“A very productive discussion” has been had in talks between residents’ associations and developers over the re-submission of plans for a multi-million-pound scheme by the local baptist church at Purley Cross.
But while widespread agreement appears to have been reached between the site owners and their developers and the objectors, one significant area of dispute is the height of the 17-storey tower in the proposals.
What Croydon South Tory MP Chris Philp misleadingly called “the Purley Skyscraper” was granted planning permission by the council in December 2016.
The original scheme proposed building 220 flats and community facilities on a site which has been left derelict for decades. But that is now facing a second public inquiry after James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Local Government, Communities and Housing, was forced into a U-turn and had his decision to block the scheme overturned in court earlier this year.
That appointment with the planning inspector is unlikely to be held any sooner than October. To avoid some of the bitterness and recriminations witnessed at previous planning hearings, representatives of some of the seven residents’ associations which objected to the project met the Purley Baptist Church and developers Thornsett in early June to discuss the situation.
According to one RA which had members at the meeting, “A very productive discussion was held and further information has now been returned to the planning inspectorate by the applicant (Thornsett/Nexus/Baptist Church), Croydon Council and the residents’ associations.”
They said that it was agreed “by all parties to keep the next public inquiry as short as possible”. The previous inquiry, held in January 2018, lasted two weeks. A note agreed by all parties has been sent to the new planning inspector, “setting out the matters still in dispute, and the matters now agreed”.
Those matters in dispute include the impact of the proposals “on the character and appearance of the area” and “The height of the tower, together with overshadowing to Purley District Centre and wind tunnel effect to surrounding streets”.
For many locals, the idea of a 17-storey block towering over the busy roundabout at the junction with the A23 is unacceptable.
Other areas of remaining dispute include, “Consistency with Development Plan policies; Impact on heritage assets; Vehicular access/exit to and from Russell Hill Road on the island site; Air Quality”.
But the meeting does appear to have had widespread agreement on the need for the 200-plus flats, and that “the two highly sustainable location sites… are suited to a residential-led mixed use development”.
HADRA, the Hartley and District Residents’ Association, also notes on its website that “the principle of development on the island site for the church, community facilities, retail space and residential development is supported by all three parties”.
“It is also agreed that the redevelopment of the long-term vacant, highly prominent island site in Purley is long overdue. The principle of development for housing on the ‘South Site’ is agreed by all parties. No issues are raised in relation to the proposed design and layout of the South Site.”
The sticking point remains the 17 storeys of the tower, which is one storey taller than is permitted under the Croydon Local Plan, and which had the design of its penthouse apartment strongly criticised. The developers, however, need to go high on the site to be able to build as many units for sale as possible, to help to pay for the development.
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