If there was any doubt of the contempt in which the residents of this borough are held by the six-figure salaried executives at Brick by Brick and their paymasters at Croydon Council, then one need only look at the back-slapping guff which Colm Lacey, the chief executive of the loss-making housing developer, spewed forth on Friday, within hours of the latest Town Hall planning meeting.
Since Brick by Brick was formed as a company wholly-owned by Croydon Council in 2015, it has a 100 per cent record of its applications being granted permission by the local planning authority – which just happens to be Croydon Council. This, of course, arouses no suspicions whatsoever…
So it was that on Thursday, the council’s planning committee duly waved through a scheme to build a four-storey block of nine flats on public open space in Covington Way, Norbury. This is despite legal covenants, signed by the council and going back nearly a century, which specifically forbid building anything on this green space.
For Colm Lacey, concreting over a precious green space, used by generations of families and children for community events, is some kind of triumph for … “sustainability”.
Seriously: this is what the former council employee had the audacity to claim in comments to his mates in the trade press that were published the day after the council agreed to break its legal covenants and allow yet more building on green open space.
Instead of the public open space, the three- and four-storey block (all other buildings in the neighbourhood are less than half the height proposed) will provide “a community garden”.
The public relations guff was issued suspiciously quickly after planning permission was confirmed. It reads like the deathless prose of estate agents. The heavy sell is already underway.
“The new building completes the corner site and frames the green space, with large dormer windows providing views across Norwood Grove recreation ground and balconies looking on to the canopies of mature trees,” the tame hacks at PBC Today faithfully cut and pasted on to their website.
“The scheme,” the trade mag’s website informs us, “features a number of measures to improve environmental performance… These measures form part of Brick By Brick’s commitment to a new set of One Planet Living principles.”
Nowhere does it mention whether concreting over green space and axing mature trees meets any “One Planet Living” principles. But now, because Lacey has said so, in our Orwellian borough, the block of flats at Covington Way are being referred to as “sustainable homes”.
“Securing planning consent for this site is another step forward for Brick By Brick’s ambitious pipeline,” said Lacey. They love an “ambitious pipeline” in our Orwellian Town Hall.
Let’s take a closer look at what Lacey also said.
“These homes, which have been designed in close collaboration with the local community…”
“Close collaboration”? The planning application received 89 comments, almost all from members of that “local community”. Not a single comment was in favour of the development.
The homes, Lacey said, “… will help to address the shortage of high-quality and affordable homes across Croydon”.
They really won’t.
Six of the flats will go for private sale, doubtless at a premium price, given the location(a cool half-a-million for a two-bed flat, based on recent BxB releases). Three flats are supposed to be for unaffordable shared ownership (even though under Lacey, Brick by Brick has failed to register as an approved supplier of shared ownership homes).
This development is nothing to do with the housing crisis, and everything to do with boosting Brick by Brick’s sagging bottom line under Lacey’s mismanagement. Since 2015, with Lacey in charge, Brick by Brick has managed to deliver just three purpose-built council homes…
It might be worth noting that at Thursday’s planning meeting, although the Covington Way scheme had attracted widespread criticism and objections from residents in Norbury Park ward, the Brick by Brick scheme had no objections lodged by the ward’s local councillors on behalf of their residents, nor did the councillors speak against the proposal at the planning meeting.
Norbury Park ward is supposed to be represented by Labour councillors Sherwan Chowdhury (ceremonial deputy mayor; council allowances £21,206) and Alisa Flemming (cabinet member for children; £45,168).
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