Selsdon locals celebrate as Brick by Brick scheme refused

Labour’s Town Hall whip voted down the council-owned developers’ housing proposal, the first application from them to be rejected in four years.
BARRATT HOLMES, our housing correspondent, reports

The artist’s impression of the eight houses that BxB wanted to squeeze along Old Farleigh Road

Residents from Selsdon were celebrating today after their concerted objections saw an application from Brick by Brick to build eight houses on a patch of green space thrown out by the planning committee.

It is the first time in four years that the Labour-controlled council’s planning committee has rejected an application from the council-owned development company.

Earlier this month, the council turned down an application from the Selsdon Residents’ Association to have the green designated an Asset of Community Value. Had the village green-like open space been granted ACV status, Brick by Brick will have been prevented from developing the council-owned land.

The council’s planning department had recommended granting planning permission.

This is the second knock-back for a controversial and unpopular Brick by Brick scheme in a matter of weeks. Last month, after persistent campaigning by Waddon Labour councillor Robert Canning, the house-builders abandoned proposals to build an ugly block of flats in his ward.

All Brick by Brick’s previous applications that have reached the committee have been granted. Some Labour members of the planning committee have in the past accused Councillor Paul Scott of “whipping” them to pass schemes submitted by the council’s wholly-owned developers.

Labour whip Clive Fraser: voted against BxB scheme

Scott is the cabinet member for planning and at one time was the chair of the planning committee. Attempting to influence members of quasi-judicial planning committees, such as by whipping them along party lines, is illegal.

“If one fails, they all fail,” Scott was accused of telling his fellow Labour councillors.

Which makes the voting over Hawthorn Crescent last night all the more remarkable.

Because as well as Tory councillors Ian Parker, Lynne Hale and Gareth Streeter voting against the proposal, one Labour councillor, Leila Ben-Hassel abstained while her colleagues, Clive Fraser and Pat Clouder, actively voted against.

Fraser just happens to be the Labour group’s whip at the Town Hall, effectively council leader Tony Newman’s enforcer of party discipline.

The voting down of a Brick by Brick planning application by the Labour group whip comes just a few days before Newman is to face a vote of no confidence over his mishandling of the borough’s finances.

It may be more difficult for Fraser to ensure that Croydon’s Great Leader receives the unswerving support of all Labour councillors after the whip himself has broken ranks and managed to block one of the council’s house-builders’ developments.

Developers often appeal to the Planning Inspectorate if they have an application refused, and it seems possible that Brick by Brick may do so in this case – in which case they will be contesting a decision reached by the company’s owners. Which could be interesting.

A plan of how the air-raid shelter sits beneath the green at Hawthorn Crescent. BxB failed to carry out a promised survey of this potentially important piece of WWII heritage

Speaking on behalf of the residents last night was ward councillor Andy Stranack and local Ali Ball, who made the point in their presentation that Hawthorn Crescent “was built in 1928 as a model for how council housing was to be envisaged for the future… The green was an integral part of the architecture of the estate”.

Ball has lived on the Crescent for 16 years and told the committee that the green was “one of the main reasons I purchased my home”.

Ball said, “Countless children have grown up playing on the green in a safe environment and existing amenity space. And green space … is paramount to improving mental health.”

The shelter could accommodate 100 people, and is one of the largest remaining WWII bomb shelters

The decision to refuse planning permission also means that a World War II air-raid shelter, built under the green with the capacity for 100 people, will also get a reprieve. Brick by Brick had promised to conduct a survey of the shelter, but never did. In their application, Brick by Brick said wanted to demolish it.

“We have one of the largest preserved World War II air-raid shelters in the county which is full of historic artwork and will be destroyed and no care given to our war heroes who fought to protect our country and sovereignty,” Ball said.

And Ball warmed to the theme. “Since the council reduced land maintenance, we have had continued wildflower growth and bats have increased their residency in the numerous bat boxes in the trees on site.

“If you take away our green space you are destroying the community, nature, the ecosystem and erasing history and memories, brick by brick!”

Perhaps, for a while at least, that’s no longer the case.

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
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8 Responses to Selsdon locals celebrate as Brick by Brick scheme refused

  1. Lorraine Maskell says:

    Great news – well done guys, let’s hope this is the turning point when green space starts to become more important than concrete. Gord your loins for the appeal though!!

  2. Ann Marie Wright says:

    I’m so pleased to hear that Brick by Brick won’t be allowed to build on yet another green space! Part of residents’ quality of life is to have green spaces for all ages and I wish Croydon Council would understand this. The area has become too built up, with no fore thought to how this concrete jungle development will impact on people’s lives. Children need green space, as do adults.

  3. Chris Flynn says:

    A turning tide – every man for himself!

  4. Lewis White says:

    I have always–perhaps naively– thought that these greens, being in council ownership, and part of designed estates –were deliberately allocated by the planners and designers of such developments as open space for use by local residents, whether they had or did not have gardens. And that they were therefore safe from being built on. Hundreds of children must have played football on such greens, with groups of neighbours and children from around about. Others will have zoomed round on their bikes, played hand-stands and –in the childhood innocence of the 1950s and 60’s , played “wars” and “cowboys and Indians” . All things that need space, and can’t be played in back gardens , nor on most playgroyunds , which tend to be cages containing play equipment, but not much space.

    I have no idea how many children today still play in such locations, but I suspect that quite a few do–and that they will in future. Children need to be able to play, run around, ride theior bikes, and socialise in safe places, in the open air . These greens allow this. In addition, such greens provide a place for large trees to be planted, to grow and do their air-purifying best, without needing to be pruned as the greens give space for the trees’ canopies to grow up and outwards without blocking anyone’s daylight.

    I really don’t envy the council’s task of seeking suitable places to build new homes, whether for “affordable sale” or as council housing.

    So, where do we build?

    There is not a huge amount of “brown field land” left in Croydon, as still present in other boroughs with derelict sites left from departed industry and we have few of the extensive NHS sites like the former psychiatric hopsitals around Sutton and Epsom. A local example–Cane Hill- is now close to completion, and has added around 670 family homes in 2, 3 and 4 bedroom houses and flats–including affordable homes. It is well designed, and incorporates the majority of trees and all of the woodlands upon the site.

    We also need to keep enough existing industrial land to service the needs of London and Croydon, both for small enterprsies like car repairers, and larger ones. Some rationalisation however, must be feasible. Some sites released would be suitable for housing, others, not.

    We need to treasure the countryside and open spaces designated just after after WW2 as “Green Belt” and “Metropolitan Open Land”, but equally, in my considered view, need to be open to rational change, and logical extension of settlements in certain cases. But renewal of our existing urban and suburban areas and villages and towns in the Green Belt must be done in preference.

    So where ? I hate to, but have to say it, but the re-cycling of suburban areas by the private sector developers as we see in the roads leading into central Purley, taking down existing buildings on large plots and replacing them with more dwellings– must be part of the “redevelopment mix”. Subject to good design and avoiding “town cramming”. I have not yet taken up Inside Croydon’s challenge to list some good “backland development ” but may soon submit such a list–with illustrations. Exactly which areas are OK for redevelopment of course is often a matter of stringent debate. However, the role of the local authority is to make wise –sometimes difficult decisions. Hence all over the UK, we need sensible, respectful debate about planning, involving the public, and councils who listen, take views into consideration, but have the courage to have a planning (including architrectural, greening, housing and economic) vision for the future of their areas. The public and residents’ associations need to set aside nimbyism and blinkers, and act responsibly too.

    Undoubtedly, there is a huge acreage of land that was developed in the mid 20th century for council housing on the “Cottage estate” model. Larger examples include the St Helier Estate. There must be a percentage of these estates , where densities can be increased, by demolishing areas with a low density of houses on large land areas. Not a vote winner, but it needs to be considered seriously in my view.

    In London, we are living in one of the lowest rise, greenest capitals in the World. Compared with many European capitals, and most African and Asian capitals, we are living in an oasis of trees.
    Sadly, even so, some areas are very “non-green” as viewed from the street, even though there are trees and gardens and waste ground behind. Many of these gardens and areas are derelict. Many of the dwellings are time-expired and are cheek-by-jowl with traffic.

    I would like to see some areas of Croydon comprehensively renewed to give everyone living in these areas a well-insulated new or refurbished home at a distance from traffic, with a green environment, and with places for children to play and run around. It would require compulsory purchase. To jusitify this, new development has to be high quality in all ways. It would have to be economically viable too, meaning more housing. Renewal would mean keeping and greening the best, insulating the houses, and renewing the run-down areas, with new houses and flats.

    We have to accept higher densities. The skill is, to do this and at the same time to make the London oasis greener and more liveable for all.

    • Sebastian Tillinger says:

      I think it’s important that we all stop listening to the bullshit that Cllr Paul Scott espouses about the lack of viable brownfield sites in Croydon.

      It is all politically driven rubbish to distract attention from his destructive ‘easy-win’ policy to concrete over all the green parts of our borough. That’s why developers bend over when Scott enters the room – they are returning his favour.

      Three years ago, the GLA, under Regulation 4 of the Town and Country Planning (Brownfield Land Register) Regulations 2017 required all local Planning Authorities to publish brownfield land registers identifying land suitable for residential and mixed-use developments. And these are all listed on a the London Brownfield Site map, apart from data from Croydon Council.

      All local authorities have complied with the instruction to provide Brownfield site data apart from Croydon Council Planning Department, steered by Cllr Paul Scott.

      Why is Croydon Council concealing it’s provision of Brownfield sites?

      I think we all know why; its all part of Tony Newman’s regime to suppress information and turn a blind eye whilst Cllr Paul Scott runs amok.

  5. Sebastian Tillinger says:

    Thursday’s committee was another example of the fuck-wittery that passes as planning in this borough.

    Brick by Brick should not have spent £200,000 of council money taking plans for this site forward.

    We saw conflicted Cllr Scott attempting to defend the indefensible and unable to contain his disdain at any criticism of Brick by Brick (who were effectively commissioned to do this scheme by his partner).

    He also dismissed concerns about the mental health of residents – what a nasty little shit Scott is.

    And then Cllr Fraser opposing the development because he thought it damaged the setting for an historic example of ‘socialist housing’; propose the same in Kenley or Purley and Fraser will say who gives a fuck?

    The one positive outcome of the shambolic proceedings was that the chair twice forget to call Cllr Toni Letts to vote; it would seem everyone now realises just how useless this particular planning committee member is.

    And then there was Cllr Chris Clark who was stuffing his face with food from what looked like a baby’s potty? Next time Chris, do us all a favour and switch your cam off.

  6. Alain says:

    Wow, so there is hope for the rest of us.
    Even some Labour Councillors are voting against outrageous planning applications in Croydon.
    I suppose they are listening more to their own conscience rather than following dictatorial diktat.

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