Town Hall reporter KEN LEE on the council’s latest blunder over a public consultation for the badly polluted Purley Way and false claims for ‘the highest environmental standards’
Croydon Council, which already has a diabolically bad reputation for the way it conducts consultations, is to launch a new piece of “important” public engagement tomorrow, in which it asks residents who are unable to access its online consultation to… send them an email.
“You couldn’t make it up,” a Katharine Street source told Inside Croydon today, while trying to stifle their laughter at the absurd lack of joined-up-thinking surrounding the issue of the “Draft Purley Way Masterplan Supplementary Planning Document Consultation”.
This consultation is brought to you by the council’s “Place” department, the same brains trust that in recent times have brought you such nine-bob disasters as Brick by Brick, Binmageddon and the Fairfield Halls refurbishment. So what possibly could go wrong..?
It is possible that the decision to run with this consultation now, minimising the number of people which might be able to participate in the process, might actually be a deliberate ploy by the council to sneak through some potentially controversial proposals for massive development alongside the A23.
As the source said, “This consultation is not time-critical. It could easily wait until the second half of this year, hopefully after lockdown is over, so that local residents can be properly engaged.
“Residents will take the view that the planning department don’t actually want their input into this masterplan and conclude that this is just another sham consultation,” the source said.
The problems of the “digital divide”, when large sections of society do not have ready access to the internet because of the lack of computers or inexpensive broadband provision has been highlighted this year as children have been forced to take lessons at home while their schools have been closed due to coronavirus. One local MP, Sarah Jones, has been running a campaign to supply used laptops and tablets to those who might otherwise not be able to get online.
No one appears to have told those in the council’s grandiosely-titled “spatial planning” department about the “digital divide”, as their online-only Purley Way non-consultation is due to run until March 16 – when Croydon is still expected to be under lockdown.
The consultation is being paid for, at least in part, by a grant from the Mayor of London. Judging from the document loaded on to the council website with the logos of seven different architectural and planning consultancies – including at least a couple who were regular favourites of the failed housing company, Brick by Brick – the exercise won’t be coming cheap.
Sadiq Khan might take a view on how public money is being frittered away on a consultation in the middle of a national pandemic lockdown, when no face-to-face public meetings are possible, and when all the borough’s libraries are closed – and so their computers are unavailable to those without any other means of accessing the consultation.
Yet the consultation page on the council website states, “Who can take part? All – everyone invited to take part.” Without adding that you need access to the internet to be able to do so.
The consultation’s Purley Way area affects three wards: Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown, Waddon and Broad Green, and the consultation is a continuation of a preliminary exercise carried out last year.
The council has been fiddling around the edges of a major development scheme which at one point suggested 12,000 homes to be built on brownfield sites and light industrial estates beside the heavily polluted six-lane urban motorway, in part in a bid to reach the hugely inflated housing targets that were set for the borough by Paul Scott, part of the discredited clique which has bankrupted the borough.
Controversially, Scott decided to push for the building of four times as many homes along the Purley Way corridor as he had laid out in his Local Plan from 2017. Croydon’s home-building target was set then at 33,000 units by 2036.
According to the latest consultation, the home-building target for the Purley Way has been reduced to 7,500 homes, while they promise an additional 40,000 square metres of new public open space, which might sound a lot, until you realise it is actually just 10 acres, or less than the size of eight football pitches.
The latest, online-only council consultation states: “The Purley Way is one of the areas earmarked in the council’s Local Plan Review for future transformation and growth, including housing, jobs, improved transport access and more public open spaces and facilities.
“The new online survey…”, note that admission that the consultation is not fully inclusive as it needs to be, “… is an opportunity for residents, businesses and visitors to feedback on the proposals, and outline their priorities around sustainable growth for the Purley Way area, which stretches from the boundary with Purley up to Valley Park.
“The council consultation will also include three online…”, there we go again, “…workshops in February, which will give the public…”, well, some of the public, “…the chance to participate in a presentation and Q&A workshop to discuss the proposals.”
The documents themselves are full of the usual consultants’ bullshit, half-truths and downright deceits that we have come to expect from the likes of We Made That and Hawkins/Brown, on whom the council, under Jo “Negreedy” Negrini, managed to squander so much public cash.
“The Purley Way will be transformed from a hostile and divisive road into a green city street,” they claim, apparently in all seriousness.
“It will integrate new development with important retail and industrial areas and existing communities in Broad Green and Selhurst and Waddon. Transformation will be organised around a cluster of four, distinct new centres – each with a clear purpose and character which respond to and enhance positive elements of local character and the setting of heritage assets, and complement Croydon Metropolitan Centre, Purley Town Centre, the Beddington Lane industrial area and other places in Croydon and Sutton.”
They go on, and on… “Fiveways Junction must be improved as part of overhauling the road environment, which will be enhanced by providing welcoming, high-quality public spaces, stitched together by a network of green and blue walking and cycling routes and opened-up sections of the River Wandle.”
The consultants appear oblivious to the realities of 2021: there was a long-discussed and budgeted Transport for London scheme to turn Fiveways into Fourways. But this has been shelved once the government stepped with a financial bail-out for TfL after the first lockdown dried up the transport authority’s income from fares.
Still, undaunted, the consultants blather on, with deathless prose that reads like an advert for Mars bars: “Together, these interventions will reinvent the area as a desirable, sustainable, healthy and attractive place to work, live and play.”
Of course, because of the high volumes of motor traffic on the Purley Way, measurements show that all international limits on the levels of harmful air pollution have been broken for at least the last decade.
The council’s expensively hired consultants do not appear to be aware of that. Or their document deliberately dissembles, when they describe the Purley Way area as “… one which rises to the challenge of climate change by connecting with the Beddington Energy Recovery Facility and incorporating the highest environmental standards”.
That “Energy Recovery Facility” will be what any reasonable person will call the super-polluter Viridor Incinerator, where so much plastic waste is being burned that it produces carbon emissions that almost match a coal-fired power station.
Yes, “the highest environmental standards”.
- To see a pdf document on the Purley Way “engagement” which seeks not to engage anyone who does not have access to the interweb, click here
- To order a paper copy of the document, to provide it to residents who might not have access to the internet, send a request with a postal address for delivery, to firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone the “spatial” planning team on 020 8407 1385
- And if you are fortunate enough to have broadband access, you can visit the consultation website by clicking here
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If the ‘brownfield’ sites along Purley Way are to carry this number of dwellings, it seems essential to me that the public transport infrastructure needs to be developed to a much greater extent in the immediate area. Assuming that monstrosity isn’t outlawed altogether, all the waste for the incinerator cannot be delivered there from 4 London boroughs by polluting diesel lorries. Surely an electric rail line could be developed, with the feeder depot in an area without high density housing? As it is, if the incinerator fumes don’t kill you, the toxins in the traffic fumes will. Also, given the growth of internet shopping, why can’t the big out of town stores be congregated into a large out of town mall, as happens in the USA? The ribbon development of shopping along Purley Way only encourages traffic jams and all the resulting pollution. I expect in 4 decades or so, non- polluting vehicles may come along but that will too late for the health needs of those people who are to be housed there.
Have the planners learned nothing from the recent judgement of the child who died of lung pollution caused by traffic along the South Circular? What is wrong with the tram system running along the Purley Way? It already goes to the back of Sainsbury.
If this housing development goes ahead then traffic systems, at least in the short term, ought to be based on closing the Purley Way to all but ‘green’ vehicles.
Lastly, exactly where is the communication from this Council about how to make views like this known? They can’t rely on any old rubbish (forgive the pun) like out staff are working from home because of Covid. This is a vital issues for thousands of families.
Where are the Doctors surgeries? The local amenities? The infrastructure coming from?
This is crazy, the Local Plan has not even got to publication stage, yet alone endorsed by an independent Inspector. This is a further total waste of Council Tax money that may never come to fruition in found unsound by an Inspector. There any many objections to this strategy!
And all the while, residential family homes in Kenley, Purley and Riddlesdown Coulsdon and other leafier bits of Croydon are demolished to allow Scott’s developer mates to push up 9 flats on tiny sites totally unsuited for flats, with no local infrastructure such as shops, doctors, buses or schools. These are quiet residential areas with mature family homes and they are being destroyed for Croydon’s ‘plan’. Their destruction will leave lovely roads of homes changed forever, and families living in flats with nowhere to move to when they do want to move on. There is no plan other than to allow developers to get rich and Scott to mock voters and overrule legitimate objections to terrible destructive.plans. This mega plan looks like more of the same from megalomaniac concrete destroyer Scott.
I am wondering if the Croydon (Beddington) Sewage treatment works has enough capacity to deal with all the “waste water” generated not only by the Purley Way plans but by the thousands of new homes already completed in Coulsdon (Cane Hill and Pinewood Motors) Purley and all the other areas of the Borough where sewers end up at this treatment works.
I am not talking of “dry weather flows” but the times when too much raw sewage and storm water arrive at the site to get treated.
Judging by a photo I saw recently, it gets diverted into the River Wandle. With more development not only in Croydon but in neighbouring sections of Surrey, whose flush rushes down hill and hits Croydon an hour or so later, It can only get worse. .
It would be a good thing to get hold of the relevant data of past, current and predicted future flows and overflows. Any chance of Inside Croydon’s water treatment correspondent looking into the murky waters ?
In my view, all available land at Beddington should be retained open to allow space for full modwern treatment, with acres of reedbeds to strip out nitrates. We should be treating water so well that it can be reused.
I think there is a strong case for taking Sewage treatment and Water supply back into public ownership.
In all the hyperbole of The Master Plan, with it’s Green and Blue grid, it does indeed seem that the ‘Brown’ one has been omitted!
The world has changed, this is a waste of time and money as there will be many office blocks that never re-open and as such will be available to be converted into homes. See how many become available and then look at housing needs again once they are occupied. And of course make sure the current Council and Brick by Brick have no interest and involvement in the conversion of offices to flats.
People need houses with gardens, not rabbit huches. And they need transport, parking, doctors, shops and something to do e.g. eat out sport, walk, parks.