EXCLUSIVE: With barely six hours’ notice ahead of today’s planning meeting, two controversial building schemes from Brick by Brick have been withdrawn. By STEVEN DOWNES
Planning applications for two controversial schemes from Brick by Brick, the council’s loss-making house-builders, were pulled from the agenda of tonight’s committee meeting with barely six hours’ notice.
A note from council officials stated that the schemes, at the junction of Fairchildes Avenue and King Henry’s Drive in New Addington and on old garages behind flats on Selsdon Road in South Croydon, had been withdrawn and “would be heard at another time”.
Residents affected by both proposals had been vocal in their opposition.
In New Addington, Brick by Brick want to build a six-storey block of 17 flats. The revised Selsdon Road project proposed a three-storey block on the site of some old garages, with eight flats. All the homes in both schemes were to be for affordable rent.
Until this year, every application for planning permission from Brick by Brick had been granted by the local planning authority, the council. Who also happen to be the owners of Brick by Brick.
But following opposition from Labour ward councillors in Waddon, first one ill-considered proposal was withdrawn, then an attempt to build on green space outside model family homes in Selsdon and on a village green in Kenley were refused permission by the committee or just abandoned.
Brick by Brick’s failure to deliver homes on time and to budget has seen the wholly-owned company make no repayments on £200million-worth of loans received from the council since 2015, nor pay over any profits from its sales of private housing.
The company’s poor performance has been cited by auditors, consultants and the council’s own chief finance officer as a significant cause of Croydon Council going bust. Auditors Grant Thornton suggest that there is £110million of unpaid loans, interest and profit due to the council from Brick by Brick.
The company has continued to submit planning applications throughout the council’s cash crisis. A proposal to squeeze in flats on common areas behind an existing block at Thornton Heath’s Atalanta Court was granted permission a fortnight ago – but only after the puppet chair of the committee, “Thirsty” Chris Clark, allowed himself to vote twice.
Earlier this month, Brick by Brick’s two directors, Martyn Evans and Colm Lacey, the company CEO, were removed from the board by the council. Lacey’s continuing role as the failing company’s senior employee remains unresolved.
The company’s accounts to the end of March 2020, which were due to have been published in August, have yet to be released.
Certainly, if Brick by Brick are unable to bring forward new schemes for planning permission, nor secure tens of millions of pounds of additional funding to pay contractors for their work, the future of projects such as those at Selsdon Road or in New Addington must be in doubt.
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