There is a growing suspicion, and some fear, among residents living in the close-knit community of Addington Village that council plans to alter the boundaries of the long-established conservation area are because of some deep ulterior motive to allow more development in their green corner of one of the most historic parts of the borough.
Croydon Council last month began a consultation on its proposals, which include significant extension of the conservation area to include Addington Palace itself and much of the surrounding parkland and golf course, something to which few, if anyone, has any objections.
But it was at a public meeting in the village hall a fortnight ago that serious questions arose about the council’s agenda for removing three parcels of land from a conservation area which has existed since 1973, and dropping the word “village” from the conservation area’s planning title.
With trust in the council’s planning department across the borough at an all-time low, the residents’ association for Addington Village has mobilised to contest many of the proposed changes ahead of the end of the consultation period on May 30.
For planning purposes, conservation areas are usually considered for their overall impact, so any nibbling away at existing protected areas has to be done with caution.
Addington Village is a particularly sensitive area, as it includes the oldest public building in Croydon, the Norman-era church of St Mary’s, which dates to 1080.
There are three areas which the council wants to withdraw from the protections of the conservation area:
a) Addington Village Road west end including police station and tail green land all the way to the closed end of Addington Village Road in front of the Addington Park.
b) Boundary Way far end covering seven 1970s four-bed homes up towards the top of this ridge. Only this part of Boundary Way is in the conservation zone.
c) Addington Village Road east end 1970s smaller houses opposite Addington Village cricket ground and then eastwards to include tail land close to rural setting of pathway that runs along the spring line of the ridge.
This includes the Kent Gate Way petrol station (hardly a prime feature for a conservation area), but also the nearby police station. Given the pressures on the Met Police’s budgets in the past decade, which has seen it selling off dozens of neighbourhood police stations, the removal of conservation area status here would green-light potential for redevelopment, allowing the Met to sell the site, and for the community to kiss goodbye to their local police station.
The other changes proposed would potentially compromise views of the Palace and Addington Park (which was previously part of the palace grounds), thereby undermining the inclusion of the Palace in the re-configured conservation area.
Charles Marriott is vice-chair of the Addington Village residents’ association, having moved to the area in the 1970s, buying his house “off-plan” in a conservation area.
“What has got the backs up of a huge majority of people in the village is that the council propose dropping the word ‘village’ in context of a revised conservation area name which has existed for many many years. Why? There appears to be no sound reason, unless there is something afoot that we as residents haven’t been told about.
“The council planning department has a poor record in allowing dubious development to take place in areas like our next door neighbours in Shirley, for example.
“There is a deep suspicion amongst residents that there is an ulterior motive behind the proposed removal of certain small areas. Removal from the conservation area will have ramifications and open up the real prospect of development that would alter the very character of the village and the green space immediately surrounding these houses.”
Marriott recalls that when buying his family home 40 years ago, the building of the houses in the conservation area as laid out by the council in 1973 was only allowed provided that they met stringent conditions, such as being designed in a style sympathetic with the new Vicarage (next to St Mary’s), and used the same brick, roof tiles and building materials to be in keeping with the overall village appearance.
Some of the houses sit opposite the village cricket ground, where the game has been played since the 1700s.
“These properties are extremely desirable precisely because they have been meticulously maintained over the last 40 years,” Marriott told Inside Croydon.
“So it is not surprising that those of us who have lived here for that many years and invested a significant amount of time, care and money in the supposedly ‘safe’ knowledge that our properties are protected by stringent conservation regulations, that the current council should come along in 2019 and suggest that our homes are of ‘neutral’ status (not contributing nor detracting historically to the village), and that they want to remove them from the conservation boundary leaving us vulnerable to greedy developers.”
Marriott points out that while the council has “taken a view” of the homes where he lives, similar houses known as The Paddocks at the bottom of Spout Hill, which were built at the same time by the same builders in exactly the same style, will remain in the conservation area.
This seeming arbitrary decision by the council’s planning department just “adds further insult to injury”, according to Marriott. “These houses have also been designated as of ‘neutral’ status but are not being removed. So where is the consistency in this proposal?
“It is not difficult to see why there is an enormous feeling of betrayal to have a proposal that will cast those of us that live at the end of Addington Village Road aside in a whim.
“It does not help protect and preserve Addington Village but rather it exposes it to the almost certain erosion of this lovely corner of Croydon.”
Residents suspect that the reason for the removal of the three relatively small areas from the conservation area is because they offer good access points to the east, west and north of the Village. All three are in cul de sacs. “It is not difficult to see why we have drawn certain conclusions as to a possible underlying motive for proposing such changes,” Marriott said.
“It just does not make sense. As residents we can only hope that the strength of feeling and objections to certain aspects of this proposal are listened to and that specific parts of the proposal that really affect the village are modified.”
Of course, it is not so long ago that the council cabinet member responsible for housing, Alison Butler, was making reassuring noises that changes in status of dozens of the borough’s parks and open spaces would make no difference to the planning protections in place to prevent unwelcome over-development. Since when, the council has managed to sell-off packets of green to its own housing company to build on.
Helen Pollard, the Conservative councillor for Addington Village, attended the consultation meeting and was alarmed at the implications of the proposed removal of conservation area status from parts of her ward.
“I think it appropriate to review the Addington Village Conservation Area and I welcome the inclusion of Addington Palace and the park,” she said.
“However, I am concerned about the removal of three areas from the Conservation Area. There is a strong suspicion that these areas are being removed in order to allow large-scale developments in this beautiful village, and the erosion of the Green Belt. The removal of the word ‘Village’ from the name is a retrograde step.”
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