‘Get it built’ says Purley business group backing Mosaic Place

The decision to allow the Purley Tower to go ahead after a five-year planning battle has caused outrage among local residents’ groups

The government decision to give a green light to the £20.25million redevelopment of a long-derelict site at Purley Cross, with more than 200 homes and including a controversial tower block, has left the local MP feeling “gutted”, while a local business group has said that the ruling is “really good news”.

“Let’s get it built,” Simon Cripps, the chief executive of the Purley BID business improvement district, told Inside Croydon today.

A five-year-long planning saga appeared to have reached a conclusion last night after the Conservative government’s Secretary of State for housing and local government, Robert Jenrick, issued a letter accepting the report of the government planning inspector.

Predictably, locals and their residents’ associations have expressed their horror at the prospect of the Purley Tower, describing it as the “Croydonisation” of their district centre. The tower will be at least twice as tall as the next biggest building in Purley.

“Another Croydon Council eyesore being thrust upon the residents of this area,” was typical of many of the reactions.

Gutted: MP Chris Philp

Some noted that the government planning inspector has recommended that the tower should be only 16 storeys tall, and not the 17 storeys which was originally proposed, in order to make it fully compliant with the council’s own Local Plan.

“The developers and Purley Baptist Church might have been saved four years of angst, public inquiries and massive costs had Croydon’s planning department, and the then chair of the planning committee, Paul Scott, had insisted on a 16-storey tower when they granted planning permission in 2016,” said one source.

“It would have made the whole scheme much more difficult to challenge. Instead, Scott and the planning department as usual went along with the developers’ wishes once again, rather than upholding their own Local Plan.

“Four years later, we are all no further forward.”

Scott himself has publicly claimed that dealing with the delays and inquiries over the scheme has cost Croydon Council £100,000.

Since 2015, the proposals – which the developers prefer to be known as Mosaic Place – has been managed by Thornsett Group for the land-owners, Purley Baptist Church, together with planning consultancy Nexus.

Nexus director Rob Pearson said today, “Mosaic Place has been a long time in the making.

Mosaic Place will provide Purley Baptists with a new church and important community space

“We are delighted that Purley Baptist Church will now be able to look forward to a bright future with a purpose-built church and facilities to support their growing congregation and outreach activities.

“Both they and Thornsett Group have worked extremely hard to come up with a landmark scheme in Mosaic Place, which we are confident will revitalise Purley and create spin-off prosperity for the rest of the district centre.”

The proposed scheme, as granted planning permission in 2016, comprised 220 homes, a retail unit and a new church with community facilities, though that may now change as a consequence of the planning inspector’s comments, as well as broader economic and viability considerations.

Philp, who was elected as MP for Croydon South in 2015, has lobbied against Mosaic Place throughout his entire career in Parliament.

Today he tweeted, “Gutted that, after fighting this off for nearly four years, the planning inspector has recommended Purley Skyscraper for approval – because it complies with the Council’s Local Plan.

“Last time, Sec of State tried overruling the inspector but was stopped by the courts.”

Philp has got himself caught in a political dilemma over the Purley development, since he has spent much time in the past couple of years criticising local council planning decisions policy and – in-line with his Tory government’s policy – calling for developments on brownfield sites to be prioritised. Brownfield site developments just like Mosaic Place.

“At least a directly-elected mayor would write a better Local Plan that does not allow skyscrapers in suburban areas,” Philp added a while later.

Philp’s comments drew criticism from Sean Fitzsimons, a senior Labour councillor, who accused him of “misleading the public again”.

Fitzsimons wrote, “The decision to approve the application is taken by the Conservative Secretary of State, which he did yesterday. He said it had no concerns about impact on character or heritage of Purley, nor on surrounding areas.

Purley BID’s Simon Cripps: on balance supports a scheme which will use a long-derelict brownfield site

“A public inquiry was held by the independent planning inspector, who heard all the objectors and recommended approval to the Secretary of State, who ignored this independent advice and refused permission. This was withdrawn after threat of a legal challenge (sounds familiar!).”

Fitzsimons highlighted Philp’s spin and stated, “This is not what happened.”

Fitzsimons said, “James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State, ignored the planning inspector recommendations and refused the planning application.”

It has long been suggested that Brokenshire “called in” the planning decision after energetic lobbying by his fellow Conservative, Philp.

As Fitzsimons laid out on social media, “When challenged in the courts… [Brokenshire] conceded that he failed to ‘give adequate reasons for his conclusions’ when overturning the recommendations of the independent planning inspectorate following a full public inquiry in January 2018.”

And with a final twist of the knife to “gutted” Philp, Fitzsimons quoted back at him a line from yesterday’s letter from Jenrick, Brokenshire’s successor as housing minister: “Your Tory colleague says ‘it will positively transform the area’.”

That’s certainly the view of local businesses, who through the Purley BID had supported the Mosaic Place proposals.

Purley BID’s Cripps, while making the point that the proposed tower is not a skyscraper,  said today, “It’s really good news that this matter has been concluded and we can now move on.

“We agree that the tower (not skyscraper) should be challenged and strongly challenged it has been all the way, on all aspects. This means the development proposal is one of the most robust in the borough.

“No one ‘wants’ a tower in Purley. However, parts of this area have been derelict for around 40 years and we all agree needs to be developed. This development ultimately will bring new life and prosperity into the area, so let’s get it built.”

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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8 Responses to ‘Get it built’ says Purley business group backing Mosaic Place

  1. Sebastian Tillinger says:

    If we’re talking about value for money, the £100,000 spent opposing the rejection of this project is the same Cllr Scott and his partner gets in expenses from Croydon Council every year. I’ll leave it to readers to decide for themselves if that constitutes money well spent!

    It’s idiotic / ignorant to propose a tower in Purley. For Scott it’s not the tower it’s the power.

    I challenge Scott to name another site, that’s similar to this, anywhere in the UK, that has a building of this height consented. The arguments that this development could only be sustained through height is rubbish as is the argument anything is better than nothing.

    Is there another London borough that treats it’s suburbs with such contempt. Newman will have to answer this on the hustings soon.

    • Hazel swain says:

      its a borough that has ridden roughshod over the wishes of its residents in all of croydon .

  2. I suspect this development will never be built.

    No one will rent the ‘retail units’ because the economy’s not there.

    It is hideous, out of proportion and will massively increase congestion.

  3. John Harvey says:

    Thanks to Philp, Labour is now the party of business in Croydon.

  4. alicdoodle says:

    Purley is a small outlying part of Croydon with existing no high rise buildings and with no need of extra retail units as half the Purley high street is comprised of empty retail units…. Laura Ashley has closed, and half the restaurants have closed! Tescos decimated the rest! This development is totally out of character with Purley and is characteristic with Scott’s war with any part of the borough that tries to live in character and in scale it woudl appear. Also Purley cross is a traffic nightmare and this tower will make it much worse. `in summary, a very bad decision. A smaller scale redevelopment would have been better. Scott’s war with normal people continues (his developers continue to demolish family homes in Purley Kenley and South Croydon and replace them with nasty pokey flats nobody wants). For what? Flats could be built in central Croydon in brown sites but no, lets hit family homes in unsuitable areas. Bring on the council elections. OH and i see John Lewis has pulled out of purley way and westfield was nothing but a damp fart.

    Election please.

  5. Lewis White says:

    The residents of the flats will spend significant money in the small shops and restaurants of Purley. That would be a worthwhile boost to the town’s economy.

    Incidentally, I think I am right in saying that a proportion of the CIL (Community Infastructure Levy) from the development will be spent on improving the streetscape of Purley, and on other local benefits.

    It is important that the Council are held to account with the exact ways in which this “dowry” is spent , to benefit wider Purley. The residents associations who spoke at the Public Inquiry are key in this discussion.

  6. Sebastian Tillinger says:

    30% of 200 households frequenting some cafes in Purley and a shifty hand-over of the developer’s ransom (CIL) does justify Cllr Paul Scott’s mistake and Newman’s folly in Purley.

    It is a stupid mistake that’ll turn Purley into a mini Elephant and Castle. There’s a lot of things Purley needed but it wasn’t this.

  7. Dan Maertens says:

    Provision of a ‘landmark’ tower of up to 14 storeys in height has been part of the Purley element of the Croydon Local Plan for years (Policy DM35.1b), so is hardly a surprise despite strong opinions for and against.

    Personally it is long, long overdue for something to inhabit the old Sainsburys site and if the development stacks up it should be welcomed to lift the centre of Purley a bit, and actually create a landmark on the southern approach to Purley.

    Lewis White has spoken eloquently before about the design of the building and how imposing it might be, but in my view it’s a significant improvement over the 38 and 44 storey ‘green giants’ that now predominate on the westerly skyline from my purview in suburban Addiscombe. I fully appreciate that for many a 16-storey ‘tower’ might feel out of place, but in its proposed location it feels a good deal better than many of the recent blocks of flats replacing some of the large detached properties on other suburban streets in the Purley area that other commenters have referenced.

    Nowhere has a high rise building until the first one is built, and this particular site has been crying out for redevelopment for more than half of my adult life (I can remember the tram tracks that used to be in the road at Purley Cross).

    So please build it, and let’s remove the blight.

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