Part-time Mayor Perry to re-boot Negrini’s design review panel

The council is looking to re-set its Place Review Panel – now to be renamed the Design Review Panel – and is inviting applications from architecture and design experts to sign up for two or three days’ work each year, when they will pontificate on the merits, or otherwise, of the latest applications received by the planning department at Fisher’s Folly.

Back to the drawing board: Croydon’s Place Review Panel will now be the Design Review Panel

Croydon’s Place Review Panel was established in 2016, at a time of “Peak Negrini” at the council, when its then chief exec, Jo “Negreedy” Negrini, was applying her “no expense spared” approach to her mission of making friends and influencing people among London’s architecture set, and using hundreds of thousands of council cash to do so.

Back in November 2016, the council said that its PRP “will ensure that Croydon’s increasing popularity as a development location will continue to be shaped by its commitment to delivering quality design and placemaking throughout all aspects of the built environment including public realm, infrastructure and buildings”.

Negrini’s panel idea was enthusiastically backed by Alison Butler, then the cabinet member for housing, and Paul Scott, the council’s planning chief, and an architect. Oh, and Butler’s husband.

The architect’s friend: ex-council CEO Jo Negrini

“The panel’s expertise will elevate the quality of new developments across the borough,” Scott said at the time. “I’m looking forward to the highest quality architecture and urban design coming to committee.”

Butler and Scott were part of the cabal in the Labour council’s leadership that pushed through the Brick by Brick housing development company, which did so little to ease the housing crisis in the borough, despite receiving £200million in council loans.

Brick by Brick never made a penny profit, and has come to be regarded as one of the principle causes for the council, under Negrini, Butler and Scott, going bust in 2020.

Not that many, if any at all, of Brick by Brick’s designs were ever put up for scrutiny by Negrini’s Place Review Panel.

It was established early on that Brick by Brick, with its in-house architecture team, would skip the need for review by the panel of experts.

Developers were expected to pay £5,000 (including VAT) per scheme for the privilege of getting a seal of approval from the PRP.

And Westfield, when they were still conning the council and the public into thinking that they were serious about their plans for a £1.4billion shopping supermall in the town centre, made it clear that they wouldn’t bother having the Panel run the rule over their designs, either.

Elevated: Labour councillor Paul Scott was an enthusiastic supporter of the Place Review Panel

Developers were given a veto so that, if they did submit their plans to the panel but didn’t like what judgement the experts came up with, they could refuse the council permission to publish it. So the Croydon public was usually denied sight of the panel’s no-doubt erudite pontifications.

Members of the panel were placed under strict orders not to speak to the press and told that their deliberations are “strictly confidential”. And the council’s press office refused to answer any questions about how many schemes, or which developments, were reviewed by the Place Review Panel.

The list of panellists back in the first flush of the Croydon PRP included celebrity fashionista Wayne Hemingway, plus many of the great and not-so-good of the London architecture set.

On that list was journo Hugh Pearman, the editor of the RIBA Journal, in a blatant effort by the council to ensure that Croydon would get uncritical write-ups in the trade press.

Also on the list was David Bickle, a design director at the V&A. A couple of years later, and hey presto, an as-yet unbuilt Brick by Brick block in South Norwood, Pimp House – now 14 flats over a library that’s too costly for the council to run – was featuring in an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert! What a coincidence!

Panel beater: celebrity designer Wayne Hemingway was a member of the original Place Review Panel

A number of others on the panel were from firms that would, over the next few years, be taken on to carry out work for Brick by Brick or Croydon Council projects. Which is nice.

Now the council, under Conservative control and led by part-time Mayor Jason Perry, is looking to re-boot the whole panel.

They even use much the same language of when the panel was launched by Negrini under Labour: such as Scott’s aspiration that the panel will “elevate” the standards of design.

They say that they have “opened applications for new members of its multidisciplinary Design Review Panel, offering expert guidance on significant planning, public space, regeneration and development projects in the borough”.

A council press release issued this afternoon states, “The Design Review Panel provides independent advice and carries out reviews on all major development proposals in Croydon.

“The panel is self-funding, with the cost met by developers,” they were quick to add – so those five-grand fees must have been rolling in.

The council is seeking “24 high-calibre panellists”.

A member of the original Place Review Panel told Inside Croydon today that they and their colleagues had been “an excellent panel for getting good architecture for Croydon”.

Building supplies: part-time Mayor Jason Perry

They had been, they said, “Good architects, from good firms, doing good work.

“It’s important that the planners get outside advice from a team of experts.”

Today, the council said that its new panel will build “on the council’s award-winning approach to planning and placemaking”. Award-winning!

The council said that it is “looking for candidates with expertise in planning, landscape architecture, urban design, architecture, conservation, engineering, place-making, viability, sustainability and culture.

“The council also welcomes applications from a diverse range of candidates to reflect Croydon’s varied communities and needs.”

And part-time Mayor Perry, who knows a thing or two about plastic guttering and double-glazing, said, “This is a busy time for planning and development in Croydon, as we continue to kickstart regeneration and transform the town centre and many of our central districts. We want to help all our local town centres to thrive, making important improvements and upgrades, while preserving their unique local character.

“Our Design Review Panel is central to this work, objectively assessing key development proposals and projects – making sure we are bringing the right opportunities to Croydon.

Applications are open until October 28, via Proactis, where full details on requirements and role specification can also be found.

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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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6 Responses to Part-time Mayor Perry to re-boot Negrini’s design review panel

  1. Martin Rosen says:

    I simply cannot believe that they are looking for a derisory 24 panellists when surely many times that number will be needed! The queue of developers anxious to build their blocks of flats in wondrous Croydon must be numbered by now in their thousands, surely?

    With only 10-20,000 vacant flats in the borough including those as yet uncompleted (or being rebuilt because they were designed with the wrong cladding!) Croydon must be by far the most desirable place in the country (or more likely the world) in which to build more and more potentially derelict slums.

    The recent massive increase in mortgage rates are just a temporary blip on the development scene which will have disappeared in ten years, when normal service will be resumed.

    Our borough is destined to become the major tourist centre in Britain, where people will flock to gaze in wonderment at the glorious best architecture in the world. At least we will demonstrate that we have our priorities right!

    • “With only 10-20,000 vacant flats in the borough…”

      I’m wondering if there’s a source for this number, as in January 2020, IC reported that the number of vacant homes (all types) in Croydon in 2019 was 1,340.


      If it’s correct, then that’s almost a 10-fold increase minimum in three years and, at the top end, close to the all-London 2019 figure of 25,000.

      Regardless, it goes to show the crazy asymmetry of the previous regime’s development policy, where it was perhaps not too much development but too much of the wrong sort i.e. too many flats, and not enough houses.

      If I were Jason Perry and Michael Neal, I’d be vetoing flats (which they seem to be doing to an extent already) but also approving houses like topsy, wherever they land in the borough, including the leafy bits. Especially given the affordability shitstorm apparently on the horizon.

      As said before, it’s in the long-term Conservative interest to build houses, as house owners tend the vote for them, while you can’t make capitalists out of people if they never have any chance at acquiring any capital.

      • Martin Rosen says:

        Jack, I have now requested actual figures from the Council THREE times … with no response. Apparently all they have to do is to add up all of the granted planning permissions still incomplete, and add to that the vacant flats for which reduced Council tax is being claimed.

        All I have done it to add up all the flats I have seen in the uncompleted blocks in Cherry Orchard Rd, Dingwall Rd, George St and environs, the Nestle building, the development in Queens Gardens, and Purley Cross … then multiply by 3 to allow for those that I never walk past, which gives a figure of around 10,000. I then assume there are many more in the pipeline! Very unsatisfactory, I know, but I’d LOVE the Council to respond with the actual number 😉

  2. Lewis White says:

    It would be very good if the Panel could include people to represent local people. Residents Associations and Environmental groups are interested in design.

    There surely also must be locally-based architects, planners, landscape architects and engineers who care about design of the borough they live and or work in.
    These might not be design icons like Waye Hemingway, but they are qualified to design and comment on project designs.

    The question is whether any RA’s in the borough are prepared to embrace the concept of redevelopment. My guess is that some aren’t but many are, or would be if they were invited to participate in the panel and its work.

    Is the panel just going to address architectural “jewels”, or the planning of Croydon overall.? Will the remit of the design panel extend to reconsidering the Planning policies relating to “intensification” or focus only on the design of large and high profile projects such as those involving major sites like the old St George’s Walk area, and the huge Purley Way Corridor masterplan area.

    Will it look at planning and the redevelopment of areas that seem to have been neglected, such as parts of West Croydon?

    Maybe we need a separate design panel to deal with Planning, involving — in a structured way– local people and their local councillors much more. I would be in favour of four area panels–one for the North, one for the Centre, one for the East , and one for the South and West.

  3. derekthrower says:

    Another confirmation that the creation of a democratically elected Mayor of Croydon has not changed one iota how Croydon does business. Old part-time regurgitating and bringing back the same structures of the disgraced Tony Newman’s Regime. He even is still holding onto Brick by Brick for old times sake.

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