Purley Tower public inquiry gives election boost to Philp

A computer-generated image of the ‘Purley Tower’ development, which is on a split site that runs along Banstead Road

A public inquiry into Purley Baptist Church’s proposed development at Purley Cross will go ahead next month, despite the purdah on public bodies’ activities in the run-up to the General Election.

The staging of such a hotly debated local issue in the run-up to the election on December 12 could give a significant boost to Chris Philp, who is seeking re-election as the Conservative MP for Croydon South.

The proposed development has been heavily politicised since it was first aired, with Philp dubbing the 17-storey tower included as part of the scheme as “the Purley Skyscraper” – in fact, the tower is not tall enough to qualify as a skyscraper – and doing his utmost to undermine a project which would have transformed Purley town centre, using a site which has been derelict since the 1980s.

The original scheme was granted planning permission by the council in December 2016, and included 220 flats and significant facilities for the community. That decision then went before the planning inspector, and after an often heated and hostile public inquiry, the scheme was again given a green light.

But at Philp’s behest, James Brokenshire, the Tory Secretary of State for Local Government, Communities and Housing, stepped in to block the scheme.

Chris Philp: has blocked the building of 220 flats on a brownfield site that has been derelict since the 1980s

Then, in a deeply embarrassing turn of events for Brokenshire, and for Philp, that decision was overturned in court earlier this year, prompting the need for a second public inquiry.

That will now begin on Tuesday, December 3, from 10am, and will be held at Purley Baptist Church on Banstead Road, although there is no “home advantage” expected before the government planning inspector, with Philp likely to break off campaigning to be re-elected in his Croydon South seat and seven residents’ associations likely to be taking a very keen interest.

Some heat has been taken out of the situation, too, after “very productive” meetings were held over the summer attended by RA representatives, the church, the council and developers Thornsett.

The public inquiry is expected to last four days, but it could run into the following week – election week – if necessary.

A new inquiry gets a new inspector, with Paul Jackson BArch RIBA in the hot seat.

East Coulsdon RA – based nearly four miles from Purley – is one of the objecting groups

The objectors will be the seven residents’ associations, including some whose neighbourhoods are nearly four miles from Purley: Riddlesdown, Hartley and District, East Coulsdon, Sanderstead, Kenley and District, Coulsdon West and Old Coulsdon.

The inspector has advised all parties the points raised as objections in the Secretary of State’s decision letter that were considered in the High Court, including, importantly, “It is important to note that the previous Inspector’s Report and recommendation has not been quashed”.

Last December, Brokenshire issued his own 94-page report to overturn the decisions of the Croydon Council planning department, its planning committee and his own department’s planning inspector. In so doing, it seemed that Brokenshire was even going against his own government’s policy. Which might partly explain why his report was thrown out in the High Court, although after adding considerable delay and costs to the landowners and developers.

The evidence put before the new inquiry will relate to the matters in the Secretary of State’s decision letter that were considered in the High Court:

a) the height of the tower and the standard of design of the proposals for both sites;
b) the effect of the proposed development on designated and non-designated heritage assets; and
c) the policy tests that are appropriate.

While the inspector may hear some of the previous arguments over the scheme, it is unlikely that he will allow his proceedings to be delayed too much by matters outside those outlined above.

The basic issue is that the developers need a 17-storey tower to make their scheme financially viable, while local planning restrictions suggest that the maximum height for buildings in places such as Purley is… 16 storeys.

The inspector will want to hear of any changes to the development plan, national policy or guidance since the Secretary of State’s decision, and any other material changes in circumstance that may be relevant, such as recent nearby planning permissions.

The architects’ original drawings of the Purley development, which was to include a church, a community hall and new homes on either side of the road near the busy junction

According to the residents’ associations, following their meetings with the developers, the matters of dispute involve the effect on the character and appearance of the area, and the height of the tower. In a statement issued by one of the RAs this week, they said that they do not agree “that some of the residential units should be housed within a 17-storey tower”.

Documents relating to the application and the public inquiry can be viewed on the council website here.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Chris Philp MP, Church and religions, Community associations, Coulsdon West Residents' Association, Croydon South, East Coulsdon Residents' Association, HADRA, Old Coulsdon Residents' Association, Planning, Purley and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Purley Tower public inquiry gives election boost to Philp

  1. Natasha Wills says:

    Why would anyone want a building this big in Purley – ‘skyscraper’ or not? Seems the council and developers are intent on ruining Purley like the rest of Croydon borough. None of this is reflected in the article.

    • “None of this is reflected in the article”, probably because it is your opinion.

      The very notion that actually developing a site that has been derelict in the centre of Purley for nearly 40 years will in some way “ruin” Purley is, frankly, absurd. That this brownfield site can provide 220 homes is a significant bonus.

      You need to consider a couple of important points.
      1, This is a private development. It is not a council project.
      2, No private developer will build something if they cannot make a significant return on their outlay.

      Read those two points aloud to yourself three or four times, and then you might manage to work out the answer to your initial question.

  2. I think it is a shame that the Council didn’t offer up the Purley library site initially and go in jointly with Purley Baptist Church to re develop the whole site to include a modern library. If they had approached the owners of the now boarded up houses on the Northern side as well then it could have been designed to enhance that whole area. I know the current library building is listed (not sure why!) but the library itself is cold, outdated and in need of renewal. I understand the developers need for 17 storeys but why main gripe is with the design, looks like a stack of pallets, make it more of an iconic statement.

    • Mira Bar-Hillel, the long-time architecture correspondent for the Evening Standard (when it was a newspaper which cared about stuff like the built environment), has described the Purley Tower as “the Last Word in commercial architectural design – circa 1960. Blot on the landscape”.

      That the developers maintain a plan for 17 storeys, when the local plan allows for nothing more than 16 floors, strongly suggests that they need to squeeze every last penny out of the site. Goodness knows how much this has all cost the Purley Baptist Church in the three years since they were first, properly, granted planning permission.

  3. Natasha Wills says:

    Nonsense article, nonsense reply. No one wants 220 new flats and another 1,000 odd people in Purley that actually lives here – whether private or council backed. Put it in Croydon town centre x

  4. Lewis White says:

    I agree with Mary that it is a shame that the Library and those boarded up houses were not included in a co-operative scheme with the Baptist church and their developer plus Croydon and who ever owns those houses. I think that the important part of the library building ( a kind of English municipal brown brick art deco) could have been kept, but backed with a taller residential building. Yes, a small tower block perhaps.

    I say “library building” because the library seems very isolated now from Purley’s busy heart and the passers-by who are potential library users. Surely, the existing library building would make better sense as part of the church complex, as a meeting hall ?

    I would like to see the library function moved and co-located with an improved pool and leisure centre in the High Street, where the existing pool and lesiure centre is now, with a decent cafe.

  5. Nonsense is the key word: it is nonsense to suggest that no one wants 220 new flats in Purley. You’d have to have extraordinary mind-reading powers to know what a whole population wants or doesn’t want.

  6. sebastiantillinger7694 says:

    This tower is wrong for all sort of good sense reasons; massing, height, scale, townscape, sustainability, verified views and environmental impact. However, all this is pretty meaningless when it’s being pushed through by Paul Scott largely because of the political gratification he personally experiences as a result of the process.

    If Scott could seek his political gratification elsewhere, everyone would not be exercised by this fundamentally flawed set of proposals.

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