Mayor Perry’s first act is to end planners’ ‘9-9-9 emergency’

Town Hall reporter KEN LEE on the early moves by the new administration

Jason Perry’s first executive act as Croydon’s new Mayor was to start to wind-in the toxic legacy of Paul Scott’s time in charge of planning and development in the borough by ordering the removal of SPD2.

Cheery start: Jason Perry yesterday on the Town Hall steps with his Deputy Mayor Lynne Hale

SPD2 is the planning design guide, introduced under the previous Labour-run council, that was used by the council’s planners to create what some councillors called “a 9-9-9 emergency” in Croydon: block-after-block of nine flats being built in place of family homes, rarely in keeping with the suburban streets where they were being built.

And with each planning application looking to build just nine homes, profit-hungry developers never had to provide any affordable housing, as they are legally required to do on developments of 10 units or more.

As Inside Croydon revealed last week, with SPD2 in force, Croydon planners granted more than five times as many planning permissions in 2020 as neighbouring borough Bromley.

Government data also showed that in the same year (the last complete year for which figures are available) Croydon granted planning permission to more than four times as many applications as another neighbouring borough, Labour-controlled inner-city Lambeth.

Planning was a core reason for the calls from residents’ associations for a change in the way the council is run, and a shift to a mayoral system. And it was a key issue in the election campaign, too, with one candidate even calling for the dismissal of the council exec director who had presided over the planning regime.

The Mayor says that he will get rid of SPD2 through an immediate and urgent review of the Croydon Local Plan.

Wipe out: graffiti cleaning was one of the first services to be axed by cash-strapped Croydon after the council went bust

Mayor Perry also announced yesterday that he will be reintroducing the council’s graffiti removal service as “an additional immediate priority”.

The graffiti removal team at the council was a no-cost service to the council, because of the money the team raised from a contract with TfL to keep the tram network spic and span. Yet after the council went bust in November 2020, it was one of the first things to be axed.

Perry, until recently the Conservative leader of the opposition at the Town Hall, was elected as Croydon’s first executive Mayor last week, winning the borough-wide poll by fewer than 600 votes, bucking the trend across London where Tories were losing seats and councils.

Perry has appointed Conservative councillor Lynne Hale as Deputy Mayor.

Perry takes over a council that has been in financial special measures for 18 months, with most of its work overseen by a panel of outside specialists appointed by the government. The cash-strapped council has recently passed a budget which had £34million-worth of cuts. Perry already knows that he will be expected to deliver a balanced budget for 2023-2024 which will cut a further £30million from Croydon’s spending.

The first 100 days of his administration will, therefore, be key to demonstrate quite how he intends to create a silk purse from the pig’s ear that’s been left by the previous, Labour-run council.

In an emotional acceptance speech at the count, Perry had revealed that his mother had died during the election campaign.

“Croydon has been in a bad place and now it’s time for us to come together and move forwards,” Perry said. “I really want to try and make it positive now, move on and get better.

“Obviously in London we have had a couple of difficult results but this will be a shining light, I hope, and we can show people how it’s done because we bucked the trend. We’re here to deliver.”

And last night, he said, “I want to thank residents for trusting me to represent our great borough and am proud to be elected as Croydon’s first Mayor. I want to restore local pride and safeguard Croydon for generations to come. This is why I am taking immediate actions on issues that I know, through listening to residents, are so important to local people.

Busy schedule: Mayor Perry greeting new councillors to the Town Hall chamber today

“Today, I took action to deliver on key commitments. I’ve announced that I will be restoring the graffiti removal team as an immediate priority. And I’ve started the process of removing Labour’s Planning Design Guide – unpopular with so many residents across Croydon.

“Although the Conservatives made fantastic gains on the council, residents chose to give no party a majority.

“Now is the time to come together and move forward – to make our Borough a better place for all.

“I am so proud to have been elected Mayor of this great Borough.

“There is hope for Croydon, and I am excited to get to work to deliver the change that residents have so clearly asked for.

“I want to thank my family, who stood by me and supported me throughout what has been a fantastic campaign.

“I also want to thank the Returning Officer and all of the counting agents for their hard work over what was such a gruelling count.”

In a Twitter thread, the new Mayor offered commiserations to the other candidates, especially Labour’s Val Shawcross. “Her campaign was positive and energetic, and her passion for Croydon could be seen by everyone,” he wrote.

The Mayor is expected to announce his appointments to his first cabinet in the next few days.

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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
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27 Responses to Mayor Perry’s first act is to end planners’ ‘9-9-9 emergency’

  1. Another quick win at “no cost” would be to establish an efficient and effective maintenance set up for housing. I understand that the HRA has plenty of money to fund this and there is clearly a pressing need to improve on the performance of the current contractor who has decided to quit.

  2. Dominic Minns says:

    Get the Penn report released ASAP as well!

  3. Neil Biggs says:

    I like the idea of a graffiti removal team in a borough that tried to encourage people to visit empty shops by commissioning street art for the shutters… No issues with street art, just seemed like a really bizarre idea for promoting the shops!

    • Paul says:

      I’d like to see Croydon Council re-establish a graffiti removal team for all graffiti because since the Council went bust they’ve only been removing offensive graffiti.And as a result it seems to be all over the place now.

      • Neil Biggs says:

        I agree, it’s just I rarely miss an opportunity to mock the idea of painting closed shop fronts to incentivise people visiting the now closed shops instead of figuring out ways that would stop them closing in the first place. Not sure if any of the artists had ties to the Banksy shop…

        Not that I think much can be done with retail, especially not when it’s hemmed in by narrow roads etc, and with expensive parking. The way we shop is changing, as the internet has better stocks generally, lower overheads making them cheaper, and with streaming there are some goods we just don’t buy any more. The council has been trying for years to get more retail units when it has seemed like the demand for those is likely to fall away massively. A graph of unit occupancy in the Whitgift Centre would probably be very flat until it starts to drop away in the mid 00s as a guess.

        Perhaps one of the commissioned pieces should have been of someone putting out deckchairs on the Titanic? I’d love to see the debate shift to what we can have in the middle of town that isn’t simple retail – how can we encourage things that offer something you can’t just get online?

  4. cronxcliff says:

    “Now is the time to come together and move forward” Immediately appoints a Conservative Deputy Mayor.

  5. Peter Davenport says:

    This is music to my ears. I and many others have waited for the day SPD2 can be dismantled. This was nasty politically motivated document that was put together by Cllr Paul Scott to twist the knife into the people of Croydon whose political values he didn’t share. It resulted in Tony Newman getting kicked out as well as Paul Scott himself.

    What’s also been disturbing is the relish with which Croydon Planners took obvious pleasure enforcing SPD2 after Scott was kicked into touch. Planners would often smugly remind committee that the applicant, according to SPD2, go higher if they wished. Heather Cheesbrough openly acted in this way and her staff, if they hadn’t resigned, followed her terrible example.

    I don’t believe the relationship between residents and planners can be repaired without a serious restructuring of the planning department leadership.

    I think Kerswell’s days are numbered but she should have been addressing this months ago rather than hiding behind her PA.

    Good luck Jason, no need to get everything done at once – ease into the job first.

    • Ian Kierans says:

      Although it will be very nice to have SPD2 removed and that will remove a plank from the supercilious arrogant and patronising missives received from those departments including so called planning enforcement that fails to enforce until forced to and building control that fails to control – Two seriously unfit for purpose departments.

      SPD2 is not the only issue with Heather Cheesebrough’s planing and Building Control area. However you are right that it extends downwards via Townsend and has no credibility at all even in the North of the Borough.
      I have been a supporter of Croydon Council for over 34 years and mt some wonderful and hard working people many that have also received ”bad press” at times and unfairly given the circumstances. I have also worked closely with a number of other Boroughs and Volunteered and assisted via my workplace and privately to improve boroughs in areas within my remit and competence.

      I can honestly say that the actions and behaviors of the Planning and Building Control are the most shocking I have ever had the misfortune to have dealings with. More akin to cavalier behaviors unbecoming of public employment. So on that basis I would be very inclined to agree with Peter. I do try to see all points of view regardless of like or dislikes – but this deprtmetn in their responses and lack of response and cavalier attitude to planning conditions and lack of enforcement take joke into the far realms of farce and repeatedly seek to justify their actions under the umberella of ”its a perfectly legal development”
      All one can say is thank god for email trails, recorded phone lines and the smart phone camera.

    • Claire says:

      Let’s hope Cheesborough, Townsend, Gentry and any others with conflicts of interests are discarded along with SPD2 and we can put an end to the damage done to the borough as a result of their cosy relationships with developers.

      • Sally says:

        And a full, independent, investigation into the planning department.

      • Liz says:

        Hear, hear!!

      • Chris says:

        I’m happy to contribute to bound copies of SPD2 to give them as leaving presents along with some framed pictures of the soulless monstrosities by Macar and Silverleaf that will blight Croydon for generations to come.

  6. Chris Flynn says:

    I’m curious to see whether Perry makes any ‘interesting’ appointments to his cabinet – the mayoral race certainly showed there are some capable and competant people passion about Croydon.

    • Jay Watson says:

      As long as it’s none of the last lot who if they had an ounce of integrity would never had stood, cabinet had collective responsibility, they have no place in any government post after what they presided over

    • Ian Kierans says:

      Perhaps Ms Shawcross Or Mr Pelling as Special business fundraiser and GLA liaison also tasked with doing his Job? (only joking)

      Forming a cross party special purposes committee would be a start.

      Items on the agenda would clearly be the following
      1. Housing (1st maintenance 2nd stock increases and improvements 3rd utilising Independent Landlords more effectively that is beneficial to all.)
      2. Review of cuts to service and to staffing
      3. Identify quick wins that can be delivered this year and plan delivery
      4. Integrated and resourced enforcement internally employed and multi functionally trained with specialists on board from departmental disciplines.
      5. Release Penn Report unless there is a critical legal reason not to – if there is – then state that!
      6. Planning and Building Control
      7. Review and improve funding for local Charities with additional support.
      8. Creating a bully free environment for staff managers and residents.
      9. Have service delivery levels and clear performance targets for all services to residents and report this monthly
      10. Host a CEO and Mayoral question day once a month with questions fielded in writing 7 days beforehand. (All those signed with over a thousand residents or 7 Councillors signatures to be responded to with evidence) (Peraps Walter could be allowed to attend and report back to IC also along with the Guardian staff reporter

      That would be a fantastic start

      But whether we like it or not there are three areas that we as a Borough need to have on board and be able to deal with.
      1. The Tory Government Appointees and Mr Gove. No matter if Mr Perry termed the party as ”local” they are not. But they are not all responsible for Boris. There are many good people in the Conservative party and it is time for them to stand up and speak out especially for those less able to.
      2. Mr Khan as London Mayor, TfL and city hall. Again there are many in the Labour party who can garner support from those areas that is much required within the borough – not least to deal with our road infrastructure. People might be surprised at who would be best placed to do that and although not popular at present they are good at what they do and have experience at County Hall also.
      3. Croydon Council itself, they are supposed to moderate Councillors and vice versa. This failed to be fit for purpose. One suspects that legislation, regulation and process were bent. It was likely rationale was shoehorned to meet more of what you can get away with rather than what was prudent and some system manipulation and secrecy to assist. Irrespective it was not fit for purpose and maybe still is not. No one party can claim morality on that matter nor can even the current executive. But all four representative parties Councillors can go forward together as a Team working for (and being recognised as such) their constituents and those of all wards in the Borough and not Party Politic’s.

      This is a Council with no overall control but that does not mean no control.

      Change for the better usually involves people from all walks to work together for common purpose.

      Mr Perry has a golden opportunity to make that change and drive forward to a better future where this Council can be respected for its honesty, Integrity and fairness to all stakeholders equally.
      There are many examples in public life to follow as an example. People like Sir Martin Bell, and Sir Trevor MacDonald from Journalism. Baroness Grey-Thompson Athlete Lord Nolan Judge and instigator of Public Life Principles.

      In times of hardship it is important to know the cost of everything and tighten belts, but when making savings it is more important to understand the value of things, to have values and treat those you work on behalf of with decency and respect. When you have that you will find it reciprocated.

  7. Lancaster says:

    time will tell how this new Mayor does, but let us hope The Who were wrong when writing ‘We Won’t Get Fooled Again’ !

  8. Sally Frenzen says:

    I can see there are a lot of delighted Conservatives from the hilly leafy South of our borough but please but please remember Croydon is more than the bit that joins onto Surrey! However, everyone in the borough is in agreement on the root and branches changes needed in planning. There is a distrust and dislike between planners and the public that has been allowed to fester over the last five years. I do not think Heather Cheesbrough is capable of building bridges, repairing the damage. She was cosying up to Paul Scott far too much.

    • Ian Kierans says:

      Cosying up or leading up the garden path plotting where to practice their de facto social engineering?

    • James Tabberner says:

      It’s not just the South of the Borough – the Save Downsview Road campaign was set up due to the destruction of family homes in the north of the borough. Paul Scott and Chris Clark tried to treat this as a north/south issue (classic divide and conquer) but that fact is that the problems with the dysfunctional, corrupt, planning system impacted the whole borough.

      • Ian Kierans says:

        So very true. So many houses turned into HMO’s and flats many not appearing to follow regulations and some very irresponsible Landlords. There are good Landord/Developers’s then the rest are split between incompetent and outright nasty individuals.
        They are what they are. However this Borough has a large problem in dealing with the incompetent and the bad and have tried to blame good ones for others failures.
        The building Code of Practice is a waste of paper. In spite of it being part of the Conditions of planning as far as Croydon Planning are concerned this is only Voluntary and they will not enforce it at all.
        They also feel that other Conditions are flexible like ”All the conditions must be discharged before Occupancy yet so many regulation failures and Conditions not being met and yes let out by an agent and fully occupied and what is their answer? Good Question Croydon Council what exactly is your answer to the above taking place in that so called perfectly legal development?

        Is it not a good thing to investigate complaints when people provide you evidence? Is is not a good thing to also investigate notification that evidence of wrongdoing is passed in confidence to your departments? Perhaps it might be a very good thing to look at how information passed to your office is fed back to those commiting those acts with the name of the person who provided the evidence? No? Not even when a formal complaint has been sent? Total Silence?

        And that is just one reason why that department is so flawed and frankly providing any support or information or even raising comments or issues to that area is definitely not conducive to ongoing health!

  9. Lewis White says:

    It seems to me that there needs to be some formal mechanism whereby residents can provide meaningful input into revision of the Croydon Local plan.

    Not just submitting written objections to a massive document or documents , but a forum whereby each specific planning topic, and the local plan for each geographical area of the borough, is discussed in turn, in depth, in a series of workshops. Maybe over a 2 week period.

    Essential, would be a truly open and serious format where participants are not talked down to by the “experts”, and where the real options for local redevelopment are openly discussed

    In my experience of consultation events, there are some where the public are treated like children or idiots. Others actually treat the public with genuine respect and openness. I have been to both types.

    In fact, there are a huge number of very articulate, often incredibly experienced and knowledgeable people within the Croydon community whose subject knowledge is as great as the professionals, and , in the case of local knowledge, much greater. Their voice and wisdom needs to be heard and taken on board.

    The public does, however, have to step up in a mature manner, accepting the need for change and appropriate redevelopment, not act as NIMBYs.

    “Planning Aid” is a service made available by the RTPI to the public and groups like resident associations.

    There must be some way whereby the council pay Planning Aid to act as a professional facilitator to enable the public to get their views expressed in a structured way, should the Local plan be reviewed by the new Mayor Jason Perry.

    See link

    http://www.rtpi.org.uk/planning-advice/about-planning-aid-england/what-we-offer/

    • Graham Webster says:

      I don’t think it needs such an elaborate process. Everyone knows where SPD2 fails to deliver balanced planning in Croydon. Other boroughs don’t have this problem – they have perfectly balanced planning guidance working for residents and developers alike.

      What other boroughs don’t have though is Paul Scott smugly trying to befriend every little rat-faced developer whilst Heather Cheesbrough looks on, nodding approvingly.

      Planning in Croydon has gone feral and Katherine Kerswell is unable to deal with it.

  10. Hazel says:

    Croydon is full. NO more building please . my part of the Borough( south central) is full.

  11. Jessica says:

    Mayor Perry may struggle to wrestle the SPD2 bible from Heather Cheesborough’s grip. Even if he does, with Heather Cheesborough, Ross Gentry, and Nicola Townsend remaining in place, change will be impossible and the planning department will continue to lack any credibility or trust. Too much has been revealed about the murky machinations of this team by IC. They won’t want to leave – as Heather Cheesborough herself has raised, future employers can easily find out what they have been up to by reading IC. Their best bet is to work for a consultancy advising residents how to object to developments. They are after all, the experts in all the tricks planners and developers use to bypass planning policy.

    • Claire Hopkins says:

      If Heather Cheesbrough and her department doesn’t follow changes to SPD2 or a replacement guide she is in breach of contract. One thing is for certain , there will be no payouts for Croydon Planning leavers. The public will not countenance it.

  12. Gordon Thompson says:

    A wholly-Tory Cabinet hardly smacks of balance or proper representation of all the people. What’s so wrong with being a “NIMBY” and not wanting some of this stuff overlooking you, extinguishing our precious green space, destroying the character of some parts of the Borough and our built heritage, and changing Croydon for the worse?

    • Hazel swain says:

      in my area we have been saying no to the planners and ignored…. we are full ! nothing wrong with being a NIMBY when other areas havent been subjected to the same blight

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