London Mayor joins critics of ‘unlawful’ Local Plan review

‘Ludicrous’, ‘grotesque’ and ‘vandalism’ are some of the milder rebukes aimed at the council’s planning department’s latest piece of developer-friendly work. And now Sadiq Khan has joined the critics, while a Tory MP is threatening a Judicial Review. EXCLUSIVE By STEVEN DOWNES

Unimpressed: City Hall officials delivered a 23-page schooling of Croydon’s planners on behalf of London Mayor Sadiq Khan

The council planning department’s revision of the Local Plan, potentially saddling future generations with hundreds of unnecessary blocks of flats above the housing targets, could yet be dragged through the High Court, according to one Croydon MP.

The Croydon planners’ “Developers’ Charter” has even been slated by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who has highlighted that the revisions proposed fail to follow the requirements of his own London Plan, which was published last year.

Khan’s criticisms of Croydon’s planners add to a pile of similarly negative comments, including those made by Croydon South’s Tory MP Chris Philp, Val Shawcross, the Labour candidate for Mayor of Croydon, and several residents’ associations.

Between them, they have all raised serious concerns, some even suggesting that the review, as drafted by the council’s developer-friendly planners, is unlawful.

And the Local Plan review, which closed to public consultation last week, has prompted one senior councillor to call for the sacking of Heather Cheesbrough, Croydon’s director of planning, for allowing such a reckless document to ever be put forward.

Developers’ Charter: the council planners’ intended ‘intensification’ of Croydon suburbs have attracted widespread criticism

In a 23-page submission drafted by one of Mayor Khan’s senior planning officials, and seen by Inside Croydon, they state that “there remain two key issues – the proposed approach to tall building development and the failure to recognise and reflect the Mayor’s strategic target for affordable housing”.

This, they state bluntly, means “that the draft Plan as written is not considered to be in general conformity” with the over-riding London Plan.

The schooling meted out by Lucinda Turner, City Hall’s assistant director of planning, would scupper the developers’ free-for-all that Cheesbrough’s team appeared to want to usher in. The Mayor of London’s team wants Croydon to conform with their plan and “Recognise and reflect the Mayor’s strategic target that 50per cent of all new housing is to be affordable, based on gross residential development”.

At a stroke, if implemented, this could halt the block-by-block concreting of Croydon’s suburbs with small blocks of nine flats which usually all go for private sale. If half of all new homes have to be “affordable”, profit-hungry developers would be forced to seek their easy pickings elsewhere.

Judicial Review threat: Chris Philp MP

And if that spanner in the works is not enough, then Cheesbrough’s planning department has managed to bring Tory Philp and Labour’s Shawcross together in common purpose to halt the Local Plan review in its tracks. The MP believes that the planners have acted unlawfully by not following due process and called their proposals “grotesque”.

The plan’s authors are now supposed to be drawing together the various comments submitted to them during the (deliberately) under-publicised public consultation.

They then have to forward their revised plan to the government’s Planning Inspector for their approval, or rejection.

Philp told Inside Croydon, “The council is definitely seeking to rush this through before the Mayoral election. The new Mayor will have the power to request that the Inspector restarts the whole process.

“I will explore whether there is scope to launch a Judicial Review on the basis that the council have not properly and fully consulted.”

Philp also believes that the council planners have set too high housing targets, at 46,000 units by 2039, instead of the 32,000 required in Mayor Khan’s London Plan.

Calling a halt: Labour candidate Val Shawcross

One submission, made by Labour councillors in Waddon, laid in to the proposals by saying,We think building 4,000 extra homes in the Purley Way area with no transport improvements is ludicrous.”

Other submissions from residents’ associations say that the housing targets contained within the council’s Local Plan review “are based on flawed policies and out of date information”.

And Shawcross has meanwhile called for the process to be halted until May 6 – after those first Mayoral elections are held in the borough, to give whoever takes over the Town Hall administration an opportunity to amend the plan.

Shawcross says that the post-May 5 administration, which she hopes to lead, “may well not share the same policy approach as the old one, therefore the timing of this series of amendments is inappropriate”.

Shawcross said, “Normally, binding, long-term policy decisions would never be taken in the run-up to a local election.”

The Labour mayoral candidate attacked the “intensification” policies that have been implemented over the past eight years by her Labour colleagues, and which are enshrined in the Local Plan revisions.

As Inside Croydon reported last week, Shawcross has characterised the Local Plan proposals for some of the borough’s suburbs as “a short-termist act of vandalism”.

She said, “It is vital that we protect the character of Croydon. The plan needs to recognise the needs of residents, businesses and community organisations and as it stands at the moment, it does not.”

And today, the mishandling of the Local Plan has prompted one veteran councillor to call for the sacking for the head of the council department responsible.

Heather Cheesbrough has managed to alienate thousands of residents across the borough since she was handed the head of planning and development job by her predecessor, Jo Negrini. Often condescending and frequently patronising, of councillors as well as the “mere” residents she is supposed to serve, Cheesbrough has tolerated blatant conflicts of interests held by planners she has appointed. She has also been caught out lying about her professional qualifications.

Today, Councillor Andrew Pelling met with the council’s most senior legal official, and it is understood that he intended to raise the matter of Cheesbrough’s Local Plan review as the latest cause for her dismissal.

Read more: Toxic legacy that could destroy borough’s character forever
Read more: Coulsdon RAs reject council planners’ charter for developers
Read more: Residents’ associations angrily reject Scott’s concrete plans
Read more: Whitgift Estate is at risk from ‘a short-termist act of vandalism’

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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 2022 council elections, 2022 Croydon Mayor election, Andrew Pelling, Chris Philp MP, Croydon Council, Croydon South, Heather Cheesbrough, Housing, London-wide issues, Mayor of London, Planning, Sadiq Khan, Val Shawcross, Waddon and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to London Mayor joins critics of ‘unlawful’ Local Plan review

  1. Rod Davies says:

    And which organisation is going to buy the land and then build all this social housing? If it is to be 50% of the total that 10,000 units. And where is this land?

    For all the sudden outrage & finger pointing let no one forget that it was the Conservative administration that devised the current Local Plan back in 2013/14 and basically determined the
    direction of Croydon’s evolution. It had the backing of the majority as it appeared to commit the council to limiting the extent of high density development to the town centre and those effectively voiceless communities on its periphery.

    But all this outrage is meaningless if no viable alternative is proposed.

    There’s no point trying to contain future development within the framework of the current Local Plan, as there are no available sites left in the town centre and adjacent areas to build any more tower blocks, with the exception perhaps of the empty Park Hotel.

    So what do Messrs Shawcross, Philp, Pelling, Khan & Co have as an alternative that will meet the required targets?

    And preserving Croydon’s character has no meaning if the ever rising cost and scarcity of housing means you can’t feed and clothe your children, or you have to live in damp dirty and unsafe council flats.

  2. Anita Smith says:

    There is another solution to this crisis, we could just say no to our target! Our projected allocation for building flats is ridiculously high and a realistic Council would have said that. There are many high value flats in Croydon which remain unsold, so why build more? Even the term “affordable” has no meaning in the context of London property prices.

    So why doesn’t Sadiq put his money where his mouth is and offer to help Croydon build genuine affordable housing. Better still, council housing.

    Good that Philp and Shawcross have come together in common cause, but where are the representations from Jones and Reed? Are they still around?

    Plus, I must see a doctor about my ongoing paranoia, but do these intensification plans only extend to the south of the Borough?

  3. Pete Jenkins says:

    Jones and Reed never seem to comment on anything that’s good or bad in Croydon – especially in their own areas. BBC Question Time appearances by Jones won’t help us. We need more input from them and especially their thoughts on our current Council situation – including the Fairfield Halls fiasco – and how they might help. Ah wait, everything is going so well……….

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