Further complaints about the council’s planning department suggest that they are reluctant to apply enforcement action, whether in Purley or South Croydon, as KEN LEE reports
Croydon Council has declared a climate emergency, yet continues to receive sponsorship and to support the expansion of Gatwick Airport.
Croydon Council says it wants to be carbon neutral by 2030, yet remains an enthusiastic customer of incinerator operators Viridor.
And Croydon Council says it is planting more trees around the borough to counter the effects of climate change, and yet its planning department allows this to happen…
The photographs (right and elsewhere in this article) were taken at Higher Drive, Purley, yesterday, were several mature trees were felled – despite the owner of the property having not been granted planning permission.
The property is on Higher Drive, what should be by now a familiar battleground between profit-hungry developers and existing residents, with Croydon Council usually tending to side with the developers, for reasons most can only speculate about. There’s been no suggestion that any of the developers involved with this proposed scheme are married to members of Croydon Council’s planning department, as has been the case with other, similar projects in the area.
90A Higher Drive is a four-bedroom familiar house similar to many in the area. The property’s owners, Appledorn Developments, of Scarborough, want to knock it down and build an ugly great block that would accommodate nine three-bed flats.
For developers, nine is the magic number – build nine or fewer new homes, and there is no legal or planning regulation requirement upon them to deliver any affordable housing. So it is all sweet profit. Nine large flats in this part of leafy Purley could have a market value of more than £3million.
Appledorn’s planning application has been subject to 45 objections on the council’s planning portal.
There is also an arboricultural report which was commissioned by the applicants – as they are required to do – which looked at the beech, ash, cedar and lime trees on the site strongly recommends the preservation of 11 of the 22 trees on the site.
One of the trees is, in any case, to subject to a TPO, a tree preservation order, and must not be touched.
Yet when the axeman cometh yesterday, among his victims were trees which the developers’ own arboricultural report had stated should be preserved.
The developers appeared to have ignored their tree expert’s report in other important ways, too: “Tree work should as far as possible avoid the bird nesting season which officially is from February until August.” Someone needs to get Appledorn a calendar.
They also appear to have ignored the expert’s advice to get the trees inspected for bats. “Bats are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981… and it is an offence to deliberately or recklessly disturb them or damage their roosts”.
Residents are, as ever, outraged. They have justifiable concerns about a neighbouring site, which is currently a copse full of trees, wildlife, including bats and protected bird species. The copse is understood to be being considered by a developer for a similar block of flats.
Following yesterday’s eco-vandalism at 90A Higher Drive, Lolade Onabolu, the chair of the Foxley Residents Association, wrote to the council’s planning department demanding action.
“We submitted our comments in respect of this application and as far as we are aware, this application is yet to be decided. However, the developer has proceeded to cut down trees on the site including trees marked T3 -T6 in the submitted arboricultural survey and indicated as trees which could be retained,” Onabolu wrote.
The Residents’ Association suspects that the trees have been axed to create more space for an expanded development. “This is either a flagrant disregard of due planning process or indication that the developer has been given tacit approval of the plan.
“Either way, this puts the entire planning process into disrepute.”
And if they expect the council’s planning department to take any punitive action against the developers responsible, they really ought not hold their breath.
Take the example of the View pub in South Croydon, bought up by a different firm of developers who were so keen to turn their investment into profit that they sent in the demolition team – despite not having planning permission. Only when alerted by concerned neighbours did the council planning department send someone along to check out what was going on and put a halt to the demolition.
To this day, no planning permission has been granted, and the old pub stands derelict, its roof stripped away, its owners presumably waiting for it to deteriorate into such a state of collapse that they will be allowed to finish the job. No penalties for breaking planning law have ever been brought against the developers in this case – and they did their little act of illegal destruction to The View in… 2017.
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