Twice in the past two years, residents in Shirley have seen off attempts by rapacious developers to erect an ugly monster among the modest dwellings that surround the Sandrock, a locally listed Victorian pub.
On one previous application, even the expert advisor hired by developers, Marshall Hurley Bratt, admitted in an unusually frank report that the scheme as proposed was not viable even without the provision of any affordable housing, nailing any pretence that the developers ever intend to reopen the Sandrock as a pub.
Croydon Council has rules set down in its local plan which are supposed to protect much-loved local pubs from being converted into flats, which puts profit-hungry developers under pressure to demonstrate a real intention to continue to use the often landmark buildings for the purpose for which they were designed.
The council’s planning department also demands that any development of nine housing units or more must include some element of affordable homes.
These two requirements of the planning system have so far had Marshall Hurley Bratt’s designs on the Sandrock carefully pulled apart by Shirley residents concerned at the monstrous scale of the development in a quiet residential area.
But now the developers are back with a three-storey beast of a building proposal – slyly brought forward in the middle of the pandemic, which prevents Shirley residents from holding any meetings to discuss the revised plans.
The application, submitted to the council last month, describes the scheme as a “Two-storey side and rear extension to The Sandrock Public House to provide an enlarged service (including front seating area) to the existing pub (A4 Use Class) and conversion of the upper floors including extension to form 4 flats (2×2 bed, 2×1 bed) and construction of a three-storey building to the rear comprising 15 flats (8×3 bed, 3×2 bed, 4×1 bed); hard and soft landscaping; communal/amenity/play space; car parking between the two buildings; new crossover along Sandrock Place; boundary treatment and refuse and cycle provision.”
That’s 19 flats, and a pub, squeezed into an area which previously was a pub and its modestly sized car park.
Seventeen trees are to be felled to make way for the developers’ greedy plans, allowing the new building to tower over its quaking neighbours.
Though that’s not quite how the developers see it. “The proposals are considered to relate well with the immediate context and height has been kept at three storeys to remain respectful.” The context being that houses in the area are two storeys and of normal width, whereas the beast, as well as being 50 per cent taller, has a footprint the size of a football pitch.
“It is about as respectful as a lion is to a lamb which crosses its path,” one unimpressed neighbour observed.
With irony-free cheek, the developers describe the beast as “an interesting building which respects and enhances the area of the site”.
A local resident told Inside Croydon, “It may be interesting for them in terms of the prospective profits that they might make – with sales values for the flats estimated to top £5million – but ‘respect’ is not the word that springs to mind for me or our neighbours.
“If this scheme goes through, it won’t ‘enhance’ the area. It will more likely destroy it.”
The residents say that the developers’ intention to destroy the character of the pleasant enclave near the woods is made clear when they say that the Sandrock development will “act as a catalyst for further regeneration”.
The resident says, “In plain language, they are right, insofar as approval of this plan will justify wholesale demolition of the single family homes in the area, allowing them to be replaced with block after block of flats, just as we have witnessed to our horror in other parts of the borough.
“The residents of upper Shirley did not know that they needed regeneration – they do now.”
The plans maintain the fiction that the pub will be reopened. Largely because they know they have to, to satisfy the council’s planning requirements that seek to prevent pubs being redeveloped out of existence.
Despite the fact that evidence in earlier planning documents revealed that the majority of the pub’s customers came from some distance, the new plans provide for a grand total of just 10 parking spaces for a building containing accommodation for more than 50 people, plus the notional customers of the licensed premises, should they ever reopen.
Despite the fact that the developers now claim the pub will be a viable business opportunity, there is no indication that anyone would wish to take it on in its much-reduced, and likely non-viable, circumstances.
The closing date for objections to the plans is July 16. The proposals on Croydon Council’s planning register can be accessed by clicking here, where you will be able to view the monster in all its glory.
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