Oversupply of flats in borough is due to ‘profit over need’

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Official government data shows that the council’s build-at-all-cost approach that has blighted parts of the borough has created a glut of over-priced ‘executive apartments’.

Builders’ subsidy: an industry insider has suggested ‘market manipulation’ has occurred in areas where housing delivery has exceeded targets

The proliferation of block after block of expensive flats across Croydon’s suburbs – under the policies imposed by former Labour planning chief Paul Scott and the council’s current director of planning, Heather Cheesbrough and her old boss Jo “Negreedy” Negrini – are the result of “market manipulation”, where housing delivery has been “decided by profitability over need” which has left parts of the borough “oversaturated by new homes”.

That’s according to the chief exec of a property business comparison site, GetAgent.co.uk, which has conducted research that shows the nation’s housing delivery is out of kilter when it comes to the level of homes required in any given area.

GetAgent analysed government data from the Housing Delivery Test 2021, an annual measurement that highlights the need for housing in a given area. GetAgent then looked at how many additional dwellings have actually been delivered.

The housing policies pursued by Scott, Negrini and Cheesbrough has seen parts of public parks sold off for housing, kids’ playgrounds built over, nature reserves threatened and public open space annexed for use by the council’s own development company.

In Croydon, the housing target for the years between 2018 and 2021 was 4,249.

But according to official data, 5,420 new homes were built – 1,171 more than required, a delivery rate of 127.6per cent.

Other London boroughs, where housing demand is high and developers have been keen to maximise their profits, also reported high numbers of homes delivered.

For Greater London as a whole, the data shows a marginal overdelivery of 103per cent, with 3,644 homes delivered above the 113,900 target.

Yet just across the county border, in Surrey, two neighbouring local authorities had some of the worst delivery figures for the whole country.

Epsom and Ewell saw just 519 of the 1,490 homes they were expected to deliver in the three-year period, a rate of 35per cent.

Tandridge District Council – an authority where more than 95per cent of their land has Green Belt planning protections – did little better, at 38per cent, with just 634 new homes against a target of 1,672.

Across the country, the research shows that the level of additional dwellings delivered has exceeded the forecasted requirement.

But while this topline paints a picture of success, GetAgent’s analysis at a more granular level reveals a market that is significantly out of balance.

For example, since 2018-2019 in Oxford, the government forecast a need for 88 additional dwellings. However, some 1,879 additional net dwellings were delivered – a 2,126per cent rate of oversupply. Other areas, mostly outside London and the south-east, also created oversaturated markets.

In the main, it was in mostly Tory-controlled areas in the home counties – Southend, Eastbourne, Epping Forest and Epsom among them – where the number of homes delivered was barely around one-third of what was forecast.

Colby Short, the CEO of GetAgent.co.uk, said, “The nation has been in the grip of a housing crisis for many years now and this grip is only getting tighter, as house prices continue to climb to record highs, while the rate of new homes being delivered remains insufficient.”

Short said that the government had failed to address the housing crisis. “It’s abundantly clear that the delivery of additional homes from one area to the next is dangerously out of kilter. This is, no doubt, largely down to market manipulation from those who stand to profit from the creation of these additional dwellings.

“By allowing housing delivery to be decided by profitability over need, some areas of the property market have been oversaturated by the delivery of new homes, while others remain very much left out in the cold.”

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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 Oversupply of flats in borough is due to ‘profit over need’

  1. JessicaF says:

    Is Heather Cheesborough still here? Why are will still paying for someone who has so spectacularly failed at her job?

  2. John Harvey says:

    Having lived in and worked for Tandridge I am not surprised that it fails to build homes.

    It must be the only authority to spend over 20 years getting rid of a town centre eyesore only to grant planning permission for a replacement which is not in accordance with building regulations.

  3. James Seabrook says:

    Made me think of Croydon Council’s new slogan:

    “Why have green spaces when you can make property developers really rich instead?

    “Croydon Council… striving continuously for greed over need!”

  4. Hazel swain says:

    this should mean that NO MORE blocks of flats are allowed , nor conversion of houses to flats or HMOs.. residents have had enough …..

  5. derekthrower says:

    To think all this was delivered by what is notionally called a “Labour” council concerned with housing need and the interests of the less well off. Historians will look back at instances of this in political time when the ideological interests of political opponents are adopted and implemented at an extreme level to serve their own apparent interests and chart a course of the long term resulting effects that occur. No regrets have ever been expressed by the Croydon Labour Party for what has happened so we can only assume that they have no intention to change.

  6. Don White says:

    This should be read in conjunction with your report a couple of days ago about the £85,000 reward from the Government’s magic money stump for concreting over Croydon’s parks and green spaces. What “Planning” department?
    Excuse me, as I’m just off to enjoy Croydon’s ‘Green Mile’ between Thornton Heath Ponds and West Croydon station; remember that?

  7. Although my instinct is that it is true, I couldn’t see anything in the story other than the headline to show that the oversupply of new housing is in flats, rather than in houses.

    But I believe it. I read ages ago (source escapes me – Liam Halligan’s Home Truths perhaps) that there is no housing shortage in the UK if you count bedrooms. There are more than enough bedrooms to house everyone that needs one.

    The problem is that a huge number of them are configured as one- and two-bedroomed flats, often built as BTLs or for other speculative reasons, that do nothing to address the shortage of family homes.

    Well welcome to Croydon.

    Yet you can’t be too harsh on Croydon for over-permitting development over the 2018-2021 period,, when the current London Plan – which Croydon is obliged to observe – increased the borough’s 10-year minimum housing target (2019/20 – 2028/2029) by 45% over the last one (2016).

    The target has gone from 14,348 to 20,790 dwellings. And almost all that increase (6,410) is to be delivered on “small sites (below 0.25 hectares in size)”.

    Yet it’s perhaps not so much that Croydon allowed too much development, but too much of the wrong development: i.e too many small flats.

    My concern ultimately is that The Numpties flooding the borough with flatted schemes – and I’m sure there was no whiff of social engineering or gerrymandering about it either – seems to have elicited a huge reaction from the new regime where they are refusing any number of schemes, especially in the south, almost for the sake of it. (While tit-for-tatting Labour and allowing some flats still in the north).

    If flatted schemes are now generally off the drawing board, then no great matter as The Numpties definitely overdid it.

    However, the greatest identified demand in Croydon is for three- and four-bedroomed homes and my fear is that the new ‘nada, no, nothing, not at all’ approach will see all schemes in the south – even discreet projects delivering houses – vetoed, and everything else will be stuffed into Labour strongholds or in Chris Philps’ preferred locations below.

    Chris, who we assume speaks for local Conservative politicians a whole locally, implies that he will only accept development along the Purley Way, Brighton Line, the town centre and other blighted spots.

    This is as unfair as it is unnecessary as while that may be great for low cost, affordable and possibly even social housing (who cares where they live, eh?); it doesn’t deliver the right mix of family homes and certainly nothing aspirational and desirable .

    If Croydon is to thrive in future and hopefully escape its benighted reputation (roll on Westfield MKII, or is it III, IV, V or IX now?), we need good new houses, and in the ‘good’ areas at that.

    No more flats indeed, but yes to houses – big sites, small sites, windfalls, brownfield and back land, north, south, east and west – please.

    • Sally says:

      Heather Cheesborough, Paul Scott, and Chris Clark permitted the destruction of numerous family homes – so desperately needed in the borough – in favour of the developers. As I understand it, the number of flats sitting vacant in the borough runs into thousands whist families have nowhere to live.

      • James Seabrook says:

        I agree. In my opinion that motley crew saw the housing requirements as a ticket to squander money and help out their mates and to a certain extent, developer-centric family partners left, right and centre. The destruction of decent family homes and green spaces all over the borough has been not only disastrous to watch but makes Croydon borough highly unattractive to live in. Literally everywhere you go now you are guaranteed to see an absolutely hideous block of flats. For what? So that Croydon Council can make money out of developers and then go bankrupt. Oh yes, not forgetting the rule of nine so that affordable housing can be ignored at will.

        I would like to think that this is sheer incompetence but believe that view is totally naive. With all the payoffs and ridiculous salaries and planning permission rubber-stamped far too easily there is a lot more going on.

        Another problem though is that they could have been voted out completely in recent elections, but weren’t. So it seems perhaps that overall the Croydon electorate isn’t really that bothered. And I don’t just mean bothered about housing, but also services, withholding government handouts, going bankrupt etc. which affects everybody.

        I cannot comprehend this.

        • Jason says:

          You don’t get it, James,

          It’s not that people are not bothered, they do not feel empowered and that the prob, me will local government and why news resources such as IC are so important.

      • Quite so Sally.

        This is a failure of bald housing targets and not discerning between types of dwelling. Around here (Purley), knock down a three-bedroom family house and put up a block of nine flats and bingo: a net gain of eight dwellings, even though none might be suited to families.

        That said, Croydon now require 30% of dwellings in flats to be three-bed, but that is still predicated upon flats.

        Rather than demolition, I’d favour back land/ back garden development where some houses have huge amounts of space – mine does, and serves one property. A waste of space. Younger and more modern families tend not to want such big gardens these days, so you can achieve the best of both worlds.

        Keep existing family homes and add new ones, while essentially maintaining the streetscapes – save the odd disappearing side plot or garage to make for access – and gently evolving the overall character of an area. It’s a win-win.

        And the Conservatives would also do well to remember that, traditionally, homeowners tend to = Conservative voters.

        They should take the chance of peeing off a few existing voters to add a good few more new ones!

    • Lewis White says:

      I think that Jack has hit the proverbial nail on the head by highlighting the need for diversity of sites in all areas of the borough, but I can’t (for example) see a future for some areas such as the Purley Way redevelopment zone without a lot of flats, as there is not enough land for houses in such places (in my view).

      We need new communities, with a diversity of accommodation for all ages. That doesn’t mean tower blocks. It means mixed developments, with what is now called “Green infrastructure– parks, gardens, trees and hedges and play– to allow people to live not as battery caged hens in 38 storey chicken houses.

      Glad that he mentioned the need for backland development, which traditionally has been a NO !! for nimbys. In reality, it is all about design, context and, also, density.

      The problem is getting the right development to fit the land and the general context.

      I once met a developer of very large prestigious developments who warned about the dangers of land owners and councils opting to take the “sharp shilling”- the maximisation of profit and density from every scrap of land. He drew my attention to the need for a balance and the fact that once developed, the land can’t be undeveloped, and is more or less going to remain for the next 100 years or more.

      At one extreme, a “nice little bungalow” sitting on acre of land might be some people’s Nirvana, but it is also a profound waste of a scarce resource–land.

      At the other extreme, an over-tall, over-wide and or over deep development cramming too much on to a plot, with little room left for anything better than “scraps” of “landscape” is totally unacceptable.

      I can think of many local redevelopments in the Coulsdon area that are far better than the things that were on the plots before, both from the standpoint of appearance and insulation.

      I have to say that I sympathise with the lot of Planning Officers who have to steer a difficult course, wth not a lot of love shown towards them by anyone. Their lot is improved by well-worked out policies.

      It would be nice to think that professional planners and designers, government (local and national) and the public could work together on these, but the latter oftren find it difficult to see the need for any change. Then complain that their children can’t get anywhere to live.

      • Peter Stanmore says:

        The bit you don’t seem to get and is not seen repeated elsewhere in London is that the drive to demolish 4/5 bedroom houses in the south of the borough was wholly political.

        Cllr Paul Scott wanted to antagonise residents in the south of the borough because they were Tories, he abused his role as head of the planning committee to do this, Heather Cheesbrough very stupidly facilitated it and Tony Newman missed it happening. Result: Mayoral election and the three aforementioned having their careers ruined.

        Why is Heather Cheesbrough still here?

        • I think lots of people saw it as political. A good deal of the anger in the RAs and DEMOC movement arose, I believe, because of the sense that what happened was not the implementation of local planning policies per se, but a deliberate and calculated assault on the ‘poshos’ (as perceived at BWH).

          The problem then was that voting on the planning committee was entirely along party lines. Everything Labour approved of, the Conservatives voted against; and I assume vice versa.

          As Labour held sway, we got what we got.

          Now we have the same problem in reverse. The Conservatives seem to disapprove of most things and veto them accordingly, while Labour approve.

          As the Conservatives hold sway, we’re not going to get much of anything at all.

          One wonders what is the point of the London Plan and the Local Plan, when national or local planning law or policy seems to have little to with decision making, it more being a function of yah-boo politics; just the side ‘owning’ the committee changing periodically.

          • Up to a point, Lord Copper.

            Your characterisation of the voting patterns on planning, while true until May, have been noticeably different since then.

            The committee members appear to have grown some balls as far as the planning officials and their recommendations are concerned.

            There’s been at least one unanimous rejection of the council officials’ recommendation, and one by a 9-1 margin (Sean Fitzsimons maintaining his position as the developers’ apologist, though now without the 30 grand a year for his role as chair of non-scrutiny).

            This is not a two-sided thing, Jack. There are three parts to this equation, with the development and planning department of the council, where Negreedy, Shifa MustafFridaysOff and Heather Cheesbrough have pursued the interested of developers and big business for the last eight years. For all the good it’s done us…

            The planning committee is quasi-judicial, so its decisions must be soundly based within the law and justifiable. Only applicants ever had the right to appeal planning decisions, so there was eight years’ worth of pent-up frustration from objectors – like the RAs and DEMOC – behind the shift to a Mayoral system.

            Let’s see what happens when some of Part-time Perry’s customers, or others, decide that they want to build some flats on Green Belt land near Addington Village…

        • Ian Kierans says:

          It was not just the South it was the north also. So many of the family homes in the north are now squeeze them in HMO s and ”perfectly legal developments” that Cheesebrough, Townsend et al failed to control in any kind of preventative manner enabling some pretty despicable individuals to run roughshod over building regulations and cause willful damage to others.
          Many of those ”perfectly legal developments” are being used now to house those that the Council are unable to re-house except by the back door of Housing associations and private landlords who were given care blanche planning permission without any visible control or enforcement.

  8. When it comes to affordable housing starts, Homes England’s recent annual report shows it was 21% below its target in 2021/22. Housing starts aided this government arms length institution was 48,180 but starts were 38,562.

    • Gary Parker says:

      No way as simple as that. The UK’s largest housing builder has only built 14k units nationally last year – doesn’t even make a dent on national housing targets which are just a bad political guess anyway. Scott and Cheesbrough never got it.

  9. Martin Rosen says:

    I think that Tandridge (and others) got it right – they ignored the government statistics on so-called ‘demand’ and simply built what they found to be compliant with their locality. Croydon and others got it wrong – they built whatever the developers wanted and ignored the localities within which they were to be built.

    But the GOOD news (fatally absent from the article) is that many off Croydon’s developers will be forced to reduce massively the prices they’re asking for their “executive flats” because they simply won’t find new customers in a shrunken (and still shrinking) population. The even better news is that a number of those developers will then go bankrupt.

    I suggested elsewhere on IC that the new Mayor should use a large number of these forever-to-be-vacant flats to house Croydon’s homeless. The only difficultyis that the owners may reduce the pricee (maybe by half) before Perry has the chance to act …..

    • Ian Kierans says:

      You might have a point but only if the development was not leveraged and mostly paid up by the current stakeholders. Otherwise if will be left empty as the banks and others loaning the money will not want to ”realise” a loss.
      When the market itself reprices the asset and Rent is capped so the Public purse does not subsidise those developments by paying high rents then the incentive to earn any return will be there. Also money is leaving a number of ”unsafe” havens around the world and ending up being invested in those high end empty flats.

  10. Lewis White says:

    If the construction keeps on going, and the market for flats in the high rise sector collapses, it could well happen that in just a few years, councils will be able to buy up the cheaper, less popular blocks.

    They have had a poor record when it comes to providing the soft infrastructure of concierges that private sector provides.

    The history of local authority management of big developments such as Park Hill Sheffield, the Byker Wall, Thamesmead of Clockwork Orange fame, and countless blocks nationwide has been of initial success and optimism, often followed by a slide in standards.

    The ever-present worry is of “new slums in the sky” .

    Will residents be able to afford the service charges and costs of maintenance in 30 years, when lifts need replacing, plumbing systems wear out, and exterior cladding needs recladding?

    Will ” The Market” win through? Or will residents go bankrupt?

    It is worrying.

  11. Anthony Miller says:

    Don’t worry. It will all be sorted out when they pull down the Whitgift Centre for tower blocks

  12. Lewis White says:

    It is not terribly surprising that seaside boroughs undershoot their targets (around 33% of what they should be delivering) as 50% of their hinterland is water. The rest of their area being mainly nice little bungalows in low density 1940’s – 70’s estates inhabited by movers-out from Croydon and other places, some of whom have sold their bungalows there to developers (quite understandably) and made a decent few bob. They would not want to see their seaside homes demolished though, and there is not a lot of brownfield land that has not already been redeveloped, so scope for new development is not great.

    Two green belt boroughs in Surrey, in Mid and SW Surrey are banking on easy development wins achieved by finding chunks of land in one ownership, — Wisley Airfield and Dunsfold (of Top gear fame) — to get large numbers of new houses delivered with less risk of objection from vociferous residents of nearby settements.

    Whilst the theory is probably that these new settlements will be “garden villages”, they are not connected to the nearest small towns or big villages of Ripley (Wisley) and Chiddingfold (Dunsfold) except by car. Not exactly eco-transport friendly.

    Tandridge seems to be banking on some similar , a new settlement near …… South Godstone.

    A sort of non-place on a main road to East Grinstead, and by a railway halt.

    Tandridge could look creatively at Lingfield and allow redevelopment of the spoilt semi-rural semi-urban areas to the North side of this big and historic village. This would enhance the viability of Lingfield. Ripley too, near Wisley, needs looking at in a similar way.

    There is something that seems wrong about this concept of sticking development where there will be least opposition. The concept of connected ness–being able to walk or cycle into the nearest place with a high street , and a sense of history, is forgotten.

    To be fair to Tandridge, it has allowed a substantial redevelopment of the area between Warlingham and Whyteleafe, without ruining the area, over the last 50 years. It has allowed “Intensification” , but not by over-development. Oxted could probably take more of the same. Godstone likewise.

    There are areas of spread-out houses in the latter two areas, in a strange semi-rural limbo, where there is a genuine case for revising the green belt to create bigger villages that are “nucleated”– which can support a school, shops, pub, community facilities like gyms, halls, and religious buildings, and where new green ways (footpaths and cycle paths with landscaped edges) connect the new development with the old centre.

    Nearer to home, the Cane Hill redevelopment has brought many more people to live in Coulsdon in a wonderful landscaped setting of the grounds of the former Cane Hill Hospital, in a good range of flats and houses of various sizes. There is a sizeable component of lower-cost housing as well.

    It has been designed to keep the woodlands and mature trees planted by the Victorians , plus heritage landmark buildings of the Water tower and Chapel, and is connected to Coulsdon by a logical layout of access roads and footpaths which curve their way up the hill. Residents do actually walk down to Coulsdon -and en route–their children can enjoy play features spaced out down a sinuous landscaped central spine of grass and trees. It has a village green at the top, with the only disappointing thing being a fenced-off muddy sump of a pond in a deep depression. The original design showed something like a traditional village pond. Shame ! Unless you are a terrapin.

    The old admin block has been extended in a modern manner to create new flats and keep the best parts of the old block.

    A pretty good example of a green development, which shows that good design creates good places for people to live. Delivered by a major national house builder, and designed by landscape architects as well as architects.

    I woud like to see somthing like this, but it would have to be denser in layout, to renew sections of the very grey (non green) area between London Road West Croydon and the Mitcham Road. An area that the current Croydon Plan seems to do little to consider.

  13. Susan w says:

    Can anyone explain why the previous Chair of the Scrutiny Committee, the last resort to check things were being done correctly in the Council, is sitting on the planning committee? This is Sean Fitzsimons, who failed in this role as the council went bankrupt, losing millions.

    On the planning committee, Fitzsimons attempts to show his analytical prowess but fails miserably. He delayed proceedings at the last committee by asking irreverent ‘smart-alec’ questions that everyone ignored.

    Fitzsimons fucked up enormously in his last committee role – he missed everything, not even a whimper from him as the council was going tits up. Not even a tiny fart of concern.

    Can Labour remove this little leaky bag of wind from the planning committee? He does not deserve to be there.

  14. John Harvey says:

    Have read, but cannot find, an excellent article (written, I believe by an architectural body) arguing that flats improve communities. They allow more residents to live near transport links so reducing the need for private vehicles with all the problems that go with these.

    Would be interesting to see which produces more adverse comment on social media

    Drivers or developers?

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