CROYDON IN CRISIS: Developers and property speculators look set to profit as more public-owned property is to be sold on the cheap.
EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES
The Croydon fire-sale, with public property being flogged off in a rush at bargain-basement prices, continues next month with a property auction run by Savills in which a four- or even five-bedroom house set in acres of parkland is going under the hammer at a guide price that’s less than the cost of most one-bed flats in the borough.
The Lodge in Ashburton Park will be auctioned on February 9.
The auctioners’ guide price is just £320,000, representing another potentially huge financial loss to the people of Croydon in the aftermath of the council’s financial collapse in 2020. Smaller four-bedroom houses nearby are on the open market for at least twice that price.
According to the auctioneer’s blurb, Addiscombe Lodge is, “a unique opportunity to acquire an attractive former park keeper’s lodge house situated within Ashburton Park. The property is in need of modernisation and provides an opportunity to reconfigure and extend subject to consents. Surrounding gardens, off-street parking and a garage. Vacant.
“By order of Croydon Council.”
Savills’ description of the property states that it is “a two-storey brick-built former park keeper’s lodge house with an L-shaped footprint and a rear courtyard area. There is an integral store/workshop.” On the ground floor there are three reception rooms, a kitchen and store/workshop, while their are five rooms and a toilet/bathroom on the first floor.
As well as being set within the park, the house also has its own private gardens.
Ashburton Park has gained a degree of national notoriety in the past week, following the fatal stabbing of 15-year-old Zaian Aimable-Lina, a tragedy which is subject of an on-going murder case.
Until recently, the Lodge, what estate agents would doubtless routinely describe as “desirable”, had been the home to council tenants.
Most sources seem to agree that – in common with Croydon Council’s burgeoning reputation for failing to maintain or repair its properties – the Lodge has been left in a pretty poor state. “It could still make a lovely home,” according to one local who visited while the house was occupied.
Of course, because it is going for sale by auction, the council might eventually realise more than the stated guide price. Savills explain, “Guide prices given are indications within 10 per cent upwards or downwards of where the reserve price may be set… Please note they are not an indication of the anticipated sale price or a valuation.”
And they add, “The reserve price is the minimum price at which the property can be sold.” Which suggests that the council has put £300,000 as the very low minimum bid it is prepared to accept for the building, which is yet another casualty of the property market gamble with house-building company Brick by Brick.
The Lodge – which in fact is a Victorian-built servants’ quarters for the former manor house nearby – was one of the sites that Brick by Brick was due to develop.
In 2017, when the then chief exec Jo Negrini was splashing the cash on countless consultants, Tyrens did a 76-page report on Ashburton Park, one of six Croydon Destination Parks – Masterplanning which looked at the park and its buildings.
In their report, the consultants had The Lodge listed under “Opportunities” and listed for unspecified “redevelopment”.
You can almost hear the “kerching” in the background and while the report’s author has a Pet Shop Boys number playing on their Spotify…
According to a Katharine Street source, more recently the hope at the council was that the property would yield at least £1million, money to offset the overspend on the refurbishment of Ashburton Hall, another of the council’s “ambitious” schemes which failed to be delivered in the manner promised.
There is growing dissent among elected councillors, though, at what they see as opportunistic asset-stripping of council properties by what they describe as “those government wankers”, meaning the so-called improvement panel that was imposed on Croydon by Whitehall 12 months ago.
“No one is arguing that there were many mistakes made, and that the council’s leadership bulldozed things through without proper debate,” said the source.
“But selling off assets at way below their true market value will only strip the borough of even more money. There should be long and serious questioning – in public – at how the valuations of these properties have been reached, and whether their eventual sale prices represent true best value for Croydon residents.”
The Lodge sale also represents another encroachment on public open space for profit, from a Labour-controlled council that had promised to protect and enhance the borough’s much-cherished parks.
Another lodge building, in Grangewood Park, Thornton Heath, is also up for sale, while the state of Queen’s Gardens – after nearly a half of the town centre open space was given to developers – is the cause of mounting concern to Council Tax-payers.
Meanwhile, if anyone has £320,000 spare and are looking for a doer-upper job on a five-bed house in a south London parkland setting which they could spin and potentially triple their money, the auction details are here.
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