Politicians moved unusually swiftly to avoid grounds for legal objections after council officials originally allowed only two weeks for the public to view plans for Crystal Palace’s £100m redevelopment
Croydon’s neo-con politicians, Progress MP Steve Reed OBE and the Conservative part-time Mayor Jason Perry, have teamed up to protect the interests of Premier League football club Crystal Palace and their £100million-plus stadium development.
Perry released a letter last night in which he responded to Reed’s calls for the consultation period on Palace’s new stand to be extended and broadened.
Selhurst Park, Palace’s 100-year-old stadium, falls within Reed’s Croydon North constituency.
The football club was granted planning permission for a major expansion of the stadium in 2018, but they never signed off on a formal part of the process which covered the rehousing of at least five households on Wooderson Close, whose homes would be demolished as part of the development.
Late last month, Palace lodged 40 new files with Croydon Council to renew its planning consent, for a new stand that would increase Selhurst Park’s capacity by almost 10,000, to 34,259. The application includes “Demolition of 22-32 Wooderson Close, and works to the North East end elevation of 20 Wooderson Close”.
But when the council put the scheme out for public consultation, they notified only a handful of residents and – in the middle of the August summer holiday period – gave locals just two weeks in which to lodge their comments.
There were also complaints that the council’s website was not functioning properly, denying those who logged on to view the Selhurst Park plans possibly even less time to do so.
Reed has described the council computer glitch as “a compelling reason for extending the consultation period”. Reed also called for the council to publicise the consultation to “a much wider group” than the six households who received notification letters from the council.
“The current consultation is clearly inadequate and needs to be extended so residents have the opportunity to make their views known to the planning committee,” said the Blairite MP who so far this year has received free tickets for Crystal Palace matches worth £1,080.
And part-time Mayor Perry, a Palace season ticket-holder, has acquiesced. “I have asked officers to extend the consultation period until 8th September 2022, giving a further two weeks to the deadline set out in the neighbour notification letters,” Perry wrote in a letter made public last night.
Perry confirmed that there had been problems with the public accessing the council’s planning portal. “I have asked officers to look at the website and to monitor the situation,” Perry said.
“Hopefully, the deadline extension will give residents a chance to submit their views.”
Perry also noted that, “Separately, in partnership with Crystal Palace Football Club, the Council is also engaging with the six households that are directly impacted by the scheme.”
“I would be more than happy to ask officers to provide a full briefing on the Selhurst Park planning application and the overall project,” Perry added, somewhat unnecessarily.
Because Perry should know that Reed, and his parliamentary assistant, Louis Carserides, are already well briefed about the scheme. Carserides is also a Labour councillor for South Norwood ward, which includes Wooderson Close.
Last week, Carserides attended a briefing organised by a lobbyist from the Terrapin Group, development consultants who are acting on behalf of Crystal Palace. Despite having originally been invited, residents were excluded from the meeting by Terrapin and their elected councillors.
It may just be coincidence, but last year MP Reed was wined and dined by Peter Bingle, the founder of the Terrapin Group.
A Katharine Street source told Inside Croydon today, “There’s no way whatsoever that Croydon Council is going to stand in the way of Palace building their new stand. When they granted planning permission in 2018, the committee voted unanimously in favour. That hardly ever happens.
“But what Perry and Reed both realise is that they can’t allow another cock-up by Heather Cheesbrough’s planning department that could undermine the scheme’s progress, perhaps by providing grounds for any legal objection because the consultation wasn’t open for long enough or wasn’t made known to enough residents living in the area.
“Extending the consultation by a couple of weeks with a deliberate and ostentatious exchange of letters between Reed and Perry should avoid any of that.
“I imagine that the next invitation to hospitality in the posh seats at Selhurst Park can’t be far away…”.
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