Council planners forced into U-turn over Hawthorn Crescent

The open space in front of 20 family homes in Hawthorn Crescent that Brick by Brick wants to build on. It has been given a reprieve, for now, at least

EXCLUSIVE: Brick by Brick scheme to build eight houses for private sale on open green space in Selsdon gets pulled from the planning committee agenda. By BARRATT HOLMES

Brick by Brick’s application to build on green space at Hawthorn Crescent in Selsdon has been dropped from this week’s planning committee meeting.

The decision was announced by Croydon Council within minutes of Inside Croydon’s report last night that highlighted the council-owned builders’ latest proposals to concrete over the borough’s open spaces.

Brick by Brick wants to build eight three-bed houses for private sale on a patch of green space, which with its hawthorn hedgerow and mature trees offers a buffer space for 20 existing houses from the speeding traffic on Old Farleigh Road.

No reason has been given for removing Hawthorn Crescent from the planning meeting, due to be held virtually tomorrow evening.

An official from the council’s democratic services department issued an email from Fisher’s Folly last night, barely 48 hours before the planning meeting was due to begin.

They wrote, “I have just been advised that the above application item has been withdrawn from the committee meeting on Thursday July 30, and will be considered at a later date.”

The somewhat bucolic artist’s impression of the eight houses, all three-storey, squeezed on to the side of Old Farleigh Road

There will be speculation that the planning department has been forced to defer this application because of a failure in administration elsewhere in the council, which has taken three months to consider an application for the public open space to be made an Asset of Community Value, or ACV.

With ACV status, Hawthorn Crescent would be difficult for even Croydon’s determined planning department to bulldoze through to help Brick by Brick.

But as Inside Croydon reported yesterday, while the ACV application was submitted in April, the council claimed that the correspondence had been left in the mailroom in Fisher’s Folly until a week ago. That was when the agenda for tomorrow night’s meeting was published, including a report of the Hawthorn Crescent application which made no reference to the ACV application.

Officials from the Selsdon Residents’ Association, who had submitted the ACV application in an effort to protect a local green space, questioned how the council planners could have drafted their report without referring to the ACV. When challenged, the council used its now-default excuse and blamed covid-19 for the mix-up.

“How convenient,” a Katharine Street cynic told Inside Croydon.

“Usually, when land or a building is being considered for ACV status, the council planners are obliged to defer any planning application. By bringing the application forward now, it looked suspiciously like the council is trying to fast-track the application before it can be granted ACV status.”

No one at the council was able today to offer an explanation for the withdrawal of the item from the planning committee agenda. It may well be that the council has taken a wise option and decided that it must carry out its civic responsibilities properly and consider the ACV application first.

The terrace of eight small houses will all be going for private sale, and so will do little to address the housing crisis in the borough, but have the potential to bolster Brick by Brick’s profits. An estimated sales value at current market values for the houses would be at least £4million.

Brick by Brick’s own schematic illustrates how eight houses would be squeezed into a small patch of land, surrounded by 20 existing homes

Not one of the houses Brick by Brick wants to build would be used for social housing, or do much to resolve the housing crisis. “The development proposes less than 10 units and therefore is not required to deliver affordable housing,” the planning officials’ report prepared on behalf of a Labour-run council states.

Hawthorn Crescent is in a Tory ward, Selsdon Vale and Forestdale, where the local councillor, Andy Stranack, is one of 70 people who have registered their objections on the council’s planning portal. After going through the initial part of the planning process, there is not a single comment in favour of this Brick by Brick scheme.

Hawthorn Crescent is also subject to a covenant, a legally binding document which strictly restricts what the land might be used for and requires it to be set aside as open space.

But the council wants to ignore the legal niceties: “This is not material to the determination of the planning application,” the official planning department report states.

Croydon Council is the local planning authority for the borough. Brick by Brick is the housing development company wholly-owned by Croydon Council. The council has lent at least £260million to the company over the past five years.

The council’s planning officer recommended that the Brick by Brick planning application for Hawthorn Crescent should be approved – just as council planning officers have recommended approval on every previous Brick by Brick scheme submitted.


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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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