In a bitter metaphor for the profit-hungry developers who have made millions from creating “the slums of the future” with the conversions of old office blocks into under-sized flats, one of the leading firms specialising in their developments in Croydon, Inspired, has gone into administration – the decision being taken after the company’s founder was sent to jail for crashing his Porsche into a tree when high on cocaine.
Property Week is reporting tonight that Inspired Asset Management and Inspired Developments London have both gone into administration.
The decision was taken after the company’s chief exec, Martin Skinner, was jailed for 22 months for reckless driving after a high-speed crash that left the car’s passenger with life-changing injuries.
Passing sentence, the judge in Worthing described Skinner as “arrogant”.
Inspired was once one of the largest firms undertaking office-to-residential conversions in London, with five Croydon office buildings being transformed into hundreds of micro-flats – or what the likes of Inspired usually describe as “top-end luxury executive apartments”.
These include the 16-storey Impact House, located on the opposite side of the Croydon Flyover from the council offices at Fisher’s Folly, as well as Central Cross on South End, and Green Dragon House, on the High Street.
Inspired’s flats in Innova House were still being marketed today, with one-bed rabbit hutches carrying price tags of nearly £300,000.
As Inside Croydon was first to report, because the Tory Government removed many of the requirements of the planning process for these Permitted Development schemes, Inspired was even able to strip out one of the two fire escape stairways from Green Dragon House, in order to squeeze in extra, profit-spinning flats.
Skinner, 40, has claimed that he built the company to be worth £500million.
He appeared to have enjoyed the high-roller lifestyle which his company’s sales provided for him, with a (decently sized) home in Belgravia, and a taste for fast cars. That included taking part in a sponsored sports car rally from London to the South of France, ahead of the annual MIPIM property developer conference, which is commonly referred to as a “booze and hooker fest”.
In 2015, Skinner plastered the windows of Green Dragon House, on Croydon High Street, with “Vote Conservative” and “Vote Barwell” posters.
But today it emerged that the only windows Skinner will be looking out of for the next 22 months will have bars on them, after he was found guilty of reckless driving and refusing to submit to a drugs test.
Skinner originally entered not guilty pleas to the charges, blaming the road surface for his crash.
He turned up at Worthing Magistrates Court two hours late for the hearing, despite driving a McLaren sports car, and changed his pleas to guilty, and admitted a further charge of failing to surrender to bail.
The court heard in evidence that on the night of the crash, Skinner had been “showing off” to a woman by driving his red Porsche too fast on country roads in the wet, the crash causing her a life-changing brain injury.
The crash happened in August 2018, on the A281 just outside Rudgwick.
The court heard that she asked him to slow down because he was driving so fast that everything was a blur. Skinner ignored the woman’s pleas.
Skinner’s Porsche crashed into the tree so fiercely that the car’s engine was ejected.
The woman was airlifted to King’s College Hospital, where she was kept in an induced coma for more than a week.
After failing a police roadside drugs, Skinner was taken to the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford, where he refused to be tested again.
Tony Crisp, Sussex Police’s investigating officer, said, “While Skinner did not set out to cause an accident that day, he had clearly set out to drive around the countryside in a high-powered car, at high speed, and under the influence of cocaine, resulting in a crash that caused the victim in this case to sustain a life-changing injury.
“He sought to prevent the police from taking a blood sample to establish how much cocaine he had in his system and until the very last moment refused to accept responsibility for his actions.”
Summing up, the judge said that Skinner’s conduct had fallen only just short of dangerous driving, describing the multi-millionaire property developer as “arrogant” and decided not to give him any credit for his guilty plea.
As well as the jail term, Skinner was disqualified from driving until May 2022 and ordered to pay fines and costs amounting to £1,815.
Now his business has been placed in safer hands, too. Property Week reports: “London-based accountant firm MacIntyre Hudson has been appointed to ‘help the companies trade out of their problems’.
The magazine reports that a source has told them: “The administrators will hopefully get the company through its difficulties. The company’s investors are convinced that this would allow the company to move forward rather than try to shut it down and add to the chaos.”
Property Week states that Inspired Developments “has been struggling recently amid a slowdown in conversions through permitted development rights”.
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