —

    Whether the Secretary of State has the power to state exactly what the developers needs to do to make the project acceptable? eg — Omit the 3 top floors.

    Or does the developer have to interpret the SoS’s decision notice, and go back to Croydon Council and seek a new permission?.

    Or what, exactly?

    It would be lovely if the people who made representations to the public inquiry could sit down with the developers, church, Planning Ctee Chair and relevant Planning officers– and of course, with Chris Philp– and attempt to agree a modification.

    I would be a total tragedy for Purley to have this derelict site for another 3 years, let alone another 40. Some of us remember –and were a lot younger– when the site was still shops– and how sad they were in the last decade– Do I really have to die before this mess is sorted out ?

    And I really fear for the Baptist Church . Will this end up bankrupting them?

    It’s a shame that their developer did the cynical “let’s add on a couple of floors–above the number of floors of a theoretical tower envisaged in the draft Local Plan.” as this seems to be the weakness in their case. Had they not done so, would it have been approved?

    Sorry, lots of questions, but perhaps your ace planning investigator can get to the heart of the matters.

    Adrian Mole’s brother Aged 64 and a half

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