Charities’ support centre under threat from latest flats scheme

Around a dozen locally based charities and support groups face being evicted from their offices or having access to vital facilities withdrawn, as the owner wants to convert two floors of the Croydon Carers’ Support Centre on George Street into flats.

Under threat: the Carers Support Centre on George Street

If the flat conversion scheme goes ahead, the “Carers’ Support Centre would no longer be a central hub for carer services, as it was set up to be by the Whitgift Foundation and Croydon Council”, according to an email distributed last week by those who use and operate the centre.

Users of the centre have begun a campaign to gather as many objections as they can against the planning application, though even this might not be enough to deter the council from granting permission.

At present, the centre has an open-plan area on the ground floor which is used by a wide range of groups for meetings and activities throughout the week, while the upper floors are used as administration offices by charities and support agencies. Centrally located, the George Street tram stop is across the road, and it is not far from the rail hubs at East and West Croydon.

It is these offices which will need to be vacated to make way for the conversion, with two one-bed flats, six two-bed flats and one three-bed home being squeezed in in their place.

Although there appears to be the intention to continue with the support centre on the ground floor, this will be in a much-reduced capacity, as space will be needed for stairs and improved access to the newly residential upper floors.

The building is owned by Nisar Siddiqui of Taj Holdings Ltd.

The centre was established by and is jointly run by the Whitgift Foundation and Croydon Council. The Whitgift Foundation is among those who have already lodged opposition to the planning application.

At the start of the month, the Carers’ Support Centre sent out an email in which they said that if the flat conversions go ahead at 20-28 George Street, “There would no longer be enough space to run many of our carer well-being activities. This includes Carers Dance, Singing, Tai Chi and Pilates.

“We could no longer run information sessions, such as our Education, Health and Care Plan workshops for parents and carers of a child with special educational needs.

“We could no longer run self-development and well-being skills workshops for carers, such as Managing Stress and Managing Sleep.

“There would be no space for carer support groups, such as our Learning From Loss bereavement group and other carer support groups that meet here.

“There would be more limited space for Carer’s Assessments and advice surgeries.”

And the Carers’ Support Centre email added: “The work of several local charities benefiting the community would also be affected.

“Such drastic changes would mean less support for Croydon’s carers… The Carers’ Support Centre would no longer be a central hub for carer services, as it was set up to be by the Whitgift Foundation and Croydon Council.”

Among those charities and support groups who are based at the Carers’ Support Centre or make use of its facilities are the JAGS Foundation, the anti-knife crime group; Parents In Partnership has its offices there; it is also used by the SEND information service, the South West London Law Centre, and the National Autistic Society.

The planning application went in six months ago, and pre-application advice has been sought from Croydon Council, who say the scheme “would be supported in principle”.

Users of the centre have begun campaigning against the flats conversion scheme

The council’s planning official added, “However, the building is a locally listed building and therefore the starting point for the proposed development must be to consider the heritage significance of the building and its setting.

“The extensions should be sympathetic to the original building and should take opportunities to enhance its appearance. The extensions to the rear currently appear overly large and the quality of the accommodation is subsequently considered constrained and poor quality, especially due to the number of single aspect flats and the poor outlook and privacy of the lower ground and ground floor flats in the rear wings.

“The scheme must also be updated to consider the policy requirements for family-sized flats, amenity and childplay space and affordable housing.”

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