Butler: We’ll let Brick by Brick build on all under-utilised spaces

Be afraid, be very afraid – there is not a scrap of open space in the borough which the council deputy leader won’t allow Brick by Brick to build on, reports political editor WALTER CRONXITE

Alison Butler refused to give an undertaking to protect green spaces from builders Brick by Brick

Alison Butler, the deputy leader of Croydon’s Labour council, says that she will consider allowing the borough’s in-house house-builder build on the borough’s parks, open spaces, kids’ playgrounds and the Green Belt.

A little more than two years ago Butler, the council cabinet member for housing, went to some lengths to offer solemn assurances to concerned residents across the borough that all Croydon’s green spaces would be safe on her watch.

If it was ever true, that no longer appears to be the case, judging by what “Lying Cow” Butler said at the most recent meeting of the full council.

Although the council this week was forced to drop its plans to sell off a pocket of park land in Thornton Heath after a public outcry, Butler told last month’s council meeting that it is considering “all opportunities for potentially appropriate development sites” for Brick by Brick.

“The council will consider all under-utilised spaces or undesignated spaces,” Butler said.

Butler, of course, is one of the key movers behind the debt-laden, loss-making Brick by Brick development company, which this week saw Croydon featured again among the country’s most Rotten Boroughs by Private Eye magazine.

Butler: ignored the conflict of interest over the council’s planning role with BxB

Around 70 pieces of open land, playgrounds, parks, even graveyards around the borough are currently without any statutory protection from development.

That’s largely because Butler and her husband, council planning supremo Paul Scott, had made such a pig’s ear of their submission of the Croydon Local Plan to the government’s inspector in 2017 that all the planning department’s proposed protections against development of the borough’s green spaces were rejected.

A revision of the Croydon Local Plan is currently out for consultation – until January 20 – with the council effectively passing the buck to locals, residents’ associations and parks groups to make a good enough case for their neighbourhoods to be spared from needless overdevelopment.

It seems clear, though, that Butler and her old man won’t be doing too much to encourage the planning inspector to slap new protections on the borough’s open spaces.

“This council is committed to building much-needed homes for the people of Croydon and in that sense, we have to balance out priorities and the needs of all of our residents,” Butler said in the council chamber.

She was speaking in response to a public question, which identified at least 16 green field sites under threat, and asked her for a commitment to halt their development “to allow Croydon residents the right to use and roam across these green and pleasant spaces without restriction, hindrance, or the fear that they will be secretly sold from under their feet.”

The questioner, quite rightly, highlighted the conflict of interest the council has embedded in its planning process when considering the merits – or more usually the lack of them – of schemes proposed by its own housing developer.

Instead, Butler spouted the same self-justifying old waffle she and her husband have been delivering for the past five years, during which time they have failed to deliver housing for social rent in any significant volume.

Paul Scott, together with his wife Alison Butler, have been concreting over Croydon

“You did mention Brick by Brick has been established by Croydon Council to deliver high-quality new homes in Croydon and in doing so it has been considering, as has the council, all opportunities for potentially appropriate development sites,” Butler said.

“And as we look across our borough there are many sites that are available and we have to take into account that those sites that the council owns because we don’t receive grants and funding from the government which would allow us to purchase and compete on the open market with other private developers…

“So the council will consider all under-utilised spaces or undesignated spaces. We don’t consider spaces that are protected under planning policy but we look at other spaces.

“Where a development is proposed on areas that are grass then a Brick by Brick design team will prepare designs that aim to retain a proportion of that but also sometimes to improve, add additional space or make that space more accessible and easier to use by local residents or add additional facilities, like play facilities for children.

“And Brick by Brick also engages with local communities regarding what is important and what can be improved within their communities.

“But on many occasions the needs for homes does suffice, too many of our children will be living in bed and breakfasts tonight. Councillor Newman has already mentioned that we haven’t got local government settlement, we don’t know what grant will come forward for affordable homes and we need to use the resources that we’ve got.”

About insidecroydon

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
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6 Responses to Butler: We’ll let Brick by Brick build on all under-utilised spaces

  1. derekthrower says:

    Isn’t there a flaw in the Brick by Brick model which the Bald Ego and Oblivious Alison are still not comprehending. For all their grandiose plans to work they need to sell these properties which they are developing. This does not appear to be happening. According to their own website today, Faithful Court still has failed to register one reservation and the much-hyped Flora Court still has units for sale. Of course a reservation too does not mean it is a completed sale.

  2. Yes, that’s the fundamental flaw in the whole model. The fact is, as Britain’s economy flatlines , with or without Brexit, there just isn’t the housing market or the money to sustain this manic Scott/Butler building. There is just neither the money nor the people and we are going to be faced with a sort of ghost town made up of unsold flats and a hole where a megashoppingcentre was once going to be be built. A few years ago some would have been bought as parking places for offshore money but that only works when the economy and the housing market are buoyant. No more. Gloom and doom await us….and we will be serenaded by the Butler, Negrini, Newman, Scott’s rendition of the familiar refrain :
    ” Comrades, there is nothing wrong with the policies. They’re fine. It’s the punters, the people, the economy and the government and reality who are wrong. Us? No, never!”

  3. Butler says “ we don’t receive grants and funding from the government which would allow us to purchase and compete on the open market with other private developers”. So she is admitting that they are not as efficient as private developers. Presumably the only way BxB hope to make a profit is by buying these sites for £1. Considering that the majority of the flats (sorry, executive apartments) are being sold on the open market (if they are ever finished), their lack of ability to compete on a level playing field is even more worrying for the Croydon council tax payer.

    Considering how many thousands of flats seem to be going up at the moment, particularly around the town centre, who is going to buy them all, let alone the overpriced BxB properties.

    • derekthrower says:

      Again it is a case of What the Butler saw.

      From what I can see Brick by Brick are utilising government funding. First they borrow from Public Works Loans Board to develop at preferential rates. Secondly they are getting buyers to use the Help to Buy subsidy to complete the purchases. Finally they are using land acquired from the Council at a fraction of their true value.

      She is either oblivious to reality or just completely incompetent. I will let you choose what you think.

  4. Derek…there is no choice. Both are applicable.

  5. Adrian Dennis says:

    “Under utilised” . . . it will be interesting to see how that is defined. Already much needed public open space was deemed under utilised as few people sat on the bench on the site but simply enjoyed the greenery and trees, also much needed garages are ‘under utilised’ and got rid of as nobody was allowed to rent them. The BB schemes are all high density often squeezed onto tight sites so claims about providing play areas , etc. (to compensate for no gardens) is a bit rich. A few schemes may be improvements on a few derelict sites before but they are not affordable housing and proving to be too expensive for the market.

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