CROYDON COMMENTARY: The council will carry on striving to meet unnecessarily high planning targets just because they choose to do so. But their arbitrary targets have already been shown to have unacceptable consequences and to be unsustainable, writes GEOFF JAMES
Jason Perry, a Conservative councillor, recently summarised the current housing target for Croydon Council.
“The council has accepted a high housing target – much greater than Bromley and Sutton – from the London Mayor which it can only meet by building tall. The London Mayor’s Plan was recently modified by a government inspector because its target for intensification of the suburbs was too high.
“In Croydon, it is the small sites target which is too high, to the tune of 8,700 units. The council could have decided to comply with this and reduce its own target by that amount, but it has decided not to do so. This means Croydon has chosen to deliver 8,700 homes more than it is required to: it’s a political choice rather than an obligation.”
Councillor Perry is simply summarising the stated position of the council.
But can they defend this Carry On Regardless strategy given what was actually written by the examiners of the London Plan?
The draft London Plan underwent its external examination during the first half of 2019. The examiners published their formal comments on the London Plan on October 8. You can download a copy of the report by clicking.
It is clear that the examiners found faults with the windfall (aka small sites) housing targets. On average, the windfall housing targets will need to be reduced by 60 per cent, as the expectations from windfall developments in the outer London boroughs, such as Croydon, are far too high, as explained below.
Given that the draft London Plan has completed external examination, the examiners’ comments are available, and the Mayor of London has stated acceptance of the revised housing targets, it is clear that the draft London Plan now has a high weight in any current planning decisions for all London boroughs. Including Croydon.
While the examiners made comments that were applicable for all London, it is straightforward to identify comments that are most pertinent to the planning policies of Croydon Council that will impact the windfall sites.
The specific problems with the windfall housing target that Croydon Council is aiming for have been made clear by the examiners. The examiners have been quite damning in their statements concerning the windfall-related housing targets.
The London Plan Examination (para 161) stated that the expectations for the level of windfall sites have used unreasonably high assumptions and form unjustified targets.
The examiners went on to make several comments on the windfall expectations as expressed in the table below.
Any objective assessment of the behaviour of the Croydon planning system over the past five years would conclude that the issues identified in table are very applicable to this borough.
The examiners identified that planning authorities would focus too much on windfall target numbers and would fail to deliver the right sort of development in the right places.
The windfall targets do not contribute to “good growth” – they fail to consider cumulative impacts in terms of parking, pedestrian movements and character of the area. And sites with a poor PTAL rating – the planners’ acronym for Public Transport Access Level, ranked on a scale of 0 to 6, where anything below three is not acceptable, often with minimal access to local shops or community services – are wholly unsuitable to be intensively developed.
The examiners of the London Plan thought they were describing a future problem.
In reality, the residents of Croydon that live in the high windfall areas have been experiencing the impact of a “heavy-handed” and target-focused planning regime for several years.
- Geoff James lives in Kenley
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