Residents blocked from meeting by football club’s lobbyists

Crystal Palace FC have lodged 40 new files as part of the planning application for their proposed £100m stand. But a meeting promised with affected households has been cancelled and residents told that they are not welcome to attend a re-arranged date. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

Fantasy football: one of the early models of the Selhurst Park new stand used in 2018

After four years of waiting for the future of their homes to be settled, residents of Wooderson Close have been told that they cannot attend a meeting to discuss revised plans for the £100million new main stand at Selhurst Park with lobbyists who are working for Crystal Palace Football Club.

If, or when, the project finally goes ahead, it will mean the demolition of at least five of six of the houses on Wooderson Close.

The football club lodged 40 new files with Croydon Council in the last week of July, part of their renewed planning application for the massive development which, when originally submitted in 2018, won the approval of the council planning department, the Mayor of London and even a unanimous vote of the Town Hall’s planning committee.

The development would see the 100-year-old Selhurst Park’s capacity increased by almost 10,000, to 34,259.

The club has sought to play down the significance of the changes to its application – “some necessary updates to the planning application and London Plan requirements”, according to a club spokesman last month.

Indeed, the description of the plans on the council planning portal suggests little that is being proposed now, four years on, is much different.

Extension of Main Stand to provide 8000+ additional seating and additional internal floor space to be used for the operation of the football club and ancillary functions (Use Class D2), and creation of restaurant/retail unit (Use Class A1/A3). Demolition of 22-32 Wooderson Close, and works to the North East end elevation of 20 Wooderson Close. Associated reorganisation of surrounding land including but not limited to car parks with associated hard and soft landscaping.

Wined and dined: MP Steve Reed OBE with his parliamentary staffer, Cllr Louis Carserides (right)

“Use of the club car park as a fan plaza on match day’s [sic]. Pitch lengthening and the creation of accessible seating within the Whitehorse Lane Stand. Creation of new corner stand between Holmesdale Road and Arthur Wait stands. Reorganisation of floodlighting and removal of the TV Gantry at the Arthur Wait Stand.”

According to the information submitted to the planning department, the application affects “Selhurst Park Stadium (Whitehorse Lane), and Sainsbury’s Car Park (120-122 Whitehorse Lane), Nos 22, 24, 26, 28, 30 & 32 Wooderson Close, South Norwood, London, SE25 6PU”.

Wooderson Road homes were yesterday served with planning notices from the council, which said, “Amendments to the planning application seeking compliance with London Plan (2021), including (but not limited to) updates to Fire Safety, Landscaping/trees, Energy/Carbon, Wind Impact, Sustainability and Transport, with associated internal and external changes.”

The application is open for public consultation until August 25.

For such a major scheme, affecting so many neighbouring streets (in 2018, two residents’ associations – Holmesdale Road and Pembroke Road – were involved in the discussions), locals might expect there to be some kind of public consultation meeting with the developers, and for ward councillors to request that the scheme should be “called in” for full discussion at the planning committee.

But when one of the residents of those six houses on Wooderson Close contacted a South Norwood councillors for an update on a meeting that had been arranged by lobbyists working on behalf of the football club, they were told, “They don’t want you there.”

South Norwood ward councillors are all from the Labour Party.

Councillor Louis Carserides, who is said to be “leading” the councillors in discussions on the Selhurst Park redevelopment, is employed by MP Steve Reed OBE.

Last autumn, Reed, the MP for Croydon North, which includes Selhurst Park, was wined and dined by Peter Bingle, the founder of notorious developer lobbyist firm the Terrapin Group.

And Crystal Palace FC have engaged Terrapin to help them secure planning approval for their massive scheme.

Last month, Terrapin’s Kevin Davis arranged that, together with others working on the project, he would meet the ward councillors and the Wooderson Close residents. That meeting was postponed at short notice, ostensibly because it was due to have taken place on the day of a rail strike.

“Apparently, Terrapin’s highly paid staff don’t own a car or can’t afford an Uber all the way to Selhurst Park,” a sceptical resident told Inside Croydon.

Now, the residents of the six houses – five of them council properties – who have been living in uncertainty since 2018, have discovered that they are to be excluded from the rearranged briefing about the futures of their homes.

“I had a phone call from my councillor,” Les Parry, one of the “Wooderson 6”, said.

“He just came straight out with it: ‘They don’t want you there’, he said.”

A key element of the original planning application was a Section 106 agreement between the developers – CPFC – and the planning authority – Croydon Council – that the club would re-locate all households affected by the development, compensate the council for loss of rents and re-locate all residents. But Palace never signed their 2018 S106.

Big plans: one of the documents for the £100m Selhurst Park development that has been lodged with the council planning department

According to Parry, “The club has never had the good manners to meet the Wooderson Close families.”

The Wooderson 6 have had some meetings, though.

After four years of what Parry called “shabby treatment and non-communication from Croydon Council”, a consultant, Owen Thompson, met with the families at the end of July. Working for the council, Thompson’s salary is being paid for by Crystal Palace. His role is to represent the families’ views and needs to the council and the football club.

Banned from meeting: Wooderson Close resident Les Parry

Parry told Inside Croydon, “The families have told Thompson that we want to relocate now. We will not wait years, we have been neglected and misled since 2018.

“We want regular and honest communication from the council and the club.”

And Parry had a warning for the developers, their lobbyists, and for their own councillors. “We will not be picked off one by one,” he said. “We will only relocate once all six families have acceptable agreements in place.

“We will expect substantial compensation beyond the minimum payment on offer.

“In 2018, the side agreement affecting Wooderson Close was never signed and the tenants were never consulted or involved. Now we demand that it be renegotiated and the tenants are involved in those decisions as per the public commitment from Mayor Jason Perry to involve tenants in all housing issue decisions.”

The Wooderson 6 have their homes at stake, while Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish has £100million, or more, at stake.

Parish spoke recently about the Premier League club’s developments, including Palace’s new Academy, which is due to open early next year.

“Now the focus moves back to the stadium,” Parish said.

Top table: Palace chairman Steve Parish

“This is the single biggest project the football club will have undertaken and the learnings we have from the Academy and first-team practice facilities will be invaluable.

“The Selhurst Park redevelopment will exceed £100million of investment, and I’m sure supporters can appreciate the scale, complexity and enormity of this project. But this is something we’re absolutely committed to.

“I’d like to thank Croydon Council for their continued support in enabling us to update the application since the resolution to grant planning permission was issued.

“We very much hope to make significant progress in the coming months, and will keep supporters and stakeholders updated as and when we have more news.”

Perhaps Parish can pay a visit to Wooderson Close, too, and knock on a few doors there to let the club’s near neighbours know exactly what they are planning.

Read more: ‘Abrasive’ lobbyist smoothing the way for Selhurst’s new stand

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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
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