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 email@example.com, 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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