Mayor Perry must get at least £33m for BxB’s Coulsdon flats

Going cheap?: Mayor Jason Perry’s council must achieve the best possible price for these Brick by Brick flats built on Lion Green Lane in Coulsdon

CROYDON COMMENTARY: In our first public platform article of 2023, former MP and Mayoral candidate ANDREW PELLING, pictured right, says that it is essential to get maximum value from the cash-strapped council’s assets – and having more than a single bidder would help achieve that goal

Mayor Jason Perry’s Conservative administration at Croydon Town Hall will claim that it is trying its best to recover the council’s finances, even if it has already thrown in the towel by declaring bankruptcy again for the financial year that begins in April 2023.

The line that Perry and the Conservative group has taken has partly been that they are distracted by still finding yet more hidden financial howlers like the £40million misplaced from money belonging to the Housing Revenue Account, supposed solely for the use for council tenants. I wonder whether Labour canvassers are mentioning that sleight of hand to council tenants on the doorstep?

With the council saying it will be a “minimal council” in future and that it wants special permission to increase council tax by 10per cent or more from April (Croydon is already the third highest council tax in Greater London), there is a very real responsibility to maximise the value of any public assets that the council sells.

So in the case of the disposal of the Brick by Brick-built flats at Lion Green Lane in Coulsdon, I hope that we will be assured that there was a competitive process for this putative sale to the Notting Hill Genesis Housing Association.

White flag: Mayor Jason Perry has already abandoned valuable planning permissions on 23 Brick by Brick sites

The Conservatives have found that, before they took power last May, there was a habit of borough officials only going to one bidder when they had council properties to sell. So let’s hope they have changed that in this case.

For a council in such severe financial difficulties, I was very disappointed to see the new Conservative council surrender all the remaining Brick by Brick planning approvals, which will have had very significant value.

I know that these approvals were controversial, but they are not as controversial as the Conservative council promising at the election to sort out the council’s finances before hoisting the white flag just six months later and saying that Council Tax will be supercharged for only the most minimal of services. Hardly the usual Conservative line of standing for value for money.

As far as Lion Green Lane’s 157 flats are concerned, I feel that the minimum that the council should take for these properties is £33million.

I set out below very conservative valuations taking account of local flat prices, but also any BxB “legacy” problems.

Vacant possession: the Red Clover Gardens flats’ construction was completed in 2021

The open land between the blocks of flats might lead to challenges of anti-social behaviour in this town centre location; the design leaves questions of who has responsibility for the bits of the land between the five blocks. This depresses a valuation. The council’s Place Review Panel of the great and the good of designers and architects highlighted that very issue.

Of course for a developer, and housing associations are very much developers these days, there might be a chance for further development between the properties in the future. Maybe a sixth block after a full planning permission and much more quickly adding two floors on top under permitted development rather than through a full formal planning permission. This is another bonus reason for a minimum £33million value, although an overage clause would be needed to cover that benefit to the buyer if realised.

The location in the Coulsdon town centre and near Coulsdon South station is attractive, adding to the properties’ value.

So here are some cautious low valuations for the 157 units, with nomination rights for all the “affordable” rented properties.

B = bedroom number P = expected number of residents
78 units for private sale

49 1B 2P x £225,000 = £11,025,000
9 2B 3P x £275,000 = £2,475,000
11 2B 4P x £300,000 = £ 3,300,000
9 3B 5P X £425,000 = £ 3,825,000

46 Shared ownership

30 1B 2P x £205,000 = £4,100,000
6 2B 3P x £250,000 = £ 1,500,000
5 2B 4P x £270,000 = £1,350,000
5 3B 5P x £380,000 = £1,900,000

Maximum household income for shared ownership buyers is £90,000 a year, which is nice, but shows how unaffordable property is these days.

33 units for rent at “affordable” 80% of market rate

17 1B 2P x £180,000 = £3,060,000
5 2B 3P x £ 220,000 = £1,100,000
6 2B 4P x £240,000 = £1,440,000
5 3B 5P X £340,000 = £ 1,700,000

Total value £36,775,000 less a 10per cent discount to Notting Hill Genesis for a one go volume purchase, which brings us to £33,097,500.

There are questions about the liability for Section 106 payments, financial contributions promised at the time that planning permission was granted. It is uncertain whether Brick by Brick has ever paid these planning levies.

That liability, money due to the council after an expensive link to RPI, could be as high as £380,000, plus £10,438 to pay the council for “monitoring costs” of the original agreement between BxB and the council (both at the Fisher’s Folly address, by the way). Not that there was ever any real monitoring of Brick by Brick by the council.

Under the terms of the S106 planning agreements, a free car club needs to be provided for three years and maintained for five years. Brick by Brick were supposed to have this in place before any new owners or tenants moved in to their homes at “Red Clover Gardens”.

If Brick by Brick has not sorted these matters, then they need paying, too.

And a thought about prospective buyers Notting Hill Genesis.

Inside Housing reported in April that the Housing Ombudsman chose to highlight four of its findings, in the context of the national interest in rented housing conditions after the Regina Road scandal. One of those four highlighted cases was regarding Notting Hill Genesis where a “complaint from a group of leaseholders of Notting Hill Genesis about communal defects and repairs.

“The landlord had agreed to appoint independent surveyors to assess the defects but delayed this for more than a year.

“It did not acknowledge this failure in its complaints process and also delayed in progressing a resolution to the issues.

“The Ombudsman made a finding of maladministration by the landlord for the response to the residents’ request for an independent surveyor assessment.”

It is not clear to me as we head into 2023 that the culture at Croydon Council has really changed at all or that Mayor Perry’s Conservative administration has ambitions to change the culture, as it struggles with the task in hand of worsening financial troubles.

The determined hiding of financial difficulties is one of the reasons why at least £169million of Croydon Council Tax-payers’ money was lost by the previous Labour administration, and they should never be allowed any where near the council’s money again.

Let us hope that the council and the Red Clover Gardens buyer will be quick in releasing the final agreed sale figure, before it finds its way later to the Land Registry.

And let’s hope that the figure is at least £33million, plus all the other costs and planning levies.

Read more: Tory blame game over bankruptcy points finger at Westminster
Read more: Council forced to issue 3rd bankruptcy notice in just two years
Read more: After nearly a year, Gove is sitting on two ‘improvement’ reports

  • Mayoral candidate Andrew Pelling was a Labour councillor from 2014 to 2022, when he was expelled from the party. He has previously been a Croydon councillor, London Assembly Member and MP for the Conservatives

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8 Responses to Mayor Perry must get at least £33m for BxB’s Coulsdon flats

  1. Let’s take a moment to reflect that Croydon Labour expelled people like Andrew Pelling (along with others, such as David White) for thoughtcrime, but have done nothing about Newman, Hall, Butler and Scott, the architects of the Brick by Brick fiasco and all that followed.

    • Ian Marvin says:

      Aren’t Newman and Hall in some sort of limbo regarding the Labour Party? I’m merely trying to establish fact, somehow the situation doesn’t seem to have been prioritised.

      • You might try asking the Labour Party’s London regional office, Ian. They have hitherto seemed reluctant to comment on such individual cases – not that they are at all bothered when it comes to purging those ascribed as being “of the left”.

        The limbo has been created by the council CEO Katherine Kerswell failing to publish the Penn Report.

  2. Dan Maertens says:

    Hooray! Good sense and thorough research – let’s hope this intelligent advice is heeded. We need it.

  3. Lewis White says:

    A convincing analysis here, from Andrew Pelling. Everlasting Shame on Croydon Labour high-ups for engineering his exit, and David White, and others, as noted by Arfur above.

    The disposal of this major property asset of Lion Green Road needs to be a tender process with a reserve price.

    With regard to another point noted in Andrew’s article, I had been wondering whether the council would be taking Section 106 (or CIL) money from this project and giving it with another hand to receipient projects around the Borough. Not sure if Brick by Brick demand a handling charge itself, which would add more liability to be taken from the Council’s empty coffers.

    Brick by Brick sadly has turned out to resemble a charity that takes money from the public, spends a lot on itself, operates from swanky offices, appointing huge numbers of high-profile consultants, spending a lot on self-promotion, then delivers much less than projected.

    Andrew also mentions the need for the site with its five blocks and its landscaped grounds to be managed well, and probably by one organisation. One hopes that Notting Hill look after their sites well. There are many shrub beds to keep weeded, and fiddly small grass areas to be mown. It will need a lot of regular input from gardeners.

    Looking at the design of the project, I keep wondering why the design architects — or was it the planners?- used dark brown “mocha” coloured bricks on 3 of the 5 blocks of flats, and a deep red-brown on the other 2, wthout any contrasting panels of lighter colours to reflect daylight and brighten up the gloomy central courtyard. The mono-tone dark brickwork sucks up all the daylight, like a galactic black hole sucks in everything.

    The visual and daylighting impact on Lion Green Road is oppressive, with the residents who live in the terraced cottages across the road now having their afternoon sun replaced by total shadow. If only there had been 4 blocks, not 5, more afternoon daylight would have come between the blocks.

    The only hope is that the residents have bright coloured curtains, and that the trees and shrubs are light green and gold, to give some light into the shade.

    The wider and deeply disappointing aspect of the Lion Green Road development is that this was to be linked with the redevelopment of the current Coulsdon Community Centre (located in Barrie Close along Chipstead Valley Road), where the ageing and “disabled access unfriendly” building- a community hall and the upper rooms — would be replaced by new housing, with many units for wheelchair using residents.

    Meanwhile, a brand new Community Centre sports/ performance hall would have been added to the former CALAT centre at Malcolm Road, in central Coulsdon. This would have given a new use and fitting purpose to the old Smitham School building- the attractive and well known, multi-gabled building with its naturally well-daylit classrooms, and its cupola– the iconic logo of the Coulsdon West Res Assoc.

    This 3-site linked redevelopment made a great deal of sense, but was ditched by the council. More than sad, as — apart from building wheelchair accessible homes at the Chipstead valley road site, it would have created a fanstastic new Community Centre right in the heart of Coulsdon. This would have made real, active use of the potential of the old Smitham School buildings, which are now being turned into a dailysis centre– a passive use, which was proposed by the NHS who sought planning permission for a site in the Ullswater Crescent business park, a very sensible location, and ideal building. However, it was ridiculously, illogically turned down by Croydon Council, even though the UK government had previously relaxed the planning designations to include health facilities as well as business use on such sites.

    As someone who supported the 3 interlinked schemes, I feel really angry about the squandered potential of a once in a lifetime opportunity to get decent new housing, at Lion Green and the Chipstead Valley sites, plus a superb new Community centre, rescuing the wonderful old school building at Smitham CALAT.

    I saw yesterday that the lovely big windows of the old school, which once admitted adundant light into the classrooms used by children and then by CALAT users, are now being blanked off with white panels, presumably so that dialysis patients have privacy as they receive treatment. The latter is understandable, but this use is just not the best use of this site and this unique building.

    If it could not have been used for a new Community Centre, the obvious alternative was as a much-needed Medical Centre for Coulsdon. The airy rooms would have made for a really attractive set of waiting consultaion and treatment rooms. It also had a good sized car park (in the old playground), just what is needed for patients to park for the duration of their visit, or be dropped off.

    The demise of Brick by Brick has therefore been followed by the Council strangling and killing off a very sensible 3 site vision and viable plan for Coulsdon, which would have given benefits in so many ways, for the next 100 years.

    So very wrong. And the other big tragedy is that sensible decision on the location of the dialysis centre some 3 years ago would have kept open the potential for a new Community centre OR medical centre at the CALAT old School site. Now, both are effectively dead. What a waste of a great building on a town centre site.

  4. Sarah Bird says:

    An informative and a very well balanced article by Andrew Pelling ,Given the numerous well documented failings of the council (which continue) there needs to be a complete overhaul at the Council, to include numerous officers forthwith. As many people have said Croydon has become a slum town

  5. David Wild says:

    Many local residents have viewed Lion Green Road as ‘prison blocks’, and a blight on the town.

    Given that the site was proposed as a supermarket and health centre the ‘change of use’ is appalling.

    As a ‘shopping centre’ Coulsdon has been decimated by conversions to poor quality flats, with their small spaces retained unable to support a business.

    The town centre needs larger commercial and retail premises to support the growing population, the planning system needs overhauling with town planners deciding what developments will be allowed and where.

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