Our housing correspondent BARRATT HOLMES on the latest signs of desperation to fix Brick by Brick’s failing finances
The planning application being considered by the charade that will pass for a planning committee meeting next Thursday is for a scheme which Colm Lacey and Jo Negrini hope could salvage the finances of Brick by Brick – and the council.
But it is being pushed through with undue haste and with no real hope of offering any solution to Croydon’s housing crisis.
Only 69 of the 421 homes Brick by Brick wants to build around Croydon College will be affordable.
That’s a miserable 16 per cent of the total – well below the usual minimum of 35 per cent required of private developers working in London, or the Labour-run council’s own target of 50 per cent affordable across all its schemes that Brick by Brick is supposed to be delivering.
Part of the problem that council CEO Negrini and her appointee as chief exec at Brick by Brick, Lacey, have is that the scheme proposed is trying to make the best of a bad situation, after Lacey and BxB made a Horlicks of the property acquisition around the site.
The council’s house-builders had hoped to have a much more extensive site to work with, including the Croydon College annex building. But tired of waiting for the novice property developers at Brick by Brick to seal the deal, Croydon College sold the annex site to another developer.
It remains one of a litany of embarrassing set-backs for Lacey and his rookie development company. It meant it was back to the drawing board for crest-fallen Lacey and his team, delaying the scheme – and any income it might generate – by at least two years.
They were supposed to be on-site while works were going on at the Fairfield Halls next door, and that finished last September, 15 months later than planned.
Now, they are pitching in with a taller tower block and greater densification of housing around what is known as College Green, next to the Fairfield Halls.
They need to squeeze every last penny out of the smaller site to generate the cash to pay for their bungled and over-budget refurb of the Halls, which ended up costing at least £43million (at least that’s the last total that the council would admit to).
And someone has got to pay for the council’s £1million architect competition for the open space between the flats, college and Halls, now given the pretentious new name of “Fair Field”.
It is obviously just coincidence that the “winning” landscaping scheme came from north London firm MICA, the architects who have also been behind much of the design work on the Fairfield housing.
The scheme now is to build five blocks, of between seven and 29 storeys.
Of the 421 flats, nearly half – 197 – will be small studio or one-bed apartments.
There are to be 198 two-bed flats, 25 three-bed and one four-bed flat. There will only be car parking space for the registered disabled, though they do aim to provide 745 bicycle rack spaces.
Based on current market prices locally, this quantity of housing is estimated could be worth at least £120million.
But therein lies a massive coronavirus risk: it could all go tits-up in an economic recession like no one has ever seen before, with few if any buyers able to afford these expensively designed homes.
In their blurb, Brick by Brick say, “Our plans include hundreds of new one-, two- and three-bedroom homes alongside new streets and public spaces, new shops, a medical centre, community and office spaces. There will also be improved walking routes between East Croydon Station and the town centre… Located right beside East Croydon Station, this is an important and vibrant new quarter for Croydon.”
The failure to provide more than 69 “affordable” homes in this “vibrant new quarter” is completely unmentioned.
So much for the housing crisis in Croydon.
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