The public has been given an extra week to lodge objections to planning applications in the borough – not that Paul Scott and Croydon Council want anyone to know about it.
The council’s propaganda department sneaked out its latest press release after 5pm on Maundy Thursday – long, long after the deadlines for what passes for the borough’s “print media”, and late enough in the day that the information would be unlikely to be disseminated over the long Easter holiday weekend by any website.
Except Inside Croydon, of course.
The council is only doing what the government made possible under coronavirus special arrangements a week earlier. Which makes the delayed timing of the issue of the council press release all the more suspicious.
Brick by Brick, the council’s loss-making house-builder which has delivered a grand total of three purpose-built council homes in five years, has another raft of less-than-impressive schemes about to apply for planning permission.
These seem likely to be ruled on by Scott, the cabinet member for planning, and the planning committee in “virtual” meetings which will largely exclude the public, residents’ associations and their elected representatives.
In the press release, which was not sent to Inside Croydon by the council press office, the council states, “Croydon residents will have extra time to comment on new planning applications after the council extended the formal feedback period as a result of covid-19.
“Members of the public usually have three weeks to make comments after a planning application is submitted, but Croydon Council is retrospectively extending this to four weeks on all schemes validated since 16 March.
“This longer comments period will also apply to all validated planning applications received from council-owned developer Brick by Brick between March 16 and the end of May. These applications will also be referred for consideration at planning committee. The council is looking into holding virtual planning committees during this period, and will provide more information online when dates are confirmed.”
Since Brick by Brick was formed in 2015, every one of its building schemes has gone before the planning committee. And every one of those applications has been passed by the committee.
Scott is the de facto chair of the committee, where some members of the committee have complained that Scott has “whipped” the Labour councillors into voting in favour of the schemes – an act which is strictly illegal under planning law. The council has never bothered to investigate these serious allegations against a member of the Town Hall leadership troika, and which could seriously undermine the legality of its house-building schemes.
As was demonstrated last week, the council and Brick by Brick appear determined to use the covid-19 emergency as a smokescreen to push through as many housing schemes as possible, denying the public proper consultation. Residents who tried to participate in BxB’s first “virtual” consultation this week were told that Brick by Brick was pressing ahead with its schemes regardless of the lockdown because, “If we stop now and put everything on pause, we won’t be able to meet the targets set out in our business plan.”
So an extra week for the public to post objections that will, in all likelihood, be ignored or arrogantly dismissed by Scott and his shills on the planning committee, is unlikely to correct the emerging democratic deficit.
In the delayed-issue press release sent out on Thursday evening, the council persisted with its pretence of proper process: “Any comments received on applications after the extended four-week comments deadline will still be taken into account up until the date of planning determination.
“All applications and related feedback will continue to be considered against borough, London-wide and national planning guidance and policies. The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has told councils that the planning process and, in particular, applications for housing, should continue as normally as possible during the covid-19 restrictions,” the council added, just to add a seal of approval on their unremitting urgency to push through as many housing schemes as possible while the emergency continues.
The council propaganda department then attributed a quote to Scott in which he is supposed to have said, “We remain absolutely committed to openness and transparency in our decision-making.”
One Katharine Street insider suggested that one reason for the late release of the press release was that no one in the press office could type that sentence without falling off their chair laughing.
Scott also said, “Despite the pandemic, it remains as important as ever to tackle the housing crisis and related issues of homelessness and overcrowding, and the council is still receiving many planning applications from developers and householders.
“Having listened to concerns raised by residents and local councillors, we have extended the comments period on all schemes submitted since mid-March so people have more time to examine and give feedback on new applications, including proposals to build new council homes in New Addington, Norbury and locations around the borough.
“To ensure that all planning applications of interest to local residents made by council developer Brick by Brick are determined in public, we have decided that they will all be considered at planning committee.”
But as one councillor told Inside Croydon: “Scott’s offer to determine all Brick by Brick applications at Planning Committee is a laughably empty gesture.
“The number of resident objections or councillor referrals made on the current tranche of applications almost certainly means that these would all probably end up having to be decided by this committee in any case. And the idea that Scott has in any way instigated the extending of the comments period is equally nonsense: they have been instructed to do so by Whitehall.”
More on this subject:
- New Addington, Purley, George Street: protests mount over Brick by Brick
- Shared ownership is an unaffordable joke
- A level of ineptitude which would be tolerated no where else
- Butler: We’ll let Brick by Brick build on all under-utilised spaces
- Croydon’s Brick by Brick model is well and truly broken
- Kakistocracy: Butler forced into £6m bail-out of Brick by Brick
- Massive discounts on land sales raise more questions
- Brick by Brick CEO says company has sold 6 houses. Or is it 5?
- Help support Inside Croydon’s award-winning, news-breaking journalism, and get money-off offers, exclusive content and priority booking for special events. Click here to find out more
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or what to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and BBC London News
- Inside Croydon named Journalist of the Year at 2018 Anna Kennedy Online Autism Heroes Awards
- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: For three consecutive years, 2017, 2018 and 2019, Inside Croydon has been the source for award-winning nominations in Private Eye magazine’s annual celebration of civic cock-ups
- Inside Croydon had 1.6million pages viewed by 721,000 unique visitors in 2019