Council still receiving ‘vast quantities’ of planning applications

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.

Developers remain keen to move in on Croydon

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.

Heather Cheesbrough: worked to get approval for BxB schemes

“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.

Read more: Brick by Brick has paid nothing to council
Read more: ‘An accountant could have foreseen this more than a year ago’
Read more: Officials to investigate possible wrong-doing at council

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10 Responses to Council still receiving ‘vast quantities’ of planning applications

  1. John Harvey says:

    I suspect that developers hope that Croydon’s need for money from government will result in pressure to allow more applications through to meet ridiculous Tory new-build statistics. Tomorrow’s slums

  2. The huge influx of planning applications (many for badly designed, over-sized buildings on plots that are too small) is not because Croydon Council has gone bankrupt.

    It is because Croydon Council is a bankrupt borough with a planning policy that has been so fucked up by Cllr Paul Scott with the acquiescing Heather Cheesbrough, what developer wouldn’t want to have a punt at submitting an over-blown scheme? Who knows, it might stick and if it gets consent the land value increases 4-fold.

    If Heather Cheesbrough had done the right thing and fought for balanced professional planning principles and opposed Cllr Scott’s unprecedented meddling in council planning policy, we would not be in the acute mess we are in now.

    Currently, Cheesbrough and officers have rolled over; anything goes in Croydon. The doors are wide open.

    Ali needs to kerb Scott, cut off his influence on planning, revoke SPD2 and get Croydon planning back on track and in a way that serves the residents of this borough, not serving the ego of the sanctimonious Paul Scott and councillors who want to drive a rift between the north and south of this borough.

    Tony Newman, Butler, Scott, Clark, Fraser, Fitzsimons- everyone knows how you’ve been skewing planning to further your local party political aims – what you don’t know is that it’s going to spectacularly backfire on you – this started with the sacking of the Council CEO and the removal from office of the Council Leader.

    Residents are going to reset planning in this borough.

  3. Lewis White says:

    We should be glad that developers have confidence about selling flats and houses in these viral times. We need well-designed, well-planned and well-insulated housing to replace badly insulated buildings that have passed their “use by date” , and to replace over-small buildings on big plots, and buildings on the main roads where bigger buildings (3 or 4 storey) are visually in scale. On the approaches to Purley and Coulsdon town centres, for example, there are many buildings which are very small on large plots, set back well from the road. Bigger houses or small blocks look right in such places. Land is a finite resource, and should be used wisely.

    Some of the Residents Associations around the borough accept the need for change and renewal, but some don’t. Sadly, the nimby tendency is alive and well. It is rare to see people sending in “Support” comments on planning applications.

    But Planners need to understand the concerns of residents and have the task of steering the right course between over and under-development.

    Planning officers –who are in short supply in any case– are going to be even more needed to avoid mere “rubber stamping” of all developer submissions, which would not be good for the adjacent local residents nor for Croydon’s built environment. Most developers are not “bad developers”, albeit that some of the latter have been exposed in Inside Croydon.

    Development needs so many inputs — including site assembly/ land purchase, planning, design, finance, enagement of contractors, marketing –and , to stay in buisness, making a profit– it is almost amazing that developers take the considerable risk. I do not at all begrudge them making a decent profit.

    In terms of over and under-development, ironically, it would seem that sometimes, developers in Croydon have put in plans for example, for a block of 6 flats on a site, but have been pressurised by planners into making a bigger, wider block, maybe adding another floor to provide 9.

    However, I have also seen planning applications which have been turned down by planners and due to excess development mass proposed on the site.

    The skill of Planning is to provide the framework to renew and improve our towns and villages. Review of densities has to be part of that. Aesthetics, greening impact, and scale too. Not easy, in reality, to get right all the time. In most cases I see around the borough, the results are fine, but there are some exceptions.

    I hope that the quality of Croydon’s renewal does not suffer — so, if the planning applications are rolling in, skilled planning staff at all levels are needed to meet the demand.

    • I suggest you look outside the Croydon bubble and let me know if you find a piece of planning guidance as skewered as Croydon planning document SPD2? This document was forced through by Cllr Paul Scott in support of building at any price in Croydon. It’s politically motivated, blind-sided, chases any housing number and has fucked up planning in Croydon on the scale of the the 1960/1970s concrete interventions in the town centre.

      We’ve all heard Scott bleat on about the need for affordable housing whilst referencing his partner, Alison Butler (now universally discredited) disastrous handling of Brick x Brick.

      A residential development near me was supported by the developer’s muppet, Paul Scott, to deliver ‘much needed affordable housing’. Scott has once again been duped; these 9 units are been marked at over £500,000 with two up at £950,000. They’re not listed on a Croydon Council housing site, they are listed on a private investment portal that promotes investment wine and vintage cars!

      Paul’s Scott, despite his day job as an architectural technician, hasn’t got a clue about housing delivery in this country and this borough is suffering because of it.

      Ali needs to address this and the borough North-South rift Scott / Newman has created.

  4. Anne Finnerty says:

    There are 44 flats being built on a plot of land that originally had 2 detached houses on it in the road where I live in Purley. Optivo Housing Association stated that they are about building communities. What about the existing communities that are being destroyed in the process?

  5. Joe Clark says:

    Heather Cheeseburger is a completely aloof individual.

    My partner works in her directorate, and she is, and always has been, a trigger-happy muppet who lets anything go with regard to planning/development in Croydon, much to the annoyance of her teams below her, who are actually good people and are not supportive of the mass development she (and Scott) are allowing through.

    I think the reason there is an influx in applications now is that the developers have been tipped the wink that she is currently working her notice period, although this hasn’t been officially announced. I would hope her replacement is more considerate and strict to the overdeveloped mess Croydon is becoming.

  6. Airedlaundry says:

    Working under Cheesebrough was like working under the boss in the Devil Wears Prada. On her first meeting with planners she set out her draconian measures for the future and invited those of us that didn’t like it to leave. Of course this rather unfriendly introduction created a mass exodus of very good planners – consequently Croydon lost a lot of planners, with local knowledge, who genuinely cared about the prospects of the borough.

    Since then the planning department has never been able to secure a stable workforce, it’s a revolving door. Even a generous retention package has failed to entice planners into Croydon’s Planning Department AKA Cheesebrough’s Temple of Dead Dreams.

  7. Hans Mien says:

    Looks like it’s all coming out in the wash. The dominos keep falling.

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