Paul Scott, the puppet-master on the council’s planning committee, was forced to make an embarrassing U-turn last night over a developer’s application to turn a Victorian family home in South Croydon into five small flats.
As Inside Croydon reported yesterday, the private developer’s original planning application for 11 Barham Road had already been dismissed by the whole committee – with the exception of Labour councillor Scott, who voted in favour of it. That application is now subject to an appeal to the independent planning inspector.
The inspector is due to visit the site in the next few days, with a ruling expected by August, and the majority of the committee members appeared to agree with Waddon councillor Robert Canning, who spoke on behalf of the neighbourhood’s residents that this updated application ought to be deferred until the inspector’s ruling had been received.
Council sources suggest that the application only appeared on last night’s committee agenda at the firm insistence of Scott who, until recently had been the controversial chair of planning.
On the night, the Barham Road matter was indeed deferred – by four hours, as those who turned up promptly to attend the committee which began at 6.30pm were forced to wait until long after 10pm for the matter to be discussed. For some reason never disclosed by Toni Letts, the veteran councillor who chairs the committee, or by council officials, the item was pushed down their agenda.
It was well worth waiting for, though.
Accusations from a Conservative (oh, the irony) councillor on the committee, Jason Perry, that the council’s professional planning staff “bend over backwards for developers” drew approval from those residents who had remained in the public gallery, and an order from Letts to withdraw the remark. Perry refused.
Following a discussion of the scheme, which council officials had recommended to be granted planning permission, there was a strong sense that the committee was about to vote to refuse.
In the face of such opposition, it was Scott who then stepped in to move for deferral of the decision.
It had already been a bad night for Scott and his developer chums who want to “concrete over Croydon”. Another scheme, to squeeze nine flats into some land off Croham Valley Road in South Croydon ward, was also sent away with a flea in its ear.
Of the Barham Road scheme, one Katharine Street observer said, “It’s another example where Scott has gone out on a limb for a private developer.
“He’s basically just wasted dozens of people’s time. This item would never have been on the agenda if it wasn’t for him. The conflicts of interest he has, as an architect in the business and with his wife, Alison Butler as the cabinet member for housing, ought to mean he shouldn’t be anywhere within a million miles of influencing decisions on planning.
“Thank goodness there are some on the planning committee who are beginning to show some backbone.”
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