Time is running out for submissions on the council’s Local Plan, which some say could ‘destroy’ the suburbs, ‘turning the whole borough into a highly dense urban area’. By STEVEN DOWNES
Chris Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South, has entered the simmering row over planning officials’ brazen attempt to rewrite the council’s Local Plan to deliver a “developers’ charter”.
Philp describes as “grotesque” the planning changes proposed to allow “intensification” – that is, more blocks of flats – in Coulsdon, Kenley, Purley, Sanderstead, Selsdon, South Croydon and Waddon, which Philp describes as “all peaceful suburban areas”.
In an email to constituents this week, ahead of tomorrow’s 5pm deadline for submissions to the council’s planning officials, Philp says, “I am deeply concerned and appalled by this and believe it to be inconsistent with the [National Planning Policy Network]’s provisions about good design, and wholly without justification.”
The borough’s two other MPs, Labour’s Sarah Jones and Steve Reed OBE, have had little, if anything, to say to the people that they are supposed to represent over the changes to the Local Plan. It is not known whether either Jones or Reed have made, or intend to make, a submission on the council planners’ proposals.
Residents’ associations across the borough have responded with deep concern and barely-concealed outrage at the council’s poorly-publicised consultation. A collection of five groups from Coulsdon have described the council’s review as being “based on flawed policies and out of date information”.
There is justifiable anger among many that this Local Plan review is being hurried through now, apparently in a deliberate effort to tie the hands of whoever is elected as Croydon’s first executive Mayor on May 5. The badly flawed Local Plan, if it gets approval from Whitehall, could be set in stone for the next five years, giving the new Mayor no leeway to change planning policy.
Philp’s letter to constituents also raised the fear of the council’s Purley Oaks recycling centre being shut down and turned into a site for travellers and gypsies.
“Is this an error?” the MP writes. “This is a vital local facility and is in a flood zone. The plan itself earlier prohibits a gypsy and traveller site in a flood zone, so is contradictory.”
The cash-strapped council has previously said that it is considering flogging off at least one of its three recycling centres, despite having a conflicting policy and “ambition” which aims to increase the amounts that the borough’s residents recycle. Closing Purley Oaks would leave residents in the south of the borough with much longer journeys – probably in motor vehicles, potentially creating more pollution – to Factory Lane or New Addington.
The Local Plan review suggests that any change of use at Purley Oaks will not happen until 2032.
Philp’s email accuses the Labour-run council of being “intent on concreting over our neighbourhood and destroying family homes – and has been passing applications indiscriminately to do this for several years…
“Now Labour in Croydon intends to go even further and change the Local Plan to allow severe across-the-board “intensification” (ie knocking down houses and building even larger blocks of flats) across Coulsdon, Purley, Kenley, Sanderstead, Selsdon, South Croydon and Waddon – even more than now.”
In his own submission to the council on the Local Plan, Philp says that the Local Plan is “unsound” (a key word for planning bureaucrats when considering whether to approve the proposed changes), on the basis that “it fails to enshrine the good design principles required by the NPPF”, or National Planning Policy Framework.
Philp says that intensification proposals “will fundamentally change the character of the area”.
He says, “These policies take no account of cumulative effects, which may see whole streets of family houses destroyed. I note that protections around character, size and cumulative effect that exist in the current policy DM10.1-10.8 are to be deleted or substantially watered down. I am deeply concerned and appalled by this and believe it to be inconsistent with the NPPF’s provisions about good design, and wholly without justification.”
Like the Coulsdon residents’ associations, Philp accuses Croydon’s planners of getting their housing sums badly wrong. In one example, he writes, “The target figure for Purley at 5,735 is frankly absurd and would turn a peaceful suburban centre into a small city. This is unnecessary and destructive.
“The figures for Coulsdon, Kenley, Selsdon and Sanderstead are also inappropriately high as drafted.” He sees the plan’s proposals as “destroying” the suburbs, “and turning the whole borough into a highly dense urban area, with no meaningful planning protection”.
And he describes plans for eight-storey blocks of flats along the Purley Way as “a missed opportunity to create streets of liveable houses, not yet more tower blocks”.
Philp has also requested to appear at any public enquiry to make his points to the Planning Inspector in person.
The consultation on the Local Plan review closes tomorrow, February 17, at 5pm. Any resident is allowed to submit their own comments ahead of deadline, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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