Toxic legacy that could destroy borough’s character forever

CROYDON COMMENTARY: The council is running a consultation (another one), this time over its proposals to increase the amount of housing intensification it will allow across the borough. ANITA SMITH shares her concerns about the changes to the Local Plan

Under threat: residents’ association fears Local Plan proposals will destroy the Whitgift Estate

How many people in Croydon know about the so-called “consultation” taking place to determine how many more “homes” (for that, read “flats”) our council can squeeze into our already congested town?

The current Croydon Local Plan, a “strategy for development in the borough”, was agreed by the council as recently as 2018. What we have now is an amendment to that plan, setting out new areas for “intensification” and “windfall sites”.

This “consultation”, like so many carried out by this council (on Landlord licensing and the 20mph zones, to name but two), is meaningless. It is simply a box-ticking exercise.

DEMOC, the campaign set up to force a referendum on whether or not we should have a directly-elected Mayor, had the slogan “When did the council last listen to you?”

Well, when did it? On anything?

I attended a meeting last week in Addiscombe. This meeting was called by Jason Perry the Conservative Mayoral candidate, to explain to residents’ associations how:
a) the “consultation” works,
b) the form filling (quite complicated) is done,
c) the four grounds under which you can object legally, and provided an opportunity for residents’ associations and interested parties to exchange views.

Opposition: Jason Perry is telling RAs that he is against the Local Plan changes

Perry expressed the view that he was against the destruction of family homes.

From statements made by people from across the borough, I can tell you that the council is still not listening.

They have learned nothing from the DEMOC campaign despite the overwhelming result, 4-to-1 in favour of an elected Mayor, with majorities in favour across every ward in the borough.

They have still not taken on board that the people of this town are fed up with not being listened to. They blunder on as they did in the past, when the Gang of Four (or was it three?) were running the town into the ground. Nothing has changed.

The legacy and influence of the people who bankrupted the borough lives on. People are concerned that the drive for density and intensification fails to protect what little character Croydon has left.

Neighbouring boroughs Bromley and Sutton both chose to ignore their allocated quotas of extra housing, whereas Croydon chose to increase ours.

Opposed: Labour Mayoral candidate Val Shawcross has described the Local Plan proposals as ‘vandalism’

Croydon has chosen to destroy family homes, build more and more flats, and from my perspective, tried to change the face of Croydon forever. It’s political!!

The Labour Mayoral candidate, Val Shawcross, has also engaged with the new intensification plans as it affects my own estate. I have lived with my family on the Whitgift Foundation Estate for more than 40 years. It is a family-friendly area of detached houses.

Someone in the planning department in Croydon, someone with a pencil and probably no brain, has drawn a line right through the middle of the Whitgift Estate.

On this side, oooh, let’s build flats, demolish family houses, create new roads, mews, add a third storey and squeeze a couple more small houses in the back gardens. On the other side, ok, the residents can live in their homes for a little bit longer.

This can only provide tension on an estate of similar houses and amenities. These proposals would destroy an important Croydon housing asset. It is difficult to escape the thought that here is “the politics of envy” at its worst. You have it, so we want it, or we’ll wreck it.

Val Shawcross came to walk round our Estate with the chairman of the residents’ association and has replied to letters from concerned residents saying that it would be an “act of vandalism” to do what is proposed in this Regulation 19 amendment.

It might be an act of vandalism, Val, but who is going to stop such vandalism being carried out? The council who don’t listen? The councillors who nod through anything put before them? Or the planning department who don’t have any effective enforcement officers to make sure developers are sticking to their approved schemes and who cooked up this ill-considered plan in the first place?

According to both Mayoral candidates, nothing can stop these amendments from being passed, despite the so-called “consultation”. The consultation that many people haven’t even heard of. It’s like a chapter from Alice in Wonderland!

Under threat: proposals to alter the Local Plan would destroy an important Croydon housing asset

The closing date for objections and submissions to the consultation is February 17. By the end of March, the objections which meet the criteria are summarised and sent to the Secretary of State, Michael Gove.

He then refers this Regulation 19 amendment to the Planning Inspectorate. This should be achieved by the end of April.

On May 5, there are elections in Croydon for both a Mayor and for councillors. Should there be a change of administration at the council, this Local Plan amendment would have already been submitted and cannot be changed. So, call me paranoid, but this could well be seen as a last-ditch stand by the current ruling group, who do not listen to what we say and want to push through their agenda to concrete over the whole of Croydon before they are pushed out of power.

All done without many interested parties in Croydon being aware of the intensification that is being proposed for homes and gardens right across the borough. Your back garden could be next!

The only way to affect change is through the ballot box. It seems to be too late to stop these amendments from passing, so underhand and badly advertised has this “consultation” been, (our residents’ association only stumbled on this revised plan by accident a couple of weeks ago, and others learned the news from us).

But by getting rid of the nodding donkeys at the council who are responsible, and by sending a message to the unscrupulous developers who are blighting our suburbs that we will not be ignored, perhaps we can begin to move forward.

We demand change, and change is coming.

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8 Responses to Toxic legacy that could destroy borough’s character forever

  1. Developers probably short of easy sites, looking to their pals for help in making a quick buck on the backs of Croydon residents. Afterall the centre of Croydon has been pretty much destroyed and would require superhuman efforts to make it half decent. I don’t see any candidates for the job on the horizon, so let’s f…up the rest.

  2. Rod Davies says:

    Croydon is a place of contrasts; there are people who have lived as homeowners for decades who resist any change; and there are those without homes of their own watching the bulk of their income consumed by landlords of all forms. There are young people starting out for whom owning a home equivalent to their parents is an unachievable fantasy.

    In 1990 a PO1 Local Authority officer started out on £15k p.a. and a typical terraced house in Croydon cost about £70k. The terraced house now costs 5 times as much, but the salary for the PO1 officer is around £36k.

    To have the same purchasing power the PO1 officer should receive a salary £75k p.a – so the purchasing power has halved.

    Housing, together with food & clothing, is a fundamental of life, and if it is not affordable society ultimately breaks down.

    This fall in purchasing power highlights not just a generational divide, but also the unsustainable social model we have.

    As our society ages, and more people become dependent on public sector services, we will face a crisis if those who would previously worked in the public & service sectors cannot afford to do so.
    Therefore the borough’s political leaders, regardless of party, need to consider how they sustain the community. If they concentrate on protecting the property-owning residents’ desire for no environmental change, they risk creating further crises elsewhere.

    If low paid workers’ incomes are consumed by rent and other property costs, they inherently have less to spend in the shops on all but the essentials. It cannot be a coincidence that as housing costs have spiralled that the retail sector has weakened with empty shops now being commonplace, and shopping centres teetering on bankruptcy. If a basic job cannot offer a decent standard of living, then why should the least able in the job market look to employment if crime offers a better outcome in the short term, especially if those living comfortably in detached houses in the middle of the Whitgift Estate appear to have so much in comparison?

    If the community objects to private sector developers “profiteering” from the housing crisis, then the electorate needs to vote for parties that will return to mass council house construction.

    • At the crux of this is the Thatcherite mantra which suggests that everyone should be able to, or have “a right” to, “get a step on the housing ladder”, a cliche which has been trotted out over the past 40 years at the same time that governments, including the Blairite one, undermined, reduced and flogged off millions of council homes, at a stroke fuelling house price inflation while helping private landlords make small (and not so small) fortunes.

      We all deserve and need a place to live.

      We don’t all have to be home-owners.

      It is entirely understandable that if some people buy their dream home and pay a small fortune for it, in their chosen location, they will want to defend that asset from change and to ensure that their chosen neighbourhood retains the characteristics that made them choose it in the first place. That isn’t “nimbyism”. It’s commonsense and human nature.

      Take a look at places such as Peckham, or Sheffield… not exactly centres of rabid Tory rule either of them. But both places have maintained and cherished their heritage housing stock to the extent that they have become attractive, even fashionable places for people to want to live (and to buy).

      It can be done. And an important part of achieving such a balance can be achieved by local authorities providing more homes for social rent.

      • Rod Davies says:

        Citing Peckham (LB Southwark) and Sheffield is an interesting comparison to make when addressing issues in Croydon. Both Southwark and Sheffield have remained committed to having large volumes of council housing – Southwark has 55,000 housing units with plans for a further 11,000. Both Sheffield and Southwark are in the top 5 of council housing providers in UK, and compared with Croydon Southwark is geographically small.
        The lack of supply of housing simply drives up prices, from which only existing property owners benefit. If people have to pay a disproportionate amount of their income on housing, then it limits their choices and ability to invest in themselves and their dependents. The further down the socio-economic scale you are, the greater the impact upon you and your family; and thus the greater the divide between those who have and those who do not.
        People who have resources and advantage may not want change in any form, but as the 2013/14 local plan consultation amply demonstrated they were only too happy to impose far greater change upon people living in and around the town centre. It created a profoundly divided borough where a minority live in densely populated localities, while the majority were offered notional protection from any diminishment to the quality of their neighbourhoods.
        If those with relative wealth and power do not care about the greater community and seek to provide everyone with the opportunity for a decent home & life, why then should the greater community express any care or concern for their perspectives?

        • Simply plucked from the back of an old head, following recent visits. Both places have cherished their heritage housing stock. Both places seem well-kempt, attractive places with lots of green spaces and streets lined with mature trees, places where people want to live.

          And both were far more welcoming than many Croydon streets, where block after block of flats, set back from the road, have been developed without any real thought into the relationship with the neighbourhood, no integration with services and facilities, such as the provision of greengrocers’ and butchers’ shops, pubs, bars and restaurants.

          In Sheffield city centre, they have even managed to achieve that feeling in the last 20 years with the development of Hallam University, the halls of residents and a vibrant student area.

          Above all else, Rod, you are right about the delivery of decent quantities of council homes.

          And that never can be achieved by block-by-block private developments of eight or nine flats at a time, where developers swerve any requirement to provide any quota of “affordable” homes.

          Oh, and before I forget: can someone come up with an alternative expression for “affordable” housing that properly conveys the unaffordable nature of most of it?

  3. Eve Tullett says:

    As someone who grew up in Croydon in the 90s, it hasn’t had character for decades. This comes across as a case of people with nice houses not wanting blocks of flats built in their area. No one cares if this happens in Thornton Heath or New Addington. The council is 100% a mess but if it’s theoretically acceptable for new developments to be built in less desirable areas then it should also be acceptable in more desirable areas or be unacceptable in both. There’s a distinct lack of people worrying about developments in the aforementioned places.

  4. Hazel swain says:

    enough is enough .. no more flats .. no more destruction of family houses.. no more infilling.. there are plenty of empty spaces for building in other parts of the country .. Croydon is almost concreted over already

  5. Susan Rayment says:

    I haven’t been to Croydon for over two years it’s lost its sole I think it’s too late to bring it back.
    More flats more council tax which is not being put to good use. Poor Croydon and the people that live there.

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