Croydon’s planners out-strip other boroughs in permissions

EXCLUSIVE: Research based on government figures confirms that Croydon’s planning department has been out-stripping other south London boroughs in giving permission to property developers – at times by a rate of more than 5 to 1. By STEVEN DOWNES

Research based on government data shows that Croydon Council granted more than five times as many planning permissions in 2020 as neighbouring borough Bromley.

The same work also showed that in 2020, the latest full-year figures available, Croydon’s planners rubber-stamped planning permission to more than four times as many applications as another neighbouring borough, Labour-controlled inner-city Lambeth.

And over the course of the last four years, from 2018 to September 2021, Croydon granted planning permission to a total of 1,279 applications, while in next-door Sutton, just 422 schemes were given a planning green light by their council.

The data, based on official figures from what is now known as the Department for Levelling Up, will go a long way to confirm the views expressed by many residents’ groups that Croydon Council’s planning department has been “soft” on some developers and over-eager to push through sometimes questionable development schemes.

The figures have been made available through research conducted on behalf of Sirius Property Finance.

The data confirms that after several years where Croydon’s planners were granting fewer than 230 schemes with planning permission per year, from 2015 that number rapidly increased to more than 300 per year, and going above 400 in two years.

A peak of 436 planning permissions were granted in 2017 – around four times as many as neighbouring boroughs Bromley (95 applications granted), Sutton (116) and Lambeth (118) in the same period.

Soft touch: Croydon’s planners have been notably easier for developers to achieve planning permission than neighbouring boroughs, based on figures from the Department for Levelling Up

Sector analysis by real estate debt advisory specialists Sirius shows that nationally, while the level of new homes being granted planning permission dipped during the first year of the pandemic, this negative trend reversed in 2021 with the third-highest annual total seen since 2007.

The figures show a drop of 10per cent nationally in the number of residential homes granted planning permission in 2020, the first year of the pandemic. Researchers say, “This was the lowest level since 2015 and only the second year on year decrease since 2010.”

In Croydon, the number of permissions fell from 414 in 2019 to 303 in 2020.

Sirius’s national research shows that permissions across the country had rebounded in the first six months of 2021 (to September, the most up to date figures available). In Croydon, 164 schemes had been green-lighted in the first half-year.

Across the whole of London, planning permission has been granted for 60,200 residential units over the last year, accounting for nearly one-fifth of the national total.

The south-east saw the second-highest level, with planning permission granted for 46,500 new residential.

“We’ve seen a sharp increase in the volume of planning applications being granted over the last year, which suggests that there is plenty in the pipeline to satisfy the ongoing need for more housing,” said Nicholas Christofi, managing director of Sirius Property Finance.

Planning has been a key issue with voters ahead of today’s local elections, and was one of the drivers in the campaign to introduce a directly-elected Mayor. Whoever is elected today is likely to have the conduct of the planning department very high, if not at the top, of their to-do list.

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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
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8 Responses to Croydon’s planners out-strip other boroughs in permissions

  1. Geoff James says:

    Within Kenley we track how many intensified dwellings have been approved since 2019.

    What we find, just looking at intensified housing, is that Croydon Council has approved 205 new dwellings in Kenley. This is many years ahead of the necessary run rate of the already inflated housing targets that we have been assigned in Kenley.

    In fact the Council could place a complete moratorium on all newly submitted planning applications for new dwellings in Kenley for the next 8 years, and all this would do is bring Kenley into the normal run rate for new housing to meet our existing 20 year target. That is, we are only 4 years into a 20 year plan and for Kenley we are already 8 years ahead of that 20 year.

    This is either gross incompetence or blatant politicalization of the planning system.

  2. Hazel says:

    this is no surprise to those of us living in the shadows of the decisions they made ….

  3. Paul says:

    The Heath Clark playing fields in Waddon are now being developed for housing despite the land having a covenant stating it should be used for educational purposes only.And despite the fact the area already has a problem with heavy traffic.

    Why the land wasn’t simply incorporated into neighbouring Duppas Hill Park and used for recreational purposes which could also be described as educational is beyond me.But then much of what Croydon Council’s current administration has done is beyond the pale.

    • That land is not, and has never been, owned by the council.

      The land was sold by Croydon College a few years ago, to developers.

      A portion of the site has been set-aside for a possible new school, which fulfils the terms of the covenant.

      Yes, it might have been a useful extension to the public park. But no council can completely control that which it does not own.

  4. What we don’t know is what proportion of applications Croydon ‘rubber-stamps’ . We might receive five times as many as Bromley. What I don’t get is the strategy behind this ‘rubber-stamping’. Was it to grow the Council Tax base? Or to punish Conservative voters in the once leafy suburbs?

  5. Gavin Firth says:

    Geoff James’ observations are quite shocking. If this was France or Italy they’d be climbing through the second floor windows of the town hall.

    What’s happened in Kenley and Croydon generally is a failure of planning. It’s not the result of some complex socio-political set of circumstances. It’s about the failure of three individual and the lack of intervention from senior council officials and politicians.

    Its about the passing of a planning guidance document called SPD2 that’s removes all the planning rules that every other local authority applies in their boroughs. SPD2 is as toxic as some bomb-making manual downloaded from the internet. Not one local authority has copied it. It’s the product of Cllr Paul Scott, planner Pete Smith and Director of Planning Heather Cheesbrough. Scott was eventually sacked from the planning committee and is now standing down as a councillor because of the harm caused by SPD2. Pete Smith was made a scapegoat and ended up ‘retiring’ because of SPD2. And Heather Cheesbrough has carried on bludgeoning the people of Croydon with SPD2 – that’s when she’s not not answering emails or failing to retain senior staff in her department.

    It’s a bloody mess as can be seen in the above figures. Real harm has now been done to our street and neighbourhoods. Planners don’t even respond to emails from councillors and MPs .

    Kerswell has had a year to sort this out and has singularly failed. She should resign along with Heather Cheesbrough.

    • James says:

      It’s quite shocking that public servants like Kerswell, Cheesborough, and Townsend who have completely lost the confidence of the people they serve, are allowed to remain in office at tax payers’ expense. Holding out for a ‘Negrini’ no doubt.

  6. Jane Lussie says:

    Very good! Not enough though.

    If we only built enough housing my children could afford to live here, instead of being forced to other places with greater abundance.

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