EXCLUSIVE: A prestigious, towering development of 546 flats, some costing £26,000 a year to rent, has been standing empty for months while the developers wait for council officials to sign-off on planning requirements.
By STEVEN DOWNES
The dark towers quickly rose up around their concrete cores to become a striking feature of the Croydon skyline.
At nearly 450-feet high, the taller, 44-storey tower at 101 George Street was acclaimed on the front page of trade magazines as the world’s tallest modular building.
One-bed apartments there were set to be rented out for £1,450 and three-bed flats would cost £2,195 per month. Some homes in the towers have been snapped up under the Mayor of London’s much sought-after London Living Rent scheme.
But today, the majority of the 546 sky-high apartments in a prestige development for US-based property developers Greystar remain empty.
Despite having received deposits from hundreds of eager tenants, the properties – in what is now being marketed as “Ten Degrees” – have not been released, with the agents blaming Croydon Council’s failure to sign off on the towers’ building regulations.
Some suggest that the delays have been caused by disruption around coronavirus, but Town Hall sources suggest that “the council’s planning department is simply overwhelmed”. Correspondence from a council planning official has warned that they are “unable to advise when this situation is likely to be resolved”.
Search Greystar’s Ten Degrees online property pages today, and there’s a bland message which gives little away: “Please be advised that at the moment we are unable to accept any further reservations.”
Tide Construction, the builders, had promised a quicker, greener form of development by using pre-fabricated modules which were craned into position over the heads of commuters heading for East Croydon Station nearby. Within a year of the first module being guided into place in March 2019, Tide were lighting up the nearly-completed towers, with their various amenities including garden terraces, an art gallery, an onsite cafe and gyms for the tenants. It took them just 35 weeks to complete the build.
But visit Tide’s website today and there is no mention of the project since July 2020, when they were issuing robust statements of assurance to the media that, despite the impact of coronavirus, all their projects were on track for completion.
Coincidentally, July last year was around the time that deposits were being paid over by those wishing to rent a new home in Croydon’s tallest building. Then, prospective tenants hoped to move in by September or October. Some were given “desired” move-in dates in August.
Leases were generated, paperwork filled in, deposits paid.
Six months later, and hundreds of people have been kept waiting – some of whom have already moved out of their previous homes and who have been forced to sofa-surf with friends while they wait to move in.
Correspondence seen by Inside Croydon from Greystars’ on-site “Ten Degrees Team”, and addressed to “Dear Future Residents”, told them that, “Unfortunately we have been notified that the necessary sign-off from the council has still not happened due to the council’s backlog from covid-19 and this may cause a delay in the handover.
“We are entirely at the mercy of the authorities and both the operations team as well as the construction team are doing all they can to push forward with it.
“We understand how frustrating this is and many of you may not be in a position to delay your move-in day. We are working to ensure there will be local alternative accommodation available to those who will need it.”
That email was sent out at the end of July. Since when, no further explanation for the delay has been forthcoming.
The council’s planning department, however, has in the last month written to confirm that “the local authority has not issued a completion certificate in respect of the works.
“Until such time as the works are considered complete and satisfactory in respect to Building Regulations, the development cannot be occupied without agreement… Unfortunately, I am unable to advise when this situation is likely to be resolved.”
A check of the council’s planning portal suggests that a number of planning conditions for 101 George Street have not yet been discharged. The council had made a dispensation last summer of allowing Greystar to move in up to 25 per cent of tenants – around 130 of the flats – “in the interest of being co-operative – subject to a few conditions”. But it seems that the developers have chosen not to exercise that dispensation.
The most recent correspondence that has been sent out by Greystar said that at the end of last year, “We promised to provide more clarity on potential move-in dates once we had more information from the contractor. We are sorry to say that we haven’t received any more information.”
Greystar have been paying out some compensation for the disruption and costs incurred by prospective tenants, such as storage charges.
As one of Greystar’s prospective tenants told Inside Croydon, “In October, I received an update saying that it would not be possible to move people in November, and they were now looking at January to March 2021.
“I was now getting rather frustrated and especially tired of sleeping on an airbed on my friend’s floor.”
According to sources working at Ten Degrees, some tenants have given up waiting and had their deposits returned.
It is all a long way from the bullish comments made by Christy Hayes, Tide Construction’s chief executive, to Property Week in July 2020, where he boasted of his company’s modular construction methods.
“Building homes in a controlled factory environment,” Hayes said, “enables developers and manufacturers, such as ourselves, to contribute towards a green recovery while speeding up the delivery of much-needed housing.”
But as one frustrated prospective tenant of 101 George Street observed today, “Obviously something has gone seriously wrong on the building regulations side of things that they are not willing to go public about, which sort of defeats the entire purpose of modular construction which is meant to be efficient.”
Inside Croydon sought comments from Tide Construction and its PR agency, and also from Katherine Kerswell, the interim chief executive of the local planning authority, Croydon Council. None had responded by the time of publication.
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