When Brick by Brick released details of its latest blitz on the borough across two dozen sites, many of them in New Addington and mostly intended to deliver one- and two-bed flats, the council-owned company wheeled out one of its leading figures, Chloe Phelps, to give an interview to the uncritical trade press.
Ever since it was formed, Brick by Brick has shown a greater willingness to discuss their projects with their mates who read the Architects’ Journal or Property Week than they have ever managed to engage with those who are paying their very generous wages – the people of Croydon.
When the latest batch of sites was announced, Phelps patted herself on the back on Twitter, saying that she is “super in love with the Common Ground Architecture schemes the team have been beavering away on”.
So as her company embarks on the badly biased planning process for this latest batch of developments, we thought Inside Croydon’s readers might be interested to see what rookie developer Phelps, the rather grandly titled “head of design and commercial and deputy chief executive of Brick By Brick and Common Ground Architecture”, had to say for herself in her trade press interview.
“The latest Brick By Brick programme builds on our first Croydon Smaller Sites programme, which started in 2016. Schemes from this initial programme are now coming to fruition and our first residents have already moved into their new homes.
“We’ve moved incredibly fast from a standing start four years ago…”
This is part of the BxB myth-making, as they try to diminish quite how long they have been operating as they miss deadline after deadline and bust budget after budget.
Companies House records show the company was registered in 2015, five years ago.
She continues… “As a small team…”.
Brick by Brick currently lists no fewer than 28 staff on its official website.
“… we’ve had to be nimble and continually learn and adapt to changing circumstances. The current situation with Covid-19 is no different.
“The first schemes have worked very well and several elements remain core to our ongoing brief.”
The notion that Brick by Brick’s first schemes “have worked very well” is not something which many of those who have to live next to their sites would agree, nor is it something that those who have pored over the BxB balance sheet would concur with, either. The company’s own figures show that in 2019 they missed their sales targets by 83 per cent – that’s hardly “worked very well”, is it?
“We remain ambitious in terms of addressing the housing crisis and our commitment to design quality, proving you can make a lot from what seems to be not very much.”
Brick by Brick’s ambition to address the housing crisis has seen them deliver three council flats in five years.
“We aim to create variety and character in our schemes, responding to each of these places in Croydon, which is made possible by the fantastic group of architects.
“Common Ground Architecture, our in-house team, continues to lead with its collegiate approach to developing these tricky sites.
“Since the first wave, our brief to architects has become more defined. While design is incredibly important to us, it also needs to be buildable, robust and financially savvy. If we hit an issue with any of these requirements, the programme gets affected.
“We’ve had around 20 schemes on site so far, so we are very familiar with sticking points that can arise with infill sites through each of the construction stages. In this latest phase we have tried to maintain a focus on quality brickwork, with detail emphasised in the areas that count.
“We can get better-quality red and brown bricks for our budget, so we’ve tried to steer architects towards those tones where it’s appropriate. We’ve also got some basic guidelines in place to avoid lengthy boundary discussions with neighbours. And we avoid complicated forms and unnecessary steelwork in our buildings.
“We’re also working towards targeting net zero carbon with our next programme of sites.The conversation is already starting to shift again.”
- Click here for the listing of the sites Brick by Brick is bringing forward for the planning process even though the public is unable to consult because of the covid-19 lockdown.
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