Don’t sacrifice Coulsdon to pay off Brick by Brick’s debt

CROYDON COMMENTARY: The unravelling of inter-connected land deals following the collapse of Brick by Brick’s failed house-building business, as exclusively revealed by Inside Croydon, could have long-term damaging consequences for Coulsdon, says local resident LEWIS WHITE (right)

I was unaware of this appalling proposed sale by the council of part of the CALAT Centre site at Coulsdon to the NHS for a dialysis centre.

The action, if it goes ahead, is a disgraceful negation of a long-held commitment. Coulsdon needs a new community centre.

It is also appallingly wasteful in terms of finding the best use for a focal, town centre site.

In pure financial terms alone, the £1million valuation seems to be far too low for such a development site in such a prime location.

Brick by Brick failed to deliver the housing, community centre and health facilities promised for Coulsdon

The plan was to redevelop the existing community centre at Barrie Close as housing and provide the community with a new building on part of the site of the disused CALAT centre – what had long ago been the old Smitham Primary school.

The plan for the CALAT Centre building and site made good sense in terms of heritage: it is a very attractive, multi-gabled building with a distinctive cupola with weather vane. A local landmark. It was all re-roofed around 18 years ago, and is a solid, brick-built building, in basically good repair.

However, the site is surrounded by ugly tarmac playground areas, and has been languishing, waiting for renewal and a fitting new use. This is exactly what the Brick by Brick proposal was.

The idea was to keep the existing building, extending a new multi-use hall onto the adjacent playground. The many classrooms of the old school were also the classrooms for the CALAT Centre and would have provided perfect accommodation for new classes and meetings typically held in such a community centre.

In addition, there was room on the site for much-needed public car parking, plus an NHS medical centre.

The development site is at the heart of Coulsdon, and is well-served by public transport. The proposal would have added to the vitality of Coulsdon, as well as creating a fantastic modern facility for the community, with educational, health and culture aspects covered. Plus the much-needed medical centre.

Unravelling: plans for community facilities in Coulsdon are being jettisoned for quick property sales

Along, I suppose, with many others, I imagined that at long last the nearest local GP practice would move to the CALAT site from Chipstead Valley Road, where it has been, in a cramped terraced house similar, for at least 60 years. It has precipitous stairs, and wheelchair access round the back. The people of Coulsdon deserve much better.

A kidney dialysis centre does not have to be right in a town centre. Ullswater Crescent Industrial estate, as was originally proposed, is not a bad location. There are sites locally along the Brighton Road between Coulsdon and Purley that are available. There must be many others. They need parking for patients and staff… surely it would be cheaper to build with the necessary parking in a location that isn’t in the town centre?

Why is the power to wreck a perfectly sound proposal in so few hands? It is wrong.

Slow work: the Brick by  Brick flats at Lion Green Road are not yet finished

As to that old chestnut of Labour councillors not caring about the south of the borough: it is unworthy of any administration to seek anything other than the best planning solutions and best projects for any area of the borough, not just its perceived “loyal voter base”. They are elected to serve the people of Croydon, which must mean all of them, irrespective of age, colour, sex or political orientation.

Coulsdon has received a lot of residential development in the last 10 or so years – Cane Hill (more than 700 new houses and flats), the Leaden Hill (ex Pinewood Motors site, a few hundred flats),  the recently completed Station Approach (the Plumb Base site, more flats), the long-delayed five Brick by Brick blocks on Lion Green Road (157 flats), plus loads of three-storey blocks of nine flats dotted around the area.

It is only fair that Coulsdon gets a development at the CALAT Centre site that will give all its residents, old and new, a new community centre to replace the 1930s hall at Barrie Close.

Read more: Labour break Coulsdon promises because ‘We need the money’

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7 Responses to Don’t sacrifice Coulsdon to pay off Brick by Brick’s debt

  1. This seems a very sensible outline of what would be beneficial for Coulsdon.
    Really I wonder if so reasonable an argument will get anywhere with a Council whose interests are not those of residents, but of a cabal which serves only itself.

  2. Really well-made case, but a case that shouldn’t have to be made if Croydon planning was working and somebody dynamic, engaged and focused was running the council.

  3. Hazel swain says:

    share the love,,, the council and brick by brick have ruined Central and South Croydon already.

  4. Steve Francombe says:

    Vote for a directly elected Mayor on the 7th October!

    • Roger Sharp says:

      I’m not sure how or why having a mayor is going to help with the Brick by Brick debacle and it runs the risk of making a bad situation worse. Once you decide to have an election, you have to know if you’re likely to get a winner who can be of value to the situation, or if you risk having a nobody.

      Let’s face it, who’s going to want to be mayor in Croydon at the moment?

    • Whichever way you vote on Oct 7, the new council leadership will still be subject to oversight by government inspectors, will still have to deliver another £38million-worth of cuts to services and will still need to pay down the £1.5billion debt accumulated by “strong leader” Tony Newman and his numpties. Hard and unpopular decisions will need to be taken. It’s all just #ABitLessShit

  5. Paul Ford says:

    The NHS medical centre at the western end of the CALAT site is going ahead. Last Monday’s (20th September) Council Scrutiny and Overview meeting rubber-stamped it in effect. The NHS Dialysis Unit would operate next door to it in the main school building, which actually makes a lot of sense, providing of course the disposal of that asset is approved by the Council cabinet, which it hasn’t been as yet. It should come before them for a decision by the end of this year at the latest.

    The existing tiny pay and display car park will be turned into access and parking for the new Medical Centre, and the parking on the Malcolm Road side would be purely for Community Centre users, or, I assume, Dialysis Unit staff and users. So actually, there will be less town centre parking than there is now, regardless of the fate of the CALAT main buildings.

    The valuation of just over £1m refers to just the section of the CALAT site to be sold for use as the new Medical Centre, not the whole site. Please see Inside Croydon’s previous article on the issue.

    Most important of all, there is no NEED for a new Community Centre.

    We’ve already got one. It was functioning at near to capacity immediately prior to the pandemic and will do again.

    The creation of a new Community Centre in the centre of town is a ‘nice to have’ item.

    To do so on the CALAT site, would mean a loss of car parking for the Centre (over half the current capacity), increased security needs, increased parking controls, reduced hall space. There are wins, but at a cost. £2.5m to be exact. That’s how much it will cost to refurb the CALAT and build a new hall for it. That’s how much any developer will need to stump up if they want to tear down the existing Centre and built nearly forty new dwellings on it.

    What the Community Centre needs isn’t a new location, it’s certainty. So we can get on with providing the best possible service and facilities to a community we’ve served in one form or another for 86 years.

    Our existing building has history, one we’re loath to lose. And a future, if the sale of the CALAT to the NHS goes ahead. God knows, Chipstead Valley Road doesn’t need nearly forty more houses. It’s too crowded, too much traffic, too little parking and the faltering infrastructure can’t cope with the existing level of usage. The sewage system has already passed breaking point as residents will unhappily tell you.

    If the Council are broke, and they are, then they’re going to look for ways to bring in money. If they decide to sell the CALAT to the NHS it makes financial sense, as it’s money now, not at some distant point in the future when they might possibly find a developer to take a £2.5million hit before they even think about building new houses.

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