Addiscombe residents are preparing themselves for a renewed battle to save an historic, landmark house in their neighbourhood after the council’s planning department first refused planning permission to the building’s owners to convert the house into flats, and today refused permission for it to be demolished.
No 275 Addiscombe Road is a large family house built in the 1880s.
Locals who have researched the history of the area believe that it was one of two similar houses (the other was demolished 40 years ago) and that 275 glories in the name of “Ecclefechan”, the name of a village in the south of Scotland, the birthplace of historian Thomas Carlyle.
In the 1840s, Carlyle had been a frequent visitor to the nearby Ashburton House (also now long gone) when it was the home of Lady Ashburton; not far from 275 Addiscombe Road is Carlyle Road, named after the man of letters.
Harriet, Lady Ashburton, was a wealthy socialite, the daughter of the Earl of Sandwich and the wife of an MP, and she was often in correspondence with Carlyle, in her letters describing Addiscombe Farm as “a 10-minute walk from Croydon Station”, encouraging him to visit. Lady Ashburton also entertained William Thackeray and John Stuart Mill.
There had been no such grand parties at Ecclefechan in recent times, however, as it had been left vacant for many months, and was sold in July 2019 for £1.2million to a firm of property developers.
The new owner is a company called Marlpark 275 CRO Ltd, run by brothers Abbas and Habib Datoo, registered at an address in Scarbrook Road in Croydon town centre. Abbas Datoo, who describes his profession as “investor”, holds directorships in 30 similar companies, each set-up to buy and then develop properties in and around Croydon. Habid Datoo, an IT consultant, is a director of 14 companies.
A year ago, Marlpark 275 submitted a half-arsed application to convert their newly acquired property into nine flats, with a scheme which would have created a Frankenstein’s monster of a building, stripped of much of its original, grand Victorian features.
ASPRA, the Addiscombe and Shirley Park Residents’ Association, described the proposals as “greedy vandalism on a grand scale”. They believe that the building adds to the character and interest of the area.
It was not until earlier this month that the council planning department wrote to agents representing the owners to advise that their latest application to convert the building had been refused permission because they “would have harmed the character and appearance of the host dwelling, the wider area and the non-designated heritage asset”.
The developers’ response was to file an immediate second application, this time to demolish the building altogether.
“I can only imagine this is pure spite from the developer, who has found locals objecting to his previous planning applications, which were turned down by the council, so he has just decided to knock it down,” one concerned resident told Inside Croydon.
ASPRA feared the worst, not least because they received advice from a council planning official that “demolition of existing buildings is largely permitted development under government regulations (meaning it already has planning permission in effect) unless the building is listed, or is in a conservation area, or is a pub that is listed as an Asset of Community Value.
“If 275 Addiscombe Road is none of the above, all the case officer can consider is how the building is to be demolished and how the site is proposed to be restored afterwards.
“They can’t refuse the demolition itself.”
This news was a low blow to the residents, who at short notice managed to stir up enough concern among their neighbours that 95 lodged objections to the demolition and the proposal was opposed by Labour and Conservative councillors from both of the adjoining Addiscombe wards.
“Disappointing that the developer want[s] to demolish this Victorian house,” Sean Fitzsimons, a Labour councillor in Addiscombe West, tweeted.
“On heritage grounds, good to save 275 Addiscombe Road.”
Today, the council planning department wrote again to Marlpark (to the address of new agents – Stiles Harold Williams) to advise that permission to demolish 275 Addiscombe Road had also been refused.
Case official George Clarke’s report states that the application had been refused because of the method of demolition and trees on the site.
The report states, “The method statement has been reviewed by the Council’s Highways Engineers and a number of issues identified including concern that deliveries would be made during peak traffic hours, no delivery booking system or procedure for multiple vehicles arriving at the site is included, potential damage to the highway from HGVs and a lack of swept path analysis to show that HGVs can manoeuvre to and from the site safely.
“Given the above, the method of demolition proposed is considered to be unsatisfactory.
“There is also considered to be insufficient information regarding how the site would be restored following demolition.”
All of which, of course, could be addressed in an amended, better-drafted application for demolition.
The planners were also unhappy with the scheme’s approach to the trees on the site.
“There is a Tree Preservation Order for the site (TPO/47/2988)… The Council is also concerned that large vehicles accessing and egressing from the site may damage a street tree. The method of demolition is therefore unacceptable.”
ASPRA members, who had been prepared for the worst, could barely believe that they had managed to succeed with the council’s planners.
“That’s the best news I’ve had for a very long time,” said one of the campaigners.
The residents realise that the developers could re-submit an application or appeal either or both of the council’s decisions to the planning inspectorate.
“We’ll keep working on this. We will have to see what case we can make to have the building listed,” they said.
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Mr Datoo was also behind the vandalism that resulted in the Lego brick Liberty Point replacing the Blackhorse pub. Who knows what monstrosity would be built if this building is not protected.
Croydon Planning and the Councillors, and of course all the local residents who are campaigning to save this characterful building, deserve our thanks for their actions.
The proposals submitted to date were for a lumpy mess of a converted building.
Surely Mr Datoo could make get his architect or building designer to do something a lot better, and still get more accommodation on site, and still make decent money ?
The silly thing is that it would look to be possible to keep the turret and left hand side of the building and design a much better right-hand side, where the current garage is, to create more accommodation on this side and behind it. Even adding a turret to balance the building as viewed from the street.
Jill S’s comment above does not, sadly, inspire hope. The lego building she refers to on the site of the former pleasant local landmark pub the Black Horse, is truly one of Croydon’s ugliest. Definitely in the top 5 (or should it be bottom?) of my Croydon carbuncle “dirty dozen”.
I bet the likes of Mr Datoo and Co sleep like babies at night.
Knocking down beautiful, large houses and replacing them with blocks of characterless flats, that designers have given little or no thought to the aesthetics of the building is vandalism as described by the local people objecting to this development. Croydon planning department don’t seem to care. Large family homes are being demolished all over the borough to satisfy the greed of developers. We need more homes but not everyone wants to live in a home that has the same design qualities as a shoe box.
There are literally hundreds of empty “luxury flats” (when is a new-build flat never “luxury”?) already built and being built in Croydon, so there is simply no justification for replacing grand architecture just to build nine more.
I’m not against converting dis-used office blocks or historically empty land to build apartments (such as the areas around East Croydon Station near to Boxpark for example).
I think the government needs to pay more attention to historical buildings and protect such structures from greedy developers at all costs. Many years will pass and it will be a real rarity!