Council leader tells community meeting she is powerless to act against the council-owned development company, as New Addington residents’ five-year campaign to save a communal space comes to a sad end.
By STEVEN DOWNES
Not for the first time, Croydon residents have been left feeling badly let down and abandoned by their local Labour council, after a meeting in New Addington on Tuesday night attended by leader Hamida Ali and MP Sarah Jones concluded that nothing could be done to save a community space on Warbank Crescent.
The frustration and mounting anger over the council’s builders, Brick by Brick, being allowed to take a public play space and turn it into three car park bays saw the New Addington Residents’ Association call for the resignation of Colm Lacey, the managing director of the loss-making builders.
They described Brick by Brick as being “out of control”, saying that Councillor Ali admitted at Tuesday’s meeting that she had little influence over them.
On Monday morning, Brick by Brick, accompanied by council officials, sent in contractors to clear the space on Warbank Crescent, with a significant police presence which some residents found provocative and intimidating. Nearly a month earlier, the council leader had asked Brick by Brick to delay the start of work on the site by 48 hours to allow the community meeting to be held. Brick by Brick never passed the message on to their contractors.
On Monday, it was only after calls to the MP and council leader that the police and the contractors left the site, but not before they trashed residents’ seating and children’s play equipment in the community space, even dragging away a kiddies’ paddling pool.
“You are not welcome in our town,” the residents’ association tweeted at Brick by Brick later that day.
“Your lies, your attitude, your failure to deliver for the people of Croydon. And now your apparent support of police intimidation to achieve your goals.
“Colm Lacey, Resign now.”
NARA’s chair, Scott Ainsworth-Payne, says that his members and neighbours have been fighting against what they see as “slumification” of New Addington by Brick by Brick for the past five years. In 2016, when Brick by Brick’s proposals for Warbank Crescent were first revealed, ward councillor Louisa Woodley promised residents that the community space would not be used for development.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, Councillor Ali was yet again very apologetic.
Residents who attended the meeting drew comparisons with the approach of “Apologetic Ali” over the appalling conditions in council flats in South Norwood.
Ali had been asked for help by tenants in tower blocks on Regina Road in November 2020, but she took no action until she was forced to give an interview on national television in March 2021. When she apologised.
One resident said, “Hamida Ali can’t keep on doing this – the people of Croydon deserve better, much better, than just a stream of apologies for the council’s failures.”
According to one attendee at Tuesday’s meeting, “The councillors blamed a lot on planning legislation being favourable towards developers. But Brick by Brick is council-owned and supposedly working for Croydon. They should be working based on what is right for Croydon residents and going above and beyond the legalities.”
Residents asked that Councillor Ali and her colleague, Patricia Hay-Justice, the cabinet member for homes, should seek an apology from Brick by Brick for Monday’s incident. The councillors said that they were unable to do this. “They stated on a fair few occasions how they have little control over Brick by Brick.
“Overall, it was a massive middle finger to all that the residents have gone through over so many years.”
Neither of the ward’s Labour councillors, Woodley nor Oliver “Shit Show” Lewis – both loyal supporters of Tony Newman’s top team which established and supported Brick by Brick – were at the meeting this week.
In an email distributed among New Addington residents after Tuesday’s meeting, Councillor Ali wrote, “Once again, I am sorry that we’ve ended up here. We could and should have understood sooner the value of the communal square.”
The council, Ali says, is now “determined to do what we can to do provide you with a new communal space”.
Residents have been promised an update on that proposal by next Friday, July 9.
First thing yesterday morning, and the contractors, Buxton, were back in Warbank Crescent to fence off what has always been a public space, as the Brick by Brick development further encroaches on the homes living standards of existing residents, most of whom are council tenants. The modest community space had been regarded as a lifeline to many residents living nearby, many without any garden space, during the past 18 months of pandemic lockdown.
“It was heart-breaking this morning to see the end of the long, hard-fought battle to save Warbank Crescent communal space as it was fenced off ready for demolition,” NARA’s Ainsworth-Payne said.
“It’s a huge injustice to the community, taking away what was, for many of the families, the only outdoor space they had. And all to build three electric car parking spaces.
“We have been failed once again by Croydon Council and their out-of-control developer, Brick by Brick.
“As a community, we must not let this happen again. As a community we must make the council work for us, not against us.”
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