Council chiefs accused by MP of being on side of developers

As concerns mount about the local authority’s failure to exercise any development controls or planning enforcement over rapacious private developers operating in the borough, a local MP has accused Croydon Council of not caring about residents and being “content to ignore them and let developers just carry on regardless”.

Chris Philp MP: ‘sizeable developments… causing great distress’

Chris Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South, and someone with a business history in the development sector, wrote to council chief executive Katherine Kerswell nearly a week ago to outline the complaints he has been receiving from constituents.

Philp wrote, “I am very concerned about the volume of correspondence currently being received from constituents who are raising serious issues around planning enforcement issues. I know that you will have also received a significant number yourself.

“Residents are very concerned about the lack of any response to the concerns being raised around alleged breaches of planning consent. These are often for sizeable developments being built next door to them and are causing great distress.

Katherine Kerswell: no response

“Unfortunately, the lack of council response – let alone any action being taken with respect to any compliance issues – is giving the impression that the council doesn’t care about residents and is content to ignore them and let developers just carry on regardless.

“I would be grateful if you could let me know what can be done to remedy this unacceptable situation.”

Philp’s email is dated July 23. By this morning, Kerswell, the council’s recently confirmed  £192,474 per year CEO, had not provided any response.

Read more: Council planners’ 3-month delay over Sanderstead complaint
Read more: Developers given free rein from a council with no controls
Read more: Feeble planners allow builders to get away with (tree) murder

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11 Responses to Council chiefs accused by MP of being on side of developers

  1. It is evident that a lot of people are making alot of money trashing our borough. Why should things change just because an MP and many residents are reasonably concerned.
    They don’t give a fig for the borough, the enviroment or the residents.
    Too many unsavoury connections.

  2. Alan Malarkey says:

    Isn’t it his government that defunds LAs and creates planning regulations which they are currently loosening in favour of developers aka Tory donors?

    • Spot on, Alan.
      But what this also demonstrates is that arrogant council employees, right up to executive director level, not only ignore complaints of the public, but also elected representatives, including a Tory government minister.
      Further proof, if it was necessary, that the biggest problem in Fisher’s Folly is the lack of accountability of Kerswell and her like.

    • No, planning policy SPD2 which effectively allows any type of shit residential development you can imagine in Croydon was written by Croydon Planners under Heather Cheesbrough and heavily influenced by Cllr Paul Scott.

      It was not written by Government.

      It’s a wholly Croydon creation. And until SPD2 is amended, the door is open wide to any greedy little developer wanting to build executive investment accommodation whilst sticking two fingers up to social housing.

      This is Paul Scott and Heather Cheesbrough’s legacy. And we’re all suffering because of it.

  3. Ian Kierans says:

    Let’s see what M’Lady responds to Mr Philp MP.

    Quite interestingly 3 Councillors and Ms Ali have also been appraised of just such for quite some time as has Ms Kerswell regarding the same issues in the North of the Borough. Not any response there either. In fact the council state they have not ”lost” the letters but have no record of them. Strangely though they responded to them but also have no record of the response. Luckily the missives were also copied widely (some Council operatives asked to no longer be copied in also – perhaps overload? Or guilty knowledge?)

    I am not quite sure why neither Labour MP is not involved in raising this matter as they have a number of party members and residents suffering the same issues and no responses – perhaps they are being kept in the dark?

    However Mr Philp might like to hear that under Ms Kerswells watch specifically some areas inc enforcement have been further decimated – I use that term perhaps inaccurately as it means losing a tenth – the cuts are perhaps a bit more savage than that.
    More interestingly with those cuts went a number of communication and co-ordination processes. Now even with the best will in the world and really competent enforcement management, this would be a challenge to work at all let alone efficiently.
    Call Noise and Dust Pollution last year to be told we are bust – you call again and get a voicemail to leave a message – 9 messages – 9 emails and 9 weeks later you get a reply. Hmmm the words not fit for purpose spring to mind! You raise this and are told we have no record of this and only have records from April 2021. Now tragedy becomes farce!

    So perhaps someone will eventually be saying

    ” The Enforcement teams are very diligent and doing the best they can with the resources they have in the current environment. As you may be aware the financial circumstance left us due to previous administrations have led to a dearth of resource and therefore for the foreseeable future we have no note takers, no minute’s of meetings no document control and we have no access to previous correspondence and we can not leave the home or office for site visit’s or enforcement duty as we need to ensure the safety of all our staff.

    We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge in advance any impacts on property, environment, mental and physical health, along with the unforeseen detriment to health and those unfortunate excess deaths that may occur due to those developments being granted planning permission, However responsibility does lie with the Undertaker and not the council for any perceived failures and is a private civil matter.

    You may also be aware that sadly this Government granted permission for Developers to work whenever they want including beside into and via shielded and isolated homes during all lock downs and we are unable to enforce matters as our codes are – well basically voluntary and unenforceable. Please take any building Control issues up with the Independent Building Inspector as although they have no enforcement powers we are unable to intervene once they are appointed by the Developer

    But as soon as circumstances permit we are hopeful that this will change (if it is in accordance with the advice of the appointed ministerial advisers or Minister.)

    Good Luck Mr Philp it would be nice for Ms Jones and Mr Reed to join you on this request or at least show support especially considering the same is occurring in the Central and North of the Borough.

    Even better a joint question in the commons would not go amiss and a private members bill would be fantastic. You will find many Builders/Developers would support this also as they are being tarred with the dodgy ones anti social antic’s.

    If Mr Philp is short of evidence let me know – I do realise not being in the south of the borough he would be unable to represent those in the Central or North experiencing the same on a daily basis. If Ms Jones or Mr Reed would like to also join this initiative then many would be happy to discuss and share also – I know I will.

  4. Ian Kierans says:

    Ms Kerswell is accountable – just not to anyone elected or any resident. Ask her who she is reporting to and working with and on what instruction/remit. Then ask how this meets with the Local Government Act 2011. Finally ask for the legal advice bill paid including retainers of external experts to ascertain how to meet the legal statutory duty to provide the minimalist services possible without raising the risk of litigation that might succeed.

    I am sure she will release all this data and we can have full disclosure – And then everyone can understand how maligned she has been and she was only acting on instruction and within the legislation, finance and other remits she was given. Her failures to communicate are her own but hey that is not within her remit is it?.
    Anyone really wanting to can just compare actions against a copy of the JD and person spec that she ended up being the only candidate for. Ah did she write that one herself? Was it not advertised?

  5. Croydon Council’s Planning Department is now totally adrift. It doesn’t know if it’s serving residents or developers, it’s not replying to correspondence and it’s failing to spot problems with developers’ proposals.

    Its management is not managing; planning officers are on extended leave, disappear for weeks on end and Croydon is suffering.

    Heather Cheesbrough and Katherine Kerswell must be held to account.

  6. Alison Butler and Colm Lacey need I say any more…..

  7. Lewis White says:

    Development is the most visible manifestation of change in the urban environment.

    One minute, there is a building (whether small, tall, ugly, beautiful or other) occupying a plot (big, small, occupied by the building partially or fully). There might be trees and shrubs. Then there might be a little yellow notice (if we are lucky) on a nearby lampost, then, a few months later, hoardings, diggers, maybe pile drivers, and ant-like activity of hi-viz-clad and safety helmeted people, with concrete frameoworks , blockwork and brickwork gradually rising towards the sky. The realisation phase.

    Then the other type of realisation phase. The hoardings come down. The public realisation as to whether the new buildings are beautiful, ugly or other, whether they dominate their surroundings, whether they over-fill the plots. Are they a good-neighbour building or a bully of a building ? In scale, or overbearing ? A body builder standing on a postage stamp? Will the materials going to age well, or get streaked and dirty in a year?

    Is the new development a blot on the urban landscape? Are the old trees all gone? Are there new trees and shrubs?

    I don’t envy the task of local council Planners, particularly those working in Development Control– widely regarded even 15 years ago as being unhelpful , saying “No” to many proposals. Then, such departments were re-titked “Development Management”, with a brief (whether stated or implied) of being more developer friendly. Some may have exceeded the expectations of the brief .

    I see a large number of good new developments in Coulsdon, Purley and other parts of this borough, and elsewhere in London, and I don’t sympathise with the knee-jerk nimby– or the “let’s keep everything like it was before or just after the war” or “like it was in the 70’s ” brigade,

    There are many streets — such as the Brighton road– where the scale of the road makes it entirely appropriate to build new blocks of 4 or 5 storeys, but there are likewise a very large number of examples of over-tall and (maybe a bigger problem) over-bulky buildings which so fill the plots that there is next to no remaining space for trees and other greenery.

    Streets where everything is 2 storey with gaps between the houses, and greenery in front, now find a 5 or 6 storey building plonked down, with no real gap lefts where trees growing behind can be seen.

    In a hilly area, it might be quite acceptable visusally to have a taller block on the lower side of the street, or at the bottom end, but the same building on the higher land would dominate the other buildings lower down the hill.

    Building lines used to control how close the buildings were to the street, on the basis that the greater the gap ‘twixt road and building, the greener and more gracious the development aspect.

    Whilst that arrangement did tend to result in a degree of monotony, in some cases (particularly in boroughs like Lewisham) the abandonment of a strong building line policy has resulted in some terribly large buildings being plonked right up the street in hietherto green and suburban areas. So little or no greening, with a cliff-face of building right by the road. No gap in which to plant trees to try to offset the built bulk of the structures. I call this “In your face development” .

    It is worrying when Planners say No to everything, and even more when they say Yes to everything,

    It seems that there needs to be a revision to the Croyudon Development Policies in terms of scale and mass of new buildings relative to context. The problem is how to bring about the necessary urban renewal so many areas of Croydon are physically worn out, with crummy accommodation and a totally non-green environment) and really need full redevelopment, while avoiding the over-scale developments seen in other places, all over the borough.

    The most worrying is if good Planners leave. We need good council officers, in all departments, and in Planning, this key to making the physical borough better, we need officers who are trained to know the difference between a good, fitting proposal or one that needs reduction or changes to make it acceptable.

    And similarly, a Planning Committee that does not delegate almost everything, and with councillors who not only care about the environment but are also trained to know what is good and what is not.
    Are councillors sent on courses –day release- to give them more knowledge?

    So many needs, but it does seem that there needs to be a review of contextual design policy when it comes to redevelopment.

  8. John Morgan says:

    Even more worrying is when the labour councillors on the Planning Committee raise significant objections and issues of concern about a planning application that should in reality result in a planning rejection, but then follow the party line and approve the application

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