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, 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.
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.
“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.”
- From the archive: Cherish your ‘local green space’ and take part in consultation
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