A decision on the expansion plans for the Queen’s Hotel at Crystal Palace is expected this week.
Croydon Council’s planning committee has twice refused planning permission for the owners Euro Hotels’ £10million expansion scheme, which prompted the appeal to the planning inspectorate.
That led to a four-day hearing at Croydon Town Hall in February, where the hotel owners – backed by the Labour-controlled council’s planning department and helped by PR consultant and Labour councillor from Lambeth, Jim Dickson – laid out the case in favour of adding 161 rooms to their 334-room hotel.
Such a development, if the planning inspector gives it the green light this week, will make the Queen’s larger than the Park Lane Hilton, on an overcrowded suburban road in a conservation area with poor public transport links.
On both occasions when Euro Hotels applied for permission to the council, their scheme was supported at the planning committee by Paul Scott, then the committee chair, now the Labour council cabinet member for overdevelopment and zero council homes.
Scott was accused of abusing his position (again) when, from the chair, he spoke glowingly of the hotel’s expansion plans, talking in favour of the additional, window-less underground hotel rooms that the owners want to squeeze on to the site, comparing them to berths on luxury cruise ships.
Despite such a persuasive argument from Scott on behalf of big business last June, the scheme was rejected by the committee for a second time because a couple of Labour councillors – Chris Clark and Clive Fraser – had the courage and conscience to defy Scott’s glare and vote with the four Tories on the 10-strong committee, leaving the autocratic chairman red-faced with anger at the outcome, to cheers and mocking laughter from residents in the public gallery.
But at the planning appeal hearing in February, when Crystal Palace residents made their case to the inspector, there was a sense of the council officials and Town Hall Labour leadership was still working against their interests.
The campaign by residents living on and around the Church Road conservation area had the support of their local MP, Steve Reed OBE, and Fiona Twycross, the Labour London Assembly Member who lives in the neighbourhood, as well as the Labour ward councillors.
But councillors Stephen Mann and Pat Ryan were gagged from talking to Inside Croydon, apparently for fear of retribution from Scott and his close mate, council leader Tony “Soprano” Newman.
Residents who attended the appeal spoke of being “abandoned” by their own council. “Despite figures being plucked from the sky and disingenuous claims about job creation, it is up to us to provide evidence that the negative impact will outweigh these ‘positive benefits’. This is no easy task,” they said.
MP Reed has more than once expressed his concern about how the Queen’s Hotel has come to be used as a halfway house for refugees and homeless, making it a lucrative business for Euro Hotels, profiting out of state-funded benefits.
Having a bigger hotel, ostensibly for budget tourists, would further improve the business’s bottom line, but do little to enhance the residential conservation area.
The News From Crystal Palace website is reporting that the government planning inspector is likely to deliver a verdict this week.
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