Residents’ associations angrily reject Scott’s concrete plans

Croydon’s housing targets are out-of-step with the Mayor’s London Plan, and residents are on the warpath against the Town Hall’s planning chief, reports BARRATT HOLMES, our housing correspondent

When Paul Scott, the architect behind Croydon’s disastrous planning and housing policies, endorsed a self-congratulatory article for the council’s website last month, he unwittingly unleashed the pent-up fury of eight of the borough’s biggest, and most influential, residents’ associations.

The article on behalf of the cabinet member for planning (job share; £39,195 per year in council allowances) came under the impressive-seeming headline, “Borough reaches milestone in long-term housing plan”.

Any pour souls who were patient enough to wade through all 800-plus words of councilspeak and dry prose were to be disappointed, though: nowhere did the council press officer who drafted this piece of piffle, nor Scott himself, bother to state what this “milestone” that they claimed had been reached might be.

“Croydon Council has begun the next stage of working out how many thousands of new homes will be delivered over the next 20 years to tackle the housing crisis and boost the borough’s economy,” the article began, quickly revealing that this would in fact be a justification for Scott’s personal mission to concrete over Croydon’s green spaces, playgrounds and suburban streets.

According to the Croydon Council article, “Based on government methodology, up to 46,040 new homes are needed in the borough by 2039.

Paul Scott: helps profit-hungry developers, does little for residents or the homless

“Last year the Mayor of London proposed in his draft London Plan that Croydon and other boroughs in the capital should plan to accommodate an increased number of new homes.”

The article then refers to a letter sent to London Mayor Sadiq Khan from Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for housing, that suggested “gentle densification”.

Scott has latched on this to claim that “this means at least 33,496 new homes by 2039 – 6,905 more than under the council’s approved Local Plan.”

But according to the eight residents’ associations, “Councillor Scott and Croydon Council hide their ideology behind a London-wide housing crisis, even though this has not caused other London boroughs to concrete over their suburbs.”

Geoff James, the planning officer for KENDRA, the Kenley and District Residents’ Association, has written a lengthy critique of Scott’s claims, in which he says, “Councillor Scott’s position is not tenable, as he can only attempt to support this policy by making very selective and erroneous interpretations of the comments from the examiners of the draft London Plan, and of a recent letter from Robert Jenrick.”

James’s paper already has the backing of the Foxley RA, Hartley and District RA, Purley and Woodcote RA, Riddlesdown RA, Woodland Way RA, Old Coulsdon RA and Sanderstead RA. Between them, these RAs are reckoned to represent more than 6,000 households in the south of the borough.

In Scott’s article, it was noticeable that he has quietly opted to scale-down one of his grand plans – to build 12,000 flats on brownfield sites in former industrial estates along the Purley Way. It seems likely that Scott has been forced to scale down this part of his building project after being scolded in a letter sent to the council from the Mayor of London in January which said, “the Mayor would welcome a better understanding of how approximately 12,000 homes could be delivered along the Purley Way without impacting the industrial functions of the Purley Way Strategic Industrial Locations”. 

You can read the Mayor’s letter and 25-page response to Croydon Council in full in pdf format by clicking here.

According to Scott’s latest article, he now “only” wants to squeeze 9,000 homes alongside the toxic A23 urban motorway. But that is potentially is bad news for the leafier suburbs to the south of the borough, who fear that Scott will expect to load another 3,000 flats in their neighbourhoods.

“Croydon was already in the grip of a London-wide housing crisis before the coronavirus pandemic, and the need to tackle homelessness, overcrowding and affordability is now more important than ever,” Scott wrote.

“The government and the Mayor of London have made clear we must build more homes in Croydon than we previously planned, and to do this will require small, large, urban and suburban sites.”

James and the residents’ associations say that Scott wants to “build on the suburbs to reach greater new-build housing targets that will materially exceed any of the already ambitious targets set by the Mayor of London”.

In his paper, James writes, “To achieve the housing targets that Paul Scott has set, it is necessary to intensify housing density in the suburbs.

“The council has actively attracted developers to ply their trade within the borough. The way for these developers to make the most profit is to buy a family home on a medium-sized plot and replace it with a much larger new building, typically of no more than nine flats. In Kenley, and in all the other southern wards, we are seeing permissions granted for this format over and over again.

“The southern part of the borough lacks the infrastructure that is present in the northern part. The residents in southern wards have many fewer access points to the National Health Service. Our quality of roads and pavements is poor, the housing is often set on steep hills, and very few areas are deemed to have sufficient access to public transport. Use of a car has therefore become a necessity, rather than a choice.”

James highlights that national planning policy allows profit-hungry developers to avoid having to provide any “affordable” housing within their schemes if they are building nine or fewer units. Some sly developers have even bought up a succession of family homes along one street and – rather than submit a single application for planning permission for all of the properties – has applied for permission for separate blocks of nine flats on each plot.

One member of the Croydon planning committee has referred to this as a “9-9-9 housing emergency”. Though the council’s planning department and the planning committee have never sought to do anything about this transparent gaming of the system.

James writes, “The bulk of the new developments are aimed at the executive market because this leads to the greatest profit for the developer and are consequently far from ‘affordable’. In Kenley, we have a large number of intensification proposals that are being assessed under the Croydon Local Plan. Of these 38 intensive planning proposals, 34 (89 per cent) are for nine units or fewer.”

And James suggests that Scott’s housing targets for Croydon are not deliverable. Supporting his argument is none other than Sadiq Khan.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan: his planners have told Scott the housing target for Croydon is too high

“The Mayor of London has told Croydon Council in a letter dated January 21 2020 that the current housing targets, as set by Cllr Paul Scott, are an ‘ambition’ and are not consistent with the London Plan.

“Anyone challenging the council on their over-ambitious housing targets is presented with an explanation that the targets are taken from the Mayor’s draft London Plan and are broadly in line with the previous housing target for Croydon. So the current Croydon Local Plan remains valid.

“Yet the Mayor’s housing targets have been reduced since being reviewed by the examiners.

“Croydon’s new housing delivery targets are not sustainable,” James writes. “It is not just about meeting housing targets. We need the right kind of homes to be built in the right places.”

Mayor Khan’s draft London Plan underwent examination by experts, and they, James writes, “went to some length to explain why they disagreed with the very planning policies upon which Croydon Council depends to deliver their housing targets”. The examiners specifically warned Croydon (and Scott) against trying to meet high housing targets with an excessive dependency on the development of what are called “windfall sites”: demolishing and converting existing homes.

“At the ward level this is exactly what is occurring in our southern wards,” James writes.

“Croydon Council is careful to avoid ward-level conversations on housing targets. This is because, for many of the southern wards, it is clear that the Croydon Local Plan seeks to deliver 100 per cent of new housing from windfall sites.”

In their review, the examiners said,

“… the imposition of such large increases in this element of the target is heavy-handed“.

windfall sites “…would not positively contribute to the Good Growth objectives”.

“… cumulative impacts… need to be considered in relation to small sites. These include the consequences for the special character of an area including green cover and tree canopies, for health and social infrastructure and for transport”.

And in another comment, the examiners might have had Croydon Councillor Scott in mind when they said, “legitimate concern that this eventuality would lead to an over-attention on the number of units to be delivered rather than achieving the right sort of development in the right place”.

With the examiners and Mayor of London backing up the residents’ associations’ arguments, James writes, “It has become clear that Councillor Scott is seeking to achieve high levels of new housing delivery from small sites by granting nearly 100 per cent of the windfall applications that are presented to the planning committee.

The letter sent on behalf of Mayor Khan to the Croydon planning department in January which states a reduction in housing targets of almost 10,000 homes. Scott wants to increase the target

“It is straightforward to recognise from the examiners’ comments that Councillor Scott fails to recognise how such a ‘windfall’ delivery strategy does not contribute to Good Growth objectives, focuses too much attention on the achievement of numerical targets, and particularly fails to consider the cumulative impacts.

“His strategy also assumes that all developments are acceptable even when they have serious problems.”

James cites some of the issues that have arisen with windfall developments around Kenley, Purley and Sanderstead:

    • There are no acceptable (ie safe) walking routes to access public transport
    • Poor availability of public transport (the site is given a public transport rating – PTAL – of 3 or less)
    • There are insufficient accessible local retail outlets or other local facilities
    • The only access to local schools is very often by car
    • The local roads and pavements are too narrow to be safe for pedestrians
    • There are already excessive levels of on-street parking
    • There are other poor infrastructure facilities, such as drainage, sewers and power
    • Local services (such as education and healthcare) are already under extreme pressure

There is some political irony in the situation, in that while the Labour Mayor of London is scaling back Croydon’s housing targets, and the Tory MP for Croydon South, Chris Philp, is almost daily issuing objections to the latest windfall development proposed in his constituency, Croydon’s Labour-run council has grasped hold of a letter from the Conservative housing minister to justify their ambition to concrete over the borough.

Robert Jenrick: Scott is using the housing minister’s letter to support his targets

Jenrick’s letter in March, James writes, has made Scott “feel empowered”.

But James suggests that Scott and the council have wilfully misinterpreted a large part of the Jenrick letter (which is available here, as a pdf).

“The Jenrick letter makes several things very clear,” James writes.

“Intensification must ‘complement the surrounding area and not be to its detriment’. It should only be applied gently, and only in areas where it is appropriate. ‘Gentle intensification’ should only be around high streets and town centres. Intensification should be in areas that are able to accommodate it. It should not provide excessive numbers of one- and two-bed flats to the detriment of family-sized dwellings which are and will continue to be needed.

“The Jenrick letter is clearly telling Councillor Scott that Croydon Council is being too aggressive in their process to intensify the suburbs and that they need to significantly slow down. They need to build the right sort of housing and not simply approve everything.”

According to James, in the council planning article, Scott “ridiculously contradicts himself” by saying that “Development should be focused on areas with good public transport.”

James writes, “Such an approach would have resulted in most planning applications in Kenley and other southern wards being refused – but this has not happened.”

James and the residents’ associations accuse Scott of patronising them at planning meetings, while invariably praising his fellow architects and talking-up developers’ plans.

“Any attempt to ask the council to consider cumulative impacts of the windfall developments of family homes being replaced by nine flats is invariably met with a statement that this single development will have an insignificant impact on the area,” James writes.

“But these responses are in direct contradiction to the examiners’ warnings over the London Plan and now also the letter from Robert Jenrick.

“By granting nearly everything, Councillor Scott and the council fail to recognise the sheer number of developments that have already been approved and how each small impact is cumulative for the area. But Councillor Scott has his ideology. The article on the council website shows that he will try to twist everything to support his views.”


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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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15 Responses to Residents’ associations angrily reject Scott’s concrete plans

  1. A really excellent article, informative, timely and important

  2. Sebastian Tillinger says:

    This demonstrates the extent to which Cllr Paul Scott has gone rogue in the delivery of housing in the London Borough if Croydon.

    Cllr Scott is clearly ignoring advice / guidance from the Greater London Council, the Planning Inspectorate and the Minister for Housing and is instead doggedly pursuing his personal vision. And such is his hubris, he is happy to misrepresent the aforementioned advice/guidance in communications to residents. That is quite shocking.

    There are two types of housing planning on Croydon Council’s radar. There’s the very challenging but ultimately big win brownfield sites such as Purley Way, and there’s developing tiny windfall sites in the southern suburbs to produce lots and lots of luxury condominiums.

    Anyone with an ounce of sense will see the former will achieve the type of development Croydon needs to begin to address its housing crisis and the latter will do absolutely nothing for those in need of housing. That’s everyone apart from Cllr Paul Scott.

    Developing complex brownfield sites is difficult, it’s not glamorous, it needs skill, experience and will not win you lots of planning plaudits; its something that Cllr Scott has repeatedly failed to deliver on and the Mayor has recently admonished the council about this.

    Developing condos in the suburbs, on the other hand, is a walk in the park; you just have to delete lots of planning policy, ignore residents and watch the numbers for the wrong type of housing ratchet up. This is the silly game Cllr Scott is playing.

    The Southern RA’s have got together to express their grave concern about Tony Newman’s planning / housing policies, but this is also echoed throughout the borough.

    Tony Newman needs to think on; this problem is not going to go away and is now more in focus than ever because the GLA, the Government, the Planning Inspectorate, a large proportion of Residents Associations and an increasing number of Croydon residents are sick of being ignored and are sick of the council’s blatant misinterpretation and misrepresentation of London and National planning advice.

    • Again, I agree with everything you say. Scott’s arrogance allied to Tony’s ignorance will be the root of their joint downfall. You can ignore the electorate for only just so long before the outcome is electoral disaster. Only one comment. You say Scott is :”…doggedly pursuing his personal vision” That is true….his camera is always flipped to show a picture of him!

    • alicdoodle says:

      we pay huge council tax, we work hard and we don’t want to live in a blighted environment. We love Purley and want it to retain some green character, not be knocked down and all the lovely houses replaced with flats. People want to move to houses. Leave them so they can move to houses.

  3. Marion de Souza says:

    Agree with everything said. I think Scott should be fired by the Labour council and another person
    put in his place who knows what they are doing and doing it correctly for Croydon.

  4. alicdoodle says:

    Kenley is an area without shops apart from the currently closed Coop. It has one bus route on the A22. It has steep narrow roads and is an area with family homes. So it’s an area that people buy homes in to have family homes.

    Flats are inappropriate developments – they are being built to profit, not for any sense – the people who live in Kenley are families. Flats need to be built near infrastructure and near town centres. Eventually flat dwellers get married or partnered, have kids or need more space and need a family home. If they have all been knocked down for awful nine-flat developments by Scott the vandal, where will these people go? Apart from the actual vandalism of beautiful family homes that we should care about – this is our environment. I’m no snob, people need homes but what about the brownfield sites? The old post office site at East Croydon? The site near the car park at East Croydon? Westfield?
    Kenley, Purley and Sanderstead – it’s just vindictive destruction.

    • Sebastian Tillinger says:

      Brownfield sites are difficult to develop – luxury condos in Kenley are easy. Cllr Scott likes the easy option as there’s nothing for him to do. He’s sits on the planning committee directing a particularly weak Chair of planning as to what to say and that’s about it.

      That’s why I call it lazy planning. And our planning department and Heather Cheesbrough is complicit in this sloppy planning with blurred targets.

      Meanwhile, the really important brownfield sites that should be delivering big housing numbers by now are just being tinkered with, to the extent Croydon Council has been seriously told off by the GLA.

      Hopeless.

  5. alicdoodle says:

    Thank you for reporting this – it is important. This is our town, our environment. Housing is important.

  6. Lewis White says:

    Our town , yes, but who are “we”? Are we single, married or partnered, without children, or with 2.4 children, or 4.2 children, are 20 somethings, or 70 somethings? It is also the town of our children and other people’s children, who will need a place–a decent place–to live. We all do, and our needs change as we age. Overall, we need a mix of accommodation, not a duo-culture of semis, and detached for the more fortunate folk, which is what a lot of the people seem to think our town should be.

    When I go around the streets of Purley and other areas with big houses on big plots, in many cases I think– there is a time-expired big house with huge, lofty rooms, unsuitable for conversion to flats. Or, a building sitting on a huge plot, or a big house sitting alongside a busy road near the town centre. Or a building looks really badly insulated, and probably a “money pit” and consumer of huge amounts of fuel and contrbutor to waste of energy / global warming.

    In most of these cases, subject to preserved and new greening, aesthetics, and adequacy of parking, I welcome redevelopment. Going along Foxley Lane the other day, I saw new blocks and landscaping of far higher architectural, comfort and landscape quality than the buildings they have replaced. In some cases, the new ones are undoubtedly large, and in many cases, they look luxurious. But far better than what was there.

    Infilling, if well done, backland development, ditto…. can all be excellent, giving more places for people to live, and live well. This includes single people, many of whom are widowed, and who want to downsize, but stay in the area, with their friends and social support networks. Is that bad?
    People forget that by moving, these downsizers sell their old (often 3 or 4 bedroom) house to a family who need a house.

    In fact, I think that we are fortunate round here to have a large number of developers who take one of these buildings and get planning permission for a number of houses or a replacement block of flats. There is an identifiable “Surrey Style” in the Surrey/ Croydon area with pitched clay tiled roofs, tile hanging and good quality brickwork, and areas of white rendering, and a modern variant of it with similar materials but in a more modern style. These are often so much better in aesthetcs and build qulaity, and comfort, than what they have replaced. Also, some buildings are gutted and rebuilt, creating modern, well insulated accommodation.

    Every block of flats has to be populated by someone. In the 1960’s and 70’s in Wallington and South Sutton, hundreds of huge Victorian houses, of very little design merit, nor comfort, were knocked down and replaced with rather bland blocks of their time, the type with white “ranch-style” wood panelling on front. At the time, I remember well thinking -what ugly new blocks–but in the course of time, I have realised that many are in fact good examples of domestic design of their times–and that they have given comfortable flats loved by their owners for now well over 50 years.

    Also, the landscaping has mellowed.

    I think I am right in saying that theire is a general principal in the UK that we “hold” land from teh Crown, we do not “own” it. Society has needs, and we need to respect that land and buildings need to be used wisely, to the greater benefit.

    “Condominiums” is an American term, like Apartments. We used to say “Flats” but maybe the term got tainted by the tower blocks of brutalist memory.

    What ever they are called, depending on the number of bedrooms, they need to provide good qaulity accommodation. Nationally, we need to go back to the space standards of the 1960’s as some new flats are tiny.

    Where I am concerned is in the over-development of land, leaving inadequate greening, and in blocks that are out of scale with the setting, and blocks that are bang up against the street, with no trees between them and the traffic. Very poor conversions of shops to flats are now a huge danger, due to Government mooted planning relaxations, very like their former Eric Pickles initiative “build an extension the size of a double decker bus in your garden without the inconvenience of having to get planning permission and sod the neighbours’ daylight and views” (my term)

    A careful watch does need to be kept on the types of building being built, and yes, there are some really awful new buildings, but also, many more good ones. The mix is the thing–and the quality–and the greening. In my view.

    • You risk sounding like Paul Scott, Lewis.

      So this: “Infilling, if well done, backland development, ditto…. can all be excellent”. Really? Can you cite an example, any examples, of infilling or garden developments in Croydon in the past 10 years that, by any reasonable standard, can truly be described as “excellent”, in all respects?

      • Sebastian Tillinger says:

        Can you also cite an example, any examples, of windfall developments in Croydon in the past 10 years that, by any reasonable standard, can truly be described as “affordable housing”.

        Thought not.

    • alicdoodle says:

      Who are WE, we are hardworking people (in our case, a family in our 40s) who have slowly slogged our way to a place in Purley via two flats in West Croydon putting work into the community by renovating two derelict properties on the way to get to a house. We are surrounded at the moment by other families and yes a couple of older couples but guess what, that’s good. When they move out then more families will hopefully move to their big houses and live here. The area cannot sustain lots of flats as there is no infrastrure for that kind of lifestyle. The flats built so far have not sold either.

      The flats being built here now are just blatant profiteering. They bring no benefit to the area or to those poor people who will have to live in a single aspect 40 metre square box with no parking and no storage space and no garden. I fail to see how that is better use of this area than a 3 or 4 bed family house that a family can buy or rent. Flats need to be near amenities in the town centre. That demographic are less likely to have a car, will commute, will want bars adn shops. There are none here. You need a car here. There is no parking here.

  7. Catherine Roberts says:

    Boris is keen to ”Build, build, build” as he needs to create ”Jobs, jobs, jobs”.
    And planning law is being relaxed further to allow homeowners to add 2 storeys to houses without full planning permission.
    Also read that Cummings and Jenrick are moving towards the model of setting up strategic development corporations.

  8. Lorraine Maskell says:

    I am incensed by this. Unfortunately there seems no way of stopping it. The council has been told off by the GLA and the Government but still they continue.
    The flats aren’t being purchased as they are too expensive – and still it continues. What do we do to stop it and hold our LA to account for what they are doing to our once green and relatively pleasant Borough? We have lots of Brownfields needing development – windfalls should NOT be allowed.

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