What trade magazine Property Week described as “an unprecedented volume of planning applications” has been submitted to Croydon Council in the couple of weeks since the authority issued a Section 114 notice to declare itself broke.
Between October 1 and November 24, the council received 908 planning applications, up by almost one-fifth from the 772 in the same period last year.
Given that one of the criticisms contained within the PwC report into the failures associated with the council’s loss-making house-builders, Brick by Brick, was delays over the planning process caused by lack of staff to deal with its applications, the release of this information to the trade press at this time might appear to be a none-too-subtle attempt to win a reprieve for the planning department from many, if not all, of the additional job cuts being made in Fisher’s Folly.
It might even be an attempt to avoid any redundancy threat for the council’s director of planning, Heather Cheesbrough, who is seen by many as deeply implicated in approving and championing the various Brick by Brick schemes, as well as allowing private developers almost free rein to demolish family homes in the south of the borough and replace them with usually ugly and out-of-scale blocks of flats, while exercising little by way of effective planning controls.
Indeed, Cheesbrough herself is quoted extensively in the Property Week report.
“Resources are hugely stretched because we are trying very hard to sort out the financial situation,” Cheesbrough said. “We still have vast quantities of applications coming in and are still trying to provide a quality service to developers and residents.
“That isn’t easy with the financial challenge we’ve got. But we will try our very best to work with applicants and developers to achieve the very best. We will continue to be as professional as possible.
“We fully recognise that we need to all work together within Croydon, council leaders and politicians, to try and put us back on a more sustainable footing,” she said.
Property Week reported that “Cheesbrough declined to comment” on whether the council planned to borrow money from the Public Works Loans Board – the body offering historically low interest rates, which the council used to bankroll Brick by Brick, and also used in a “Revolving Investment Fund” to buy the Croydon Park Hotel and Colonnades leisure centre, as well as other commercial properties, with less-than-stellar results.
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