Sanderstead and Riddlesdown lead battle to save Green Belt

Croydon Council is eyeing green fields such as these in Riddlesdown as potential sites for housing development

In 1953, the Coulsdon and Purley Urban District Council was granted a coat of arms, and this included two trees, one an oak to represent the Purley Oaks and the other a beech for Purley Beeches.

In 2020, Croydon Council (which succeeded Coulsdon and Purley UDC as the local authority) is actively considering removing any planning protections in order to allow it to take an axe to Purley Beeches, to allow the land to be developed for housing.

The Friends of Purley Beeches, the Sanderstead Residents’ Association and the Riddlesdown Residents’ Association are among various groups who have been urging their members and neighbours to take part in the council “consultation” over its review of its Local Plan, as the residents fear that their local parks, playgrounds, open spaces and Green Belt are under serious threat. The deadline for submissions is next Monday, January 20.

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 open spaces.

Heritage: the old Coulsdon and Purley UDCs coat of arms, including the symbolic trees

The residents’ groups in Croydon have the backing of the London branch of the conservation charity, the CPRE – the Council for the Preservation of Rural England – which lodged its own objection with the consultation before Christmas, a four-page letter which was especially critical of Croydon’s house-building target: “Housing targets must be realistic: the proposed target is exceptionally high.”

Indeed, it has now been confirmed that Croydon’s planning and housing departments – led by councillors Butler and her husband, Paul Scott – have been allowing developers to bulldoze through the suburbs based on a home-building target three times greater than is actually required by the Mayor of London under his London Plan.

Yet the review of the Local Plan could, if one of the council’s options gets approval, see even greater damage to the heritage and character of the borough than even the toxic duo of Butler and Scott have managed in the six years that they have been in power.

As Inside Croydon first reported in October, the council’s review of the Croydon Local Plan presents three options for building 46,040 homes in the next 20 years. These include an option – “Option 3” – to de-designate as Green Belt three large areas on which it could build thousands of new homes.

The council’s “Option 1” would restrict house-building activity in the existing urban areas, while its “Option 2” would look to utilise brownfield sites along the Purley Way to build 12,000 homes (a figure much closer to Croydon’s actual house-building target under the London Plan).

Under Option 3, the council describes this as: “Release of Green Belt land for residential development to reduce some pressure off residential growth in the existing urban area. This includes the release of Green Belt in New Addington, Selsdon and Sanderstead to deliver a total of 5,300 homes in place of a radical redevelopment of the Purley Way.”

As the residents in Riddlesdown have noted, this includes, “Between 680 and 780 homes on the Green Belt farmland between Mitchley Hill, Rectory Park and Borrowdale Drive.”

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.”

But under the consultation, the council is also sneaking out possible developments of park land, such as Sanderstead Rec and Purley Beeches – the latter an oasis of green calm and hundreds of mature trees which was bought through public subscription in 1907.

Purley Beeches public open space is one of the areas which lack protection from development

“The council’s started boasting about how they want to plant a few dozen saplings around the borough’s roads to fight against climate change,” one resident who lives near Purley Beeches told Inside Croydon.

“Yet here they are, seriously entertaining even the possibility of handing over the Beeches for future development. It’s nothing other than environmental vandalism.”

The council’s under-publicised, hard-to-locate online review is being undertaken now, after Butler, Scott and the council planners delivered up a Local Plan in 2017 which had all of its open space protections rejected by the government inspector. No other local authority in England and Wales has ever had all of its open space protections rejected by the inspector before.

The Local Plan review, therefore, is the council effectively passing the buck to locals, residents’ associations and parks groups to make a case for their neighbourhoods to be spared from needless overdevelopment, after the council’s professional staff failed to do the job properly in the first place, and elected representatives, such as cabinet members Butler and Scott, failed to scrutinise the planners’ work adequately.

With Sanderstead Rec, the council wants to use some of the land for a school building. Residents there are implacably opposed.

How Sanderstead Rec – or “Site 70”, as the council refers to it – appears in the consultation papers

“We have a solid view on the survival and maintenance of this recreation ground and protection of its Green Belt status,” the Friends of Sanderstead Recreation Ground and Green Spaces, to give them their full title, say on their website.

“If Croydon Council are able to just take Green Belt as it pleases to solve a separate issue, then Green Belt all over is seriously at risk.

“In accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework 2019 (Chapter 13 paras 133 to 147), the council do not meet any of the exceptional special circumstances in which to change the existing use of the Green Belt land. In fact, its plans directly contradict any or all of the criteria allowed in paragraph 145(b).”

CPRE London agrees. “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,” they said in their letter of objection.

The council recently extended the deadline for submissions to its Local Plan Review to next Monday, January 20.  To take a look at the review on the council’s website (it is not something the council has chosen to highlight at the top of its website’s landing page… can’t think why that might be), click here.

Or you could complete the Sanderstead RA’s own online form, here.

Or visit the Riddlesdown RA website here.

Or you might simply email before the deadline, giving your name and postal address, and stating that you do not support Strategic Spatial Option 3 in the Croydon Local Plan Review consultation.

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
This entry was posted in Alison Butler, Community associations, Croydon Council, Croydon parks, Environment, Housing, Mayor of London, Paul Scott, Planning, Purley, Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown, Sanderstead and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Sanderstead and Riddlesdown lead battle to save Green Belt

  1. sheryljburton says:

    It would be so sad to see so many of South Croydon’s wonderful green spaces go to housing. This is one of the best things about living in the area. There must be a better option.

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