One of the borough’s biggest – and fastest-growing – residents’ associations has accused the council of deliberately using the coronavirus emergency to help it push through controversial and unpopular development plans from its loss-making building firm, Brick by Brick.
And the New Addington Residents’ Association is calling on Labour MP Sarah Jones to help them halt new planning applications until after the covid-19 lockdown.
NARA has questioned whether the council’s planning process is “fair, open and honest” under present emergency circumstances.
NARA was formed last year in response to the large number of schemes being proposed for the area by Brick by Brick, which residents at one public meeting said they feared would turn their area “into a slum”.
Agents acting for Brick by Brick have submitted plans to build blocks of flats on three sites in New Addington: one on the junction of Fairchildes Avenue and King Henry’s Drive (right outside a primary school), another on the junction of Fairchildes Avenue and Corbett Close and a third on Thorpe Close. The application was placed with the council planning department on March 24 – just one day after the country was placed on lockdown because of the covid-19 pandemic.
In a statement this week, NARA, the New Addington Residents’ Association, said that they “strongly condemn this flagrant abuse of a national crisis”.
And Scott Ainsworth-Payne, NARA’s chair, told Inside Croydon, “I truly believe that Brick by Brick has crossed the line here and I am deeply concerned about this seeming disregard for fair consultation around these plans.”
According to Ainsworth-Payne and his fellow NARA committee members, their association is currently overwhelmed with work in trying to assist their neighbours in New Addington and Fieldway to cope with the coronavirus crisis. The lockdown also makes it impossible for their association to meet to discuss how to handle any response to the Brick by Brick planning applications.
Architects’ sketches of the proposed schemes show six-storey blocks placed among New Addington’s two-storey homes, and rows of new houses squeezed in the narrow spaces between existing homes. “We understand that some local residents feel the site may be providing more homes than anticipated,” Brick by Brick says of the Thorpe Close scheme on one of their websites, demonstrating that they do have some proficiency, at least in the art of understatement.
The statement released by the NARA committee says that, “One day after the whole of New Addington is dealing with the fact that life will not be the same for the coming months. Worried about our loved ones, worried about going outside, worried about getting enough food to live on, worried about our jobs and our businesses, worried about our rent and mortgage payments. And now Brick by Brick decides to apply for planning permission.
“We can only leave our homes for strict essential reasons, We cannot hold meetings, we cannot door-knock to raise awareness, we cannot meet to gather evidence on sites, we cannot reach out to residents who do not have the internet, we cannot even attend the planning meetings and cannot represent ourselves.
“Considering all of this, how can our town realistically take part in a fair, open and honest planning consultation?
“We are effectively removed from the planning process.
“This is morally and democratically wrong and is not something we should see from a developer who is owned by Croydon Council and claims to do what’s in the best interest of us, the citizens, that Croydon Council is there to represent.”
Ainsworth-Payne and the committee say that NARA is currently “directing all of its efforts towards supporting fellow residents who are unable to leave their homes, at risk of serious illness and in some cases death”.
Of the Brick by Brick planning applications, the residents’ association statement says: “New Addington Residents’ Association strongly condemns this arguably flagrant abuse of a national crisis.
“It would seem Brick by Brick wishes to push planning through, at a time when we are more focused on surviving this pandemic than what the Croydon Council-owned developer is doing.
“In the next few days we will be making a formal request to Croydon Council, Brick by Brick and Sarah Jones, the MP for Croydon Central, to delay all Brick by Brick planning applications until the covid-19 pandemic is no longer a barrier to an effective and fair consultation.
“New Addington Residents’ Association will ensure that the people of New Addington & Fieldway will not be ignored, will not be silenced and will be represented, one way, or another.”
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