CROYDON IN CRISIS: Two prime sites, owned by the council, are the latest public assets to be off-loaded on the cheap.
EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES
The cash-strapped council’s fire-sale of public assets continues, with the Croydon Park Hotel and College Green site both placed on the market this week, each offered very cheap at just £20million.
Both sites offer a monument to the hubris and incompetence of Tony Newman and Jo “Negreedy” Negrini, the discredited former council leader and chief exec, and to the bumbling ineptitude of Colm Lacey, the council staffer that they put in charge of the loss-making house-builders Brick by Brick.
Both sites seem certain to be sold at well below their cost to the council, while failing to deliver any of the profits or the much-needed social housing for rent that were promised.
College Green is a 2-acre town centre site that Lacey’s Brick by Brick hummed and hurred over for four years, running up huge additional expense. After failing to secure the purchase of Croydon College’s Annex building, Lacey’s company had to reconfigure their plans and resubmit an application which the council duly waved through – a mixed-use scheme with 421 flats and including a 29-storey tower block.
Any potential purchaser might be tempted to snaffle up the College Green site with its existing permission, which was granted only last year and includes a requirement for only 16 per cent affordable housing, well below the usual 30 per cent. Croydon’s planning committee went easy on Brick by Brick’s second version of its plans, because they needed to sell as many full-value flats as possible to fund their massive overspend incurred on the refurb of the neighbouring Fairfield Halls.
With that kind of planning permission, a development on the site could generate more than £140million in sales for any competent development company.
Nearby, the Croydon Park, close to East Croydon Station, is the 211-bedroom hotel on an 1.54-acre site which was bought by the council in 2018 after Newman circumvented usual scrutiny processes. The council paid £29.8million – £5million more than the asking price.
Even then, the hotel operators were already running up losses, and they finally went out of business 12 months ago, blaming coronavirus and the council’s refusal to offer rent easements.
Savills have been given the task of marketing both properties, and they say the hotel is “unencumbered by brand and management, and is also well suited for development into a range of uses including Build to Rent, student housing or residential”. So more flats…
Offers are likely to be sought in excess of £20m for each site, Savills say.
“These two sites represent an unparalleled opportunity in Croydon,” was the spiel offered by Andrew Cox, of Savills. He was automatically awarded Inside Croydon’s Understatement of the Week prize.
“Both sites are incredibly well connected, very close to East Croydon Station with rapid journey times into London,” Cox said.
“Both have the potential to deliver much needed affordable and private housing to the borough or a range of other uses. We anticipate strong demand to come from London developers, hoteliers, student housing providers as well as the build-to-rent and co-living operators.”
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