Conservation charity the CPRE has added its voice to residents’ associations across the borough calling on the public to take urgent action to try to save Croydon’s green spaces from development.
Last week, Inside Croydon reported how the Labour council’s deputy leader, Alison Butler, had said at a public meeting that she will allow the borough’s loss-making in-house house-builder Brick by Brick to build on the borough’s parks, open spaces, kids’ playgrounds and the Green Belt.
But the London branch of the CPRE – the Council for the Preservation of Rural England – is urging all residents to take part in an on-going council consultation which, if the borough’s planners have their way, could see large swathes of green open space stripped of any protection against development.
Residents’ associations in Riddlesdown and Sanderstead have also called on their members and neighbours to lodge objections on the consultation, which has had its deadline extended to January 20 – next Monday.
CPRE London has a capital-wide campaign to protect the city’s Green Belt, which they say is under threat like never before. Their map of Green Belt sites that could be developed sees Croydon covered with dots, representing under=threat locations.
In a four-page letter sent to Croydon’s planners just before Christmas, the CPRE is damning about some of the proposals being put forward by the council under the Croydon Local Plan Review.
The letter criticises the council’s house-building target. “Housing targets must be realistic: the proposed target is exceptionally high,” writes Alice Roberts, CPRE London’s head of green space campaigns.
“Croydon should adopt a lower and more realistic, but still ambitious target. Unrealistic targets mean that too many sites are allocated, green sites are built out before brownfield sites, and land is wasted.”
Roberts adds that “Green Belt release for ‘supporting infrastructure’”, something strongly supported by Croydon Council’s planners, “is not supported – this puts the infrastructure in the wrong place and the council has not demonstrated that exceptional circumstances exist to justify this policy.”
“We strongly oppose the release of Green Belt for ‘infrastructure’ which clearly should be located alongside, within or as part of new developments.”
The CPRE has also identified a development threat to Sanderstead Recreation Ground, which Croydon wants to build on for a school.
This would not be the first time that Croydon has de-designated park land to build a school: in 2018, they removed Green Belt protection from the Coombe Wood playing fields, opposite Lloyd Park, which is now being built on to provide a large selective school – this when there is another secondary school less than two miles away – St Andrew’s – which is being closed this summer because of a lack of pupils.
Of the threat to Sanderstead Rec, the CPRE says, “We do not support the expansion of a school into the recreation ground. Space can be found within existing schools or in more sustainable locations near to new development.”
Under what the council calls “Option 3” of its Local Plan review, as first reported by Inside Croydon last October, it has identified three large areas of Green Belt on which it could build thousands of new homes.
The CPRE says, “We do not support Option 3, which seeks to allocate Green Belt for development.
“The three sites proposed for housing under this option all make an important contribution to the Metropolitan Green Belt…
“The release of these sites would harm the Green Belt. The boroughs’ review concluded that all Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land sites in Croydon do fulfil their function with only one instance of function designation not being fulfilled (a site which has already been developed).
“There are alternative sites to allocate for housing as set out in Options 1 and 2 and these should be developed first as per [National Planning Policy Framework] and exceptional circumstances cannot be said to exist to justify release of these sites for housing. In any event the Secretary of State has clarified that housing need is not in itself a legitimate justification for exceptional circumstances.”
The CPRE also notes that the three sites identified for building by the council planners – on Gravel Hill, at Borrowdale Drive/Mitchley Hill/Rectory Park in Riddlesdown, and Lodge Lane, near New Addington, are all “in unsustainable locations from a transport perspective”.
“The three Green Belt sites identified are in locations where new residents will be dependent on cars.”
The CPRE also argues that the use of Green Belt would fail to deliver truly affordable homes – effectively accusing the Labour council’s leadership of Butler and her husband, Paul Scott, of wanting to concrete-over the borough’s open spaces in order to let Brick by Brick build high-profit, large family homes for sale on the private market.
“CPRE evidence shows that only 1 in 10 homes built in Green Belt locations are affordable and we disagree that it will be easier to create affordable homes on Green Belt sites. Land values will increase if sites are allocated for housing. This is clearly demonstrated by the speculative purchase of sites like those in Crews Hill in Enfield which have changes hands since the council said it was considering the site for development.”
And in a last-gasp plea to the public to raise objections to the council planners, CPRE London have said, “We would therefore encourage Croydon residents to write in response to Croydon Council’s consultation saying you do not support Strategic Spatial Option 3 in the Croydon Local Plan Review consultation. It will only take a few moments.
“Just email firstname.lastname@example.org before the deadline, giving your name and postal address.”
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