A housing project which even Tony Newman and his numpties refused to entrust to Brick by Brick is finally nearing completion after an eight-year development saga. By our housing correspondent, BARRATT HOLMES
Eight years since the council moved out of its offices in Taberner House, and the flats built on the site – and on a big chunk of Queen’s Gardens – are finally nearing completion.
The scheme, overseen by developers Hub, includes 513 new homes with 40 per cent of them “affordable”, built across four towers of 35, 21, 19 and 13 storeys.
This was the massive redevelopment site which even former deputy leader Alison Butler and the buffoons in charge of the council under the discredited Tony Newman decided that they couldn’t entrust to Brick by Brick. Even so, it has been a very long time coming.
Planning permission was granted for one scheme on the site as long ago as April 2014.
But a change of council administration the next month saw that version junked, originally with the intention that the site would be handed over to the council’s own development company.
After that bright idea was quietly dropped, Hub appeared on the scene with plans which even included proposals for “luxury executive apartments” which were suggested could be sold for as much as £800,000 (though little has been heard of that little wheeze since).
Although the council office tower block was demolished in 2015, construction work did not commence until 2018, after bungling two previous proposals with other developers.
Butler, it is worth noting, remains as a Labour councillor, as does her husband, the former chair of planning, Paul Scott.
The first block in what Hub want to call “the Queen’s Quarter” is finally expected to be ready in August.
Those 84 flats are set to handed over to housing association L&Q in six weeks’ time, with a further 88 flats in another block also being released by the end of the summer. These will be a mix of London Living Rent and shared ownership.
A third block, comprising 90 flats, is also due to be completed soon and will be transferred to Croydon Council as council homes for rent – or 30 times as many new purpose-built council homes as Brick by Brick managed to deliver in six years. Croydon received £9million in total – £100,000 per unit – in funding from the Greater London Authority’s Building Council Homes for Londoners initiative towards the cost of these flats.
The final 35-storey block – 251 flats – will be owned by Legal & General and is set to be offered for private rent.
The developers say that work on the much-reduced Queen’s Gardens should be completed by the autumn.
The council was accused at the planning stage of effectively allowing the developers to privatise the public space, annexing Queen’s Gardens for the residents of their tower blocks.
Comments made this week by Hub’s Tom Stoneham strongly suggest that that is exactly how the developers view the position.
“When Queen’s Gardens is all finished it is going to have an amazing playground for young kids and for slightly older kids,” Stoneham said.
“That is being completely redone and will sweep all the way up to the development.
“The route between Park Lane and the council offices is a key route. There will be new lighting, the intention is to make it feel more open and safer – obviously having homes overlooking the park means it will have natural surveillance.
“It has been really good working with the local community designing the park, we are really excited to get people’s reactions and to see children and families enjoying the playground.”
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I think that the blocks look rather beautiful, in an ethereal way, but it remains to be seen whether the Queens Gardens — once a welcoming “feel-good” sort of open space, very sunny, except up the dark end in the shadow of Taberner House– remain as sunny as the gardens were then, at the key middle of the day when office and council workers eat their lunchtime sandwiches.
Along with others, I objected to the number of blocks replacing the single block of the old council offices, and was very worried that, in spite of the landscaped gap the designers left up the middle of the site, to let daylight come between the blocks to illuminate the Gardens, would prove too narrow. Also that the lower block nearest to the new Council offices, would block the afternoon sun form reaching the gardens. Parks in our climate and latitude need a combination of sunny open spaces–the majority of the land– dotted with trees for incidental shade and apeparance, contrasted with shaded areas and ideally shrub planings to give a 3 dimensional quality.
Now we are just past the longest day, there will, sadly, be less and less daylight reaching the Gardens.
Will it be an attractove place for people to lie down on the grass and sunbathe or shade-bathe? Or will it be freezing cold and draughty? Or even widnswept, with those tall buildings looming over it?
What ever, my guess is that the Gardens now will feel a lot smaller. The collective bulk of the 4 blocks will be wider than Taberner was. In spite of the gap.
There was at one stage a weasel-word statement that the area of the gardens would not be reduced. The logic ran something like this– the landscaped areas between the blocks, plus the remaining area of the Gradens will equal the original footprint of the gardens. Maybe true in the letter, but false in spirit. The value of a park lies in its integrity. To fragment a parkland area, and bung bits of it between massive buildings is no substitute for the original whole.
Sadly, in the UK, and no doubt, around the world, there are many people in the development industry, and people who should know better in Planning who say, and some who might even believe the untruth, that you can do this to a park and retain its value. And they are exceedingly well paid too. Cut up the Mona Lisa, put her smile a few metres away, her hair somewhere else. Yeah, and the rest of the painting will be as good?
I hope to be proved wrong, and retain an open mind, but will be interested to see what the Gardens look and feel like, and how sunny they are, in Midsummer, Midwinter, and at all the times between.
Good point made. If more thought had been put into it, although controversial, the gardens could have been moved to where Taberner house was. That way sun would have hit the open space and flat residents would have had some distance from the busy traffic light junction. I hate to think of the air quality.
Thanks Mary, your point also highlights the fact that in the last 5 years, in spite of all that is known about pollution from exhausts, carbon monoxide levels, and particulates from tyres and oil, the council has given planning permission for many new blocks of flats right up close to the flyover and feeder roads. There are no trees between these flats and the flyover–so nothing to catch the dust , nothing to cool the summer air, and nothing to green and soften the harsh interface between major road and buildings.
Is anyone willingly going to live here ? Maybe, but their health surely will suffer. Breathing difficulties through lung damage in a few decades is going to be a reality.
OK, if electric vehices really take over the roads, there will be less pollution, but the dust and heat will remain in our globally warming world.