Eight years since the old council offices, Taberner House, that stood on the site, was vacated, and many months later than the council’s chosen developers had planned for the build to be complete, the ribbon was cut this week on some of the first new council homes to be built in the borough since 2014.
The Labour-controlled council has chosen to call the building Malcolm Wicks House, named after the MP for Croydon North who died in 2012. Wicks’ widow, Margaret, was the guest of honour at the opening ceremony, alongside the Mayor of Croydon, Sherwan Chowdhury.
Malcolm Wicks House now sits close to the new council offices, Bernard Weatherill House (better known as Fisher’s Folly), named after another former Croydon MP and who went on to become the House of Commons Speaker. In 2021, we can only imagine what those two proud parliamentarians might have thought of the state of the borough today.
The new residential block will provide 90 council homes at council rents, with tenants expected to move in to the town centre flats (the council calls them “apartments”, as if they were cheap-suited estate agents) next month. The scheme is part of developer Hub’s 513-home regeneration of the old Taberner House site, which has built out extensively on to what was the only open space in the town centre, Queen’s Gardens.
Notably, while it was first considered to use Brick by Brick, the council-owned house-builders, to develop the old Taberner House site, that notion was quietly dropped around the time that a second version of planning consent was granted in 2018. No one at the council has ever offered an explanation for why Brick by Brick were deemed not suitable for this housing development on a public-owned piece of real estate.
Earlier this August, the first of the site’s four residential blocks, Bloom House, reached “practical completion”. That block is owned by housing association London and Quadrant and will provide 84 affordable homes.
The blocks range from 13 to 35 storeys, with the others being built for Legal and General. There will also be shops, commercial space, landscaping to the gardens and a café.
One of the council building’s residents will be Angela Matova. She recently heard she will be moving from emergency accommodation into a flat at Malcolm Wicks House with her nine-month-old daughter Chantelle and 15-year-old son Kevin.
“I’m really so happy because I love this property,” she said. “When Jonas called me from Croydon Council, I was so happy I was jumping that I had a new flat. My son was saying ‘Mum, what’s wrong; why are you jumping?’. I said ‘We’ve got a new flat and we are moving’.”
There are around 5,000 families on Croydon Council’s housing waiting list.
Legal and General will take ownership of the 35-storey second block that has been built on what was public-owned land and will include 251 flats that will all go for private sale.
According to Croydon Council, “Across the whole site, at least 51per cent of the flats are affordable at council rents, through shared ownership or with rents set at 80 per cent of the market rate under the London Living Rent incentive launched by the Mayor of London.”
Patricia Hay-Justice, cabinet member for homes and another of the attendees at the formal opening ceremony, said, “Malcolm Wicks House will provide 90 great-quality council homes at council rents for people on our housing list.
“We are committed to doing all we can to tackle the housing crisis, and this new development will help provide much-needed affordable homes thanks to support from the Mayor of London’s Building Council Homes for Londoners scheme.
“This building is a fitting tribute to a dedicated former local MP, a great use of the site of Croydon’s old headquarters, and I hope our new council residents will be very happy in their homes.”
Tom Copley, the Deputy Mayor of London for housing who also attending the brief ceremony, said: “We want there to be many more developments like this across Croydon and across London. I’m proud the mayor has funded these homes as part of a programme to deliver 10,000 new council homes in London by the end of March 2023.”
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