Ali apologises to New Addington residents after BxB ‘raid’

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Earlier this month council figures offered to let residents have the publicly-owned community space at Warbank Crescent – provided they coughed up £180,000 to Brick by Brick.

Late kick-off: council leader Hamida Ali

Never let it be said that council leader Hamida Ali doesn’t have the best interests of the people she serves at heart.

Take, for example, a meeting that she has scheduled for this afternoon with the much-stressed residents of Warbank Crescent in New Addington.

Due to begin at 5pm, expected to attend are Sarah Jones, the Labour MP for Croydon Central, plus council cabinet member for homes, Patricia Hay-Justice, and high-ranking council officials Sarah Hayward, Saheed Ullah and Sharon Murphy.

But yesterday, just before 7pm, Councillor Ali was writing to all involved suggesting that the meeting should be brought forward by an hour. “I’m conscious… that we agreed a 5pm start tomorrow – and then realised very late that residents might want to watch the England match tomorrow evening which also starts at 5pm.”

How thoughtful of the council leader!

Now all she has to fix for the meeting is to replace the seating that had been organised by residents in the community space for the purpose, and which council officers and builders, accompanied by the police, yesterday removed, damaged or destroyed ahead of starting development works on behalf of Brick by Brick.

Long-contested: the community square off Warbank Crescent, now overlooked by BxB buildings, has been disputed with the council for five years

Ali’s shocked response to the use of police in support of council officers against residents in New Addington yesterday is another sign that the council leader might be in power at the Town Hall, but she and her Labour colleagues are certainly not in charge of what’s going on in Fisher’s Folly. Nor in Brick by Brick’s £1million offices on George Street.

Today’s meeting was agreed a fortnight ago, after a previous discussion over the long-contested fate of a community space which the council-owned developers want to turn into a three-bay car park for electric vehicles.

It was then that a £180,000 “buy-back” figure for the community space was suggested, a figure seemingly plucked out of the air by council officials to “compensate” Brick by Brick for the cost of installing cabling and electric charge points – something which has never actually been done.

As has been typical of so many of the badly brokered land deals between the council and their in-house, loss-making developers Brick by Brick, the ownership of this site remains contested.

There is serious doubt about whether the Warbank Crescent community space was ever the council’s to dispose of anyway.

Unreality: BxB’s sales team’s CGIs of their scheme at Warbank Crescent seem to exaggerate the space between buildings for potential buyers

In an email from MP Jones’s office, sent earlier this month and seen by Inside Croydon, the New Addington residents were told, “139 Warbank tenancy agreement – as you might know the tenancy agreements for those downstairs in the block explicitly say the garden is theirs.

“With that in mind I am requesting a copy of the tenancy agreement for 139 so we can see if the communal area is described in it.

“As I think this gives us clear indication that Brick by Brick and the council can’t take away the land.”

Perhaps just as extraordinary is that the saga of Warbank Crescent has been going on since 2016, when residents were assured then by their ward councillor, Louisa Woodley, that the community space would never be used for development.

Brick by Brick’s Warbank Crescent scheme is typical of much of their work: squeezing 36 one- and two-bedroom flats and maisonettes (only 20 of which are for affordable rent) into space between existing homes, regardless of the interests of existing residents, many of whom are council tenants. Construction there is still not complete, even though BxB and their contractors have been on the site for most of the last five years.

Councillor Woodley was present againn at the meeting held at the community space in Warbank Crescent earlier this month, although she turned up – as she often does – late.

That latest meeting, on June 15, was held under difficult circumstances. Builders working on the neighbouring Brick by Brick site were asked by a councillor to stop work so that the meeting could take place. The builders continued with their noisy power tools, making it almost impossible for the MP, council leader and other attendees to hear what one another were saying.

Over the noise of machinery, Hamida Ali told the meeting that she had intervened with building contractors Buxton to delay their expected start date on site at the community space. Yesterday’s fraught interventions showed that that appeal had been ignored.

No answers: MP Sarah Jones

While Jones informed the meeting that part of the work to create the electrical charging points had already been done, her aide said that she had spoken to the site foreman who admitted that the preparatory work had not in fact been done.

The Brick by Brick car ports have had implications not only for the community space, but also for the residents’ bin storage, too, and for access by the council’s waste contractors. Any reconfiguration of the BxB plans, the meeting was told, would take time and cost money – with the MP mentioning the £180,000 figure. This,apparently, is a bit of a bargain. Brick by Brick had originally suggested £250,000.

Residents at that meeting were increasingly angry, despite offers that the council would look at other options to make a new communal space, and an admission of sorts that the situation had been of the council’s own making.

When Jones and the councillors were asked who had signed off on the arrangement to hand the community space to Brick by Brick, no one was able to provide an answer.

It might be interesting if questions around the accountability of Brick by Brick and their contractors are asked again at today’s meeting. Because the loss-making builders certainly don’t appear to take any notice of the council leader.

Delayed reaction: council leader Hamida Ali’s email to residents last night

In her email to Warbank Crescent residents last night, Hamida Ali wrote, “I made sure that we agreed with Brick by Brick by Friday of last week that the community square wouldn’t be affected until after we had our meeting tomorrow.

“So I was shocked to hear from Sarah [Jones] this morning that Buxton had arrived to start their work, accompanied by the police.

“I raised this immediately with one of Brick by Brick’s directors who explained that the contractors didn’t receive the instruction from Brick by Brick in time – and that they would instruct Buxton again to stand down…”.

“Given everything that residents have experienced, this was neither our intention let alone our understanding of what would happen – for which I can only apologise.”

In power, but not in control…

Read more: Homes England called in to check Brick by Brick sale value
Read more: Brick by Brick to get second £10m loan to avoid going bust
Read more: New Addington residents call for halt on Brick by Brick plans

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This entry was posted in Brick by Brick, Croydon Central, Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Housing, Louisa Woodley, New Addington, Sarah Jones MP and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Ali apologises to New Addington residents after BxB ‘raid’

  1. Ian Kierans says:

    At least there is a beginning. Ms Ali at last is speaking out and beginning to say some of the right things. For this she should be supported. However Councillors of all parties need to be asking those hard questions of Ms Kerswell and Brick by Brick. It is time that the Council executive becomes answerable and Labour Councillors only take the blame for what they do wrong and not get dumped with everyone else’s wrongdoing. The Police should be clearly asked to disclose who requested their presence and why. This should be made a Public interest disclosure.

  2. OrlandoHoward says:

    Hallo I Orlando Howard live in New Addington for many years, I don’t agree on what you are doing to Warbank Crescent your LABOUR VOTERS it’s not right you, meant to help we are struggling in these times thank you very much.

  3. Joe Clark says:

    This is again, truly shocking behaviour by the Council, and those shower of overpaid, underqualified numpty’s at BXB. How do they get an en-masse police presence for such a thing, when people who get their car stolen or house burgled in New Addington and elsewhere in Croydon, have to wait days/weeks for a police visit, if they in fact get one at all. What a cowardly bunch of bully’s BXB and the Council are.
    On another note, who on earth would purchase one of those hideous properties? A two year old could have designed a more attractive dwelling!!

  4. Micky D says:

    Typical of Croydon Council, they think the New Addington residents/people are dirt on their shoes that they can walk all over. It beggars belief that this brick by brick comedy show hasn’t been shut down after all the public money they have pissed up the wall.

    • Ian Ross says:

      Micky, the arrogant disregard isn’t confined to New Adington. BXB abominations are inflicted everywhere with a council falling over themselves to approve every one of these pig-ugly schemes irrespective of local opposition and common sense let alone decency. The removal of this shower of sh*t at the next election is vital.

      • Ian Kierans says:

        Sadly it does not matter what shower you have in. The Kerswell dictatorship will continue as will Lacey. All Councillors are helpless and ineffective. A directly appointed Mayor may be the only hope of reining back this heartless administration, but even that will be difficult.

        • You identify an imbalance in the power and accountability between elected councillors and local government officials. It was evident under Rouse, the situation grew much worse under Elvery, and Negrini appeared to believe she and her group of senior executives was untouchable and far and away more important than the nasty little people who paid her wages – the Council Tax-payers of Croydon.

          And while Kerswell assumes herself to be all-powerful, backed by the LGA and MHCLG, it is the commissioners (in all but name) who are calling the shots.

          We need our elected representatives to stop playing along with the game politely and start calling it out for what it is. Just as you have done, Ian.

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