BARRATT HOLMES, our overdevelopment correspondent, on a report from housing experts which shows how the council has been ignoring its own planning policies, to the detriment of neighbourhoods around the borough
As the borough’s residents’ associations go to battle with the council planning department over what they see as an over-intensification of their neighbourhoods through the development of blocks of flats where once stood family houses, the stock response from Councillor Paul Scott, the domineering figure at planning meetings is always, “There’s a housing crisis.”
Yet a report submitted to the council’s planners on behalf of developers eager to make humungous profits from buying up a family house and turning it into nine homes nails the lie in Scott’s position.
Because according to West End estate agents Savills, in fact there’s a house crisis in Croydon.
Swanky Savills were appointed by Luxgrove Capital Partners to steer their application for a site in Purley through the council planning process. Luxgrove is a company founded in late 2017, with offices in Kensington and with the specific aim of developing properties. They have bought a four-bedroom house at 2, Wyvern Road, with the intention of transforming it and its garden into nine houses.
Yes, you read that right: nine houses on a site which was previously occupied by a single house and its very well-appointed garden.
Being a corner plot at the junction with Pampisford Road gives the site some extra real estate to play with, though squeezing nine houses on to it still seems on the ambitious – or greedy – side.
Wyvern Road, just off the Purley Way, sits at the top of the hill above Purley town centre, and at present comprises mainly larger family houses with large gardens. These houses typically change hands for north of £700,000. Given the size of No2 and its corner plot garden, it seems likely that the developers paid considerably more when buying the property.
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Last month, Savills submitted a slew of architect drawings and documents to the council, most of which manage to cite chapter and verse of national, London and borough planning policy, with the intention of turning the purchase of one house into a development that could make the three directors of Luxgrove very wealthy men indeed.
Among the paperwork from Savills is a 14-page report which, in making the case for building houses, does a nifty demolition job on some of the cant that gets spouted by Scott and the council’s planning officials.
Here’s the opening paragraphs of Savills’ “Executive Summary” for starters. The italics are ours, added for emphasis:
“This assessment finds that the housing stock of the London Borough of Croydon… in terms of dwelling size, is not appropriate once the population and demographic changes experienced in the borough are considered.
“Currently, the borough’s housing stock has a disproportionately large number of smaller dwellings and a low number of family-sized dwellings with three bedrooms or more. The borough has a growing population and a higher average household size than the outer London Boroughs. LBC also experiences significant amounts of overcrowding.
“Our analysis of recent planning permissions in LBC shows that 95 per cent of the consented units were classified as apartments with just 5 per cent being described as houses.
“Additionally, just 17 per cent of planning consents are for larger properties with three bedrooms or more. This is significantly below the adopted policy which requires 30 per cent of new build properties to be of this size, and, the recommended guidance from the 2019 SHMA [Strategic Housing Market Assessment] Update which recommends that 35-45 per cent of new housing should be of this size. This means that Croydon’s housing stock can become less appropriate in terms of dwelling size in the future.
“To counteract this, the addition of more larger housing is required which the proposed development would contribute towards. Therefore, the application, whilst not delivering a mix of one- and two-bedroom flats, will greatly assist in readdressing the current imbalance existing in Croydon.”
Elsewhere in the report, Savills state, “The London Plan defines family housing generally as ‘having three or more bedrooms’. As stated in the Croydon Local Plan, LBC support London Plan Policy 3.14, which encourages the retention of residential units originally designed with three or more bedrooms. Additionally, the Croydon SHMA identifies that 50 per cent of the future requirement for market housing is for larger homes.”
In making the argument to win approval for their nine houses on the site of what was once one family home, Savills highlight how Scott and the council’s planners have been deliberately ignoring their own, and the Mayor of London’s, planning policies whenever it suits them – or suits the developers with whom they appear to be on such friendly terms.
There seems little doubt that the application for 2, Wyvern Road will be granted planning permission. How can it not be? There’s a housing crisis, according to Councillor Scott.
And besides, the developers have paid a bit extra and have their insurance policy for their scheme by having bought some pre-application advice from Croydon Council planning officer Samantha Dixon.
According to Savills, “The meetings and discussions have been constructive with the principle of development being considered acceptable and the majority of the discussions focusing on the detailed design of the new development on the site.”
These discussions on design could be enlightening: the nine little boxes on the hillside, if the developers’ drawings are anything to judge by, look plug ugly.
But hey, flat-lovers and Councillor Scott need not despair.
Because just across the way, at 1, Wyvern Road, there’s a separate planning application in with the council for 12 flats, in a four-to-five storey block, which will doubtless be out of keeping with the rest of the neighbourhood and will probably overlook the nine new houses at No2…
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