Scott’s election own goal as Tories seize on Green Belt plans

Our Town Hall correspondent, KEN LEE, reports on how local council planning issues have become a key campaign matter for the General Election

Paul Scott: losing Labour votes across the borough

The Tories have put Labour councillor Paul Scott’s electorally toxic plans to build on Croydon’s Green Belt front and centre in the final week of campaigning ahead of the General Election on Thursday.

Some Labour activists, keen to suck up to their local leadership, continue to deny that the council has any plans to build on the borough’s precious green spaces.

Yet the facts tell an entirely different story: Brick by Brick, the council’s in-house housebuilder, has been allocated sites on green amenity spaces and kids’ playgrounds across the borough, while the council’s planning department de-designated sports fields as Green Belt to allow development to go ahead close to Lloyd Park.

And as recently as last week, with the election just days away, the council planning committee, where Scott is the de facto chair, granted planning permission for private developers to build 126 flats on open space next to Duppas Hill Recreation Ground.

The site, long derelict and unused, was previously owned by Croydon College and had a covenant that stated that it must be used for educational purposes.

Planning permission for the flats was granted provided that the rest of the green space is used to build a school, at some unspecified point in the future. There are well-founded doubts whether such a school might ever be built. The site has significant transport and access issues – it is close to the Fiveways junction on the Purley Way – and it is less than a quarter of a mile from the existing St Andrew’s High secondary school, which is having to close for a lack of pupils.

Chris Philp: attacking Labour on the local councils planning record

Now in election week, Chris Philp – who is looking to retain the Croydon South seat he has held for the Conservatives since 2015 – has written to at least half the households in the constituency to condemn what he calls “Croydon Council’s latest planning shocker”.

It is a line of political attack which Philp’s party colleague, Mario Creatura, is expected to use in his own campaign to win Labour-held Croydon Central from Sarah Jones.

Scott is a director of the central London firm of architects, TP Bennett. He receives nearly £40,000 per year in council allowances for his role as cabinet member for planning, and in the past five years has developed a well-deserved reputation across the borough for an aggressive and bombastic approach at planning committee, dismissive of the concerns and interests raised by Residents’ Associations and community groups.

But thanks to a Scott own goal, Philp and Creatura have been able to pursue the planning issues thanks to a degree of political ineptitude startling even by Croydon Town Hall standards.

In October Scott pushed ahead with revised proposals in the Croydon’s Local Plan to build on Green Belt land, despite the General Election being imminent.

As Scott well knows, Croydon’s Local Plan requires approval by the Mayor of London. Building on Green Belt in the capital is opposed by Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan. Yet with Khan most unlikely to approve Scott’s Green Belt building proposals, the Croydon planning supremo stubbornly put forward possible schemes suggesting building 6,000 extra homes on Green Belt in Croydon Central and Croydon South.

It has amounted to an electoral gift to the Tories, who are contesting marginal Croydon Central which they lost to Labour in 2017.

How Croydon Tories have been able to make political capital from Paul Scotts ineptitude

Philp wants Green Belt properly protected, opposes Mitchley Hill being concreted over and Purley having as much intensification as Croydon town centre. Philp is more sanguine about building more homes in Waddon – the only Labour-held council ward in his constituency – clearly having calculated that he can hold his seat without Waddon voters’ support.

“The council has been handing out planning consents indiscriminately in the past few years,” Philp writes.

“We do need more homes, but new flats should be built particularly on brownfield and town centre sites with good transport links. They should not destroy family homes, which are needed as people have children and destroying them will change the character of our neighbourhood.

“There is nothing in national planning policy that requires the council to do this – next door boroughs like Sutton and Bromley protect their local areas.”

In his email to Croydon South voters, Philp attacks his Labour rival, Olga FitzRoy, stating, “the Labour MP candidate here supports what the council is doing to us and will not stand up for our area”.

Mitchley Hill: one of the Green Belt sites Scott has listed for possible development

As you might expect from a careerist Tory, this is not entirely true.

FitzRoy says publicly that she will “protect our green spaces” and that “I will encourage the council to look after and make the most of our precious green spaces”.

And when interviewed by Inside Croydon’s Under The Flyover virtual hustings podcast, FitzRoy said that she backs Mayor Khan’s protection of Green Belt.

The Liberal Democrats’ candidate in Croydon South, Anna Jones, identified early in her campaign that planning was a vote-loser for Labour that she could exploit to try to challenge for second place on Thursday. One of her many leaflets says, “Anna will stand up for you on planning”,  and dedicates a whole page to the issue.

Olga FitzRoy: Labour candidate who opposes council plans

Surrey resident Jones says that as Croydon South’s MP she would be “a Planning Champion”. But she won’t be the MP. In 2017, Jones polled just 3,500 votes – 30,000 fewer than Philp, and third by 18,000 votes behind Labour.

But its seems that the parliamentary candidates from the Conservatives, to the LibDems through to Labour have identified that Scott is costing Labour votes throughout Croydon.

With a well-deserved reputation for his gratuitously aggressive demeanour at planning committee when faced with residents worried about their homes and neighbourhood being changed forever, it is a wonder that the Labour leadership has done nothing to rein-in their snarling pit-bull councillor.

But then that Labour leadership includes Alison Butler, the council deputy leader (£48,660 in council allowances each year), who is married to Scott, and who, with her cabinet portfolio in charge of housing, has managed to oversee the delivery of precisely zero council homes for social rent built in Croydon since 2014.

Listen to the rest of our Under The Flyover Election podcasts:

Anna Jones
Chris Philp
Simon Sprague
Peter Underwood

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6 Responses to Scott’s election own goal as Tories seize on Green Belt plans

  1. I had no idea that there was an active planning application for this, and think it is terrible that the Council have waved through these plans on the quiet. The Labour councillors who let this happen can expect and deserve a good kicking come the 2022 elections.

  2. sebastiantillinger7694 says:

    This is important journalism. It highlights the rot that has set in on our Planning debate in this borough. And all, once again, on Tony Newman’s watch.

    Cllr Paul Scott appears to now be out of control; he’s reached that dangerous transition where he now believes his own rhetoric and more worryingly, thinks he knows better than everyone else, the Mayor and the Government’s Planning Inspectorate, included.

    How many times have we watched those pitiful Council webcasts where we see a fellow resident pouring out his soul in a 3-minute plea-bid to the Planning Committee? And then followed by Scott blithely telling the beleaguered individual that the Council’s hands are tied – they are merely chasing housing targets handed down by City Hall.

    We now know this is not the case, or more colloquially, it is ‘a big fat lie’.

    Cllr Scott has been duping us all.

    Scott says Croydon Council must find 30,000 homes over ten years.

    This is not the case. The Panel of Planning Inspectors appointed by the Secretary of State recommends Croydon has a target of 20,000 home – a reduction of one third!

    The Panel of Planning Inspectors go on to say Croydon’s ten-year target for small sites should be 6,410 homes – Cllr Scott has been saying the target is 15,110 homes! A reduction of 8000 homes.

    Croydon’s reduction in housing numbers in both the categories equates by a very large margin to the largest drop for any borough for the whole of London – which in short means Scott has been perpetuating the largest fib, by very large margin, in the whole of London.

    In the Government’s Report of the Examination in Public of the London Plan 2019, published 6 weeks ago, it says the ten year small site housing targets for all boroughs should be 119,250 dwellings, rather than the 245,730 figure Scott has been waiving around like a sword of Damocles.

    The report goes on to question the ability of outer London boroughs (like Croydon) to deliver on small sites. It says: “The main finding of the LPVS is therefore that not many small sites in outer London are viable and it is unreasonable to assume that this will change in the short term. These considerations also indicate that small developments are unlikely to materialise to the extent anticipated.”

    So when was Cllr Scott going to come clean over all this?

    The Secretary of State, The Planning Inspectorate and the Mayor of London no longer believes in the wholesale destruction of London’s suburbs by guess-work windfall policies as enshrined in Croydon’s SPD2 Planning Guidance. But here’s the important bit:

    Cllr. Scott commented at Cabinet that he and Croydon would push ahead with their proposals regardless of this reduction in numbers. Who does Scott think he is?

    Cllr Scott has now shown his true colours; his so-called draconian pursuit for housing numbers is not the crusade he likes to present – the pursuit of housing for the masses blah blah.

    It is a pretty narrow-minded personal political sort of thing; he doesn’t like the ‘idea’ of suburbs nor the political persuasion of those whole live in them.

    Its time for Newman to move out and to take Scott with him.

  3. Jeremy Gill says:

    Hi Sebastian

    Presumably this Review will have to be approved by a Government Planning Inspector who will hopefully reject it because the numbers (overall and small site targets) are not consistent with the The Panel’s findings on the overall London Plan. So why go through the whole process of saying 30,000 instead of just increasing the 2018 plan to the 20,000.

    I hope its just an innocent misunderstanding and they genuinely thought The Panel’s number was going to be 29,490 (as the Council state on page 10 of the Issues and Options document).

    But it cant be that simple …..

  4. lhe2020 says:

    Let’s hope that he loses his grasp on the planning committee Making money to make everyone else’s life miserable
    He thinks that he is untouchable. It has to stop

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