#Macarnage: Formal complaint over planners’ too-close links

Going down the toilet: Macar’s influence reaches far and wide across the borough

EXCLUSIVE: The council has approved a scheme for another block of flats which is to be built by a firm with close links to a senior member of the planning staff, and where another planner appears to have helped draw up the architects’ submission. STEVEN DOWNES reports on the murky web of undeclared interests

Ross Gentry, the Croydon planning official whose wife works for one the busiest developers in the borough, has been accused of deliberately running down the clock of a planning meeting so that proposals for a block of flats could be passed on the say-so of one of his council colleagues, rather than receive proper consideration by a committee of councillors.

Ross Gentry: close to Macar, and New Place

The case of 86 Bradmore Way, in Old Coulsdon, exposes the nexus of local property firms’ multi-million-pound interests and the murky web of undeclared conflicts within the Croydon planning department, where residents believe that profit-hungry developers are being given preferential treatment over the interests of the broader community.

The latest planning committee meeting, held on January 27, granted permission to demolish an existing house on Bradmore Way and replace it with a three-storey block of seven flats. The application was made by a firm called New Place Associates. Companies House records show that New Place is closely linked to the company which employs Natalie Gentry, who is married to council planner Ross Gentry.

The director’s name on New Place’s application is Joe Garner. According to the official records at Companies House, Garner is also a former director of Macar Developments (32WR) Ltd.

Set for demolition: the house at 86 Bradmore Way which council planners have agreed can be demolished

Garner’s co-director at New Place is Benjamin Fish, who is a director of several other companies, many of which appear to be single-development businesses, often based around property interests in the south of the borough. Fish is also listed as a director of Macar Developments (32WR) Ltd.

Companies House records show that Macar Developments (32WR) Ltd was established in 2019 jointly between parent company Macar Developments Ltd and New Place.

Also listed as a co-director at Macar Developments (32WR) Ltd is Alex MacDonald, who is managing director of parent company Macar Developments, whose planning director is Natalie Gentry, who just happens to be married to a senior member of the council’s planning department. Cosy!

On the Macar website, MacDonald’s profile blusters: “Having spent over 15 years working in the property industry, Alex has seen it all…

“He has quickly built a reputation as someone who people want to do business with and now has extensive expertise in working with architects, local authorities, planners, builders and the public.”

Ross Gentry was in attendance at the January 27 planning committee, where his filibustering interventions on earlier agenda items were noted by members of a local residents’ association and have resulted in a formal complaint to the council.

‘The Macar team’: Alex MacDonald boasts of his ‘extensive expertise in working with architects, local authorities, planners…’

Ross Gentry made no declaration of interest at the meeting over the 86 Bradmore Way application.

But the conflicts within the council’s planning department do not end there.

New Place’s architects on the scheme are HTA Design, a firm beloved by the council’s former CEO, Jo “Negreedy” Negrini, and until very recently the employers of a former Croydon planner, Jan Slominski.

Slominski is regarded with distrust among local residents’ associations for the favourable manner in which, when working for the borough panning department, he treated previous planning applications, some from Macar, others from New Place, and including one or two designed by HTA.

As Inside Croydon previously reported, Slominski recently quit his job at HTA, and has rejoined Croydon Council with a promotion to a more senior position, placed in charge of developments in the south of the borough. That includes those in Old Coulsdon, such as the one on Bradmore Way.

Too close connections: the HTA Design report for New Place’s application for Bradmore Way…

The formal planning statement submitted with the application includes a report from HTA Design which gives no authors’ names, beyond a brief note on the frontispiece that says it was written by “ASI” and “Checked by JES”.

… “Authored by: ASI; Checked by: JES”

Other planning documents on the council’s planning portal list the HTA Design architect as Arjun Singh – almost certainly “ASI”. The application was submitted to Croydon Council in April 2021, when Jan Slominski – perhaps Jan E Slominski? – was still working at HTA Design.

A quick check of HTA Design’s staff list today could find no one with the initials “JS”, never mind “JES”.

This opens the real possibility that the Croydon Council planning department has just recommended for approval a scheme to build another ugly block of flats, where the senior planner responsible for the south Croydon area had actually worked on the architects’ proposals, for a scheme which is now going to be built by a firm of developers whose directors work alongside the employer of the wife of a second senior member of the planning staff.

And all despite the council having received 451 objections to the proposals for 86 Bradmore Way.

In the formal complaint to the council’s head of planning, Nicola Townsend, the residents of Bradmore Way highlight how the January 27 committee was subject to a 10pm “guillotine”, meaning that anything no considered by the councillor committee members before that time would default to the officer’s recommendations.

“During the meeting, a planning officer, Ross Gentry, was allowed to interrupt proceedings repeatedly during the hearing of 86 Bradmore Way to discuss the previous case, which ran down the time available for examination of 86 Bradmore Way,” the residents’ letter of complaint states, before pointing out the evident common business interests of Macar and New Place, of MacDonald and Natalie Gentry and Garner and Fish.

Heather Cheesbrough, the council executive director who lied about her professional qualifications, has previously dismissed any complaints about the Gentrys’ blatant conflicts of interests, and recently said that she welcomed the return of Slominski to her staff.

In the formal complaint, the residents object to the way in which there were 10 amendments to the application submitted on January 20, just seven days before the committee meeting – for an application that had been sitting on the desk of the Croydon planners for eight months.

Monster block: this is the three-storey building, containing seven flats, for which the council planners have just granted permission

The residents suspect the planning department of deliberate collusion in the interests of the developers.

The residents say, “These additional, revised or amended plans were not considered… prior to the planning officer’s report being written as they had not yet been submitted. Therefore, the planning officer’s report to the planning committee is misleading and incomplete and misdirected the councillors on the planning committee.

“The residents were not given an opportunity to question and examine those documents and were not given any additional time by planning to consult and, possibly, object to those documents.”

The residents have asked the council to withhold the decision notice on 86 Bradmore Way “until such time as this complaint, and any further steps we may take against the granting of this planning application, is resolved”.

Read more: Council in cover-up over planning’s husband and wife act
Read more: Director of planning’s bogus claim over Institute membership
Read more: Buyers beware: High Court judge puts planners in the dock
Read more:
Director refuses to admit conflict of interest over South Drive

Become a Patron!

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Coulsdon, Coulsdon West Residents' Association, Croydon Council, East Coulsdon Residents' Association, Heather Cheesbrough, Nicola Townsend, Old Coulsdon, Old Coulsdon Residents' Association, Planning and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to #Macarnage: Formal complaint over planners’ too-close links

  1. Monitoring Officer sitting on his hands! While he protects the interests of residents,and the ‘rectitude’ of our esteemed Council.

  2. Ross Gentry told the Planning Committee on 13 January that a planter would prevent views from the balcony of a block of flats, into my home.

    When subsequently asked for evidence he claimed it was ‘professional judgement’ even though that was not what he told the committee.

    Further, he didn’t know the dimensions of the planters, and visualisations which were not uploaded onto the planning portal or provided to the Committee, showed that there were direct views into my bedrooms, down into the skylights above the showers and across private garden space.

    Those visualisations were not released as part of a FOI request and is now subject of an investigation by the Information Commissioner. Landscaping isn’t supposed to be used to mitigate design failings anyway.

  3. Kevin Croucher says:

    This is typical of the whole culture at Croydon Council. Councillors and officers behave as if they are untouchable and pursue whatever agenda they feel like without worrying about the consequences.

  4. Anita Smith says:

    What is just as shocking as this IC report, is the lack of reader responses to it. How bad do things have to get in the planning department before there is such a howl of rage that heads begin to roll? Lots of ‘c’ words spring to mind such as corruption, contempt, collusion, conspiracy and Cheesbrough. If Cressida Dick can be forced out, surely the head of planning, who seems to have the support of absolutely no one, can be forced to fall on her metaphorical sword.

    Where are our MP’s, our Councillors, our community leaders etc? Why are they sitting watching the destruction of much our housing stock, and doing nothing? Why, despite so many objections to this particular planning application, did the planners take no notice and force through a decision against the will of the people.

    What do we have to do to stop this madness?

    • Wayne Mullen says:

      In the last two days I’ve had a complaint against Nicola Townsend for a breach of my privacy not upheld. It was investigated and decided by……..Nicola Townsend. A freedom information request made over a year ago was finally responded to. The proposed block of flats had a heavily recessed entrance on the side of the building and entrances to the ground floor flats at the back – both in breach of a mandatory policy in the London Plan as they cannot be seen from the public realm. Heather Cheesborough directed me back to the planning officer’s report which doesn’t mention the door locations at all (something she does a lot) and says that the existing house, built decades ago, has a side entrance as an explanation for waiving mandatory policy. This is our Director of Planning.

  5. Lee Malyon says:

    You are of course correct Anita. However, there seems to be absolutely nothing any mere mortal like me/us (IC readers) can do about it. We have been shouting & screaming for the last few years, Croydon Council just carry on regardless, with complete and utter contempt for the residents of this borough. Last week they agreed to give the idiotic BH Live another £million plus as a goodwill gesture to keep running tribute acts at Fairfield Halls! It just seems they are a law unto themselves, and sod everyone else, particularly the residents!!

  6. jackgriffin1933 says:

    “A director of several other companies, many of which appear to be single-development businesses”.

    In the trade, these are referred to as Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs). They are a very common corporate device designed to insulate parent companies from risk associated with specific projects. And so very common in development, where individual projects are placed within these wrappers to limit contagion in case they go tits.

    New Place also don’t just develop: they ‘build out’ for other developers – i.e. act as their building contractor. Therefore I suspect that Macar Developments (32WR) – 32 WR almost inevitably referring to a local address – is an JV-cum-SPV whereby NP is building out for Macar, and taking a profit share rather than being paid as a contractor. Something like that.

    One element perhaps overlooked is how local these developers are. If I’m not mistaken, Alex Macdonald is a John Fisher OB, while New Place has origins (at least, some of its team do) in Woodcote High.

    Thus it’s conceivable that the relationships between these people and companies are far deeper and longer established than their simple mutual commercial interests may suggest.

  7. I says:

    What about the gallop south croydon? Over 300 objections from residents so many concerns but just passed in a short planning meeting. Nobody cares

  8. David Wild says:

    South Drive on the cards again as 1 is under construction and 3 is ‘in design/planning’, yet not submitted but on MACAR web site

Leave a Reply