Housing correspondent BARRATT HOLMES on how things have not gone swimmingly for one of the country’s biggest housebuilders as its plans for 180 homes by Purley Way playing fields have gone down the plughole
Croydon Council’s professional planners, after encouraging a major house-builder to increase the scale and height of a development for the site of the former Purley Way Lido, and to include a 10-storey tower, have now refused the project planning permission because it includes a too-tall, 10-storey tower.
The plans for 89 Waddon Way, submitted to the council in March 2022 by builders Bellway, set out how they wanted to redevelop the former Wyevale Garden Centre site to build 180 homes plus the usual “retail opportunities”. The lido that was originally on the site was closed in 1979 and the pool filled in, after which the garden centre operated there until late 2018.
Bellway named their project “The Platform”, recognising the former lido’s Grade II-listed art deco diving board, which still overlooks the site. On the basis that the diving board is a listed structure that cannot be meddled with by the developers, Bellway decided to make a feature of it, with the homes built around it.
Not that the diving board was to be the tallest aspect of the project. As part of its scheme, and after advice from Croydon’s planners, Bellway included an overbearing and ugly 10-storey block of flats.
This tall building was only included following discussions with council planning officials, who persuaded Bellway to increase the height of the tallest building from five or six storeys to 10, with Bellway urged to pre-empt the review of the local plan for this part of Waddon.
This was despite opposition from local residents and the ward’s previous Labour councillors at the idea of a block of flats towering over the mostly two-storey Waddon estate and the Purley Way Playing Fields.
The councillors – Robert Canning, Andrew Pelling and Joy Prince – were particularly unhappy that the council’s gung-ho planners wanted to completely ignore their own policy on where tall buildings should be built. They were also far from impressed that Bellway’s public consultation on its proposals took place after the developer had submitted its plans to the council.
So as well as raising concerns around building heights, overdevelopment and inadequate off-street parking provision, they slammed the sham consultation.
As one of his final acts as a Waddon councillor before standing down at the local elections last May, Canning also submitted a formal objection to the council’s planning department covering Bellway’s planning application.
This all brought something of a climb down from “The Platform” last November, as Bellway scaled back its plans for the lido site and once again invited views from local residents on its revised proposals.
Under its revised scheme, the number of homes to be built was reduced from 180 to 165 with additional improvements made to the public realm and the overall design of the scheme. Most significantly, the height of the tallest building would be halved with no block to exceed five storeys.
But Bellway did not withdraw its original planning application ahead of submitting a new application detailing the smaller scheme.
As if contradicting their public pronouncements, through November and December and into the first couple of months of 2023, Bellway continued to submit documents to the planning department in support of its original, 185-flats, 10-storey tower block application, rather than focus on its “new” scheme.
“Bellway delivered leaflets around the Waddon Estate last autumn telling us they were going to change their plans and make their scheme smaller,” one resident told Inside Croydon. “Yet, at the same time, they were still pushing for planning permission for their awful Waddon Way skyscraper.
“Perhaps they wanted to be able to blame the council for planning permission being refused after the way they were mucked about over building height? Or perhaps they hoped Croydon’s developer-friendly planners would change their minds again and grant approval.
“Either way, if I was a Bellway shareholder, I’d want to know why they continued to throw good money after bad rather than withdraw their original plans and focus on the new scheme.”
The decision to refuse planning permission was taken by Croydon Council planning officials (it was not brought forward to the elected councillors on the planning committee) and announced on April 26, after they had received confirmation that the Mayor of London had no objection to the scheme being blocked.
Permission was refused for several reasons.
These include an inadequate number of three-bedroom family-sized units, poorly designed public realm around the public square and its feature diving board, and an excessive and avoidable loss of trees.
Permission was also refused on the grounds of an unacceptable negative visual impact on the character of the local area and wider townscape of a tall building at this location.
One thing that was not identified by council officers as grounds for refusing planning permission was the increase in on-street parking arising from a development of this size. Only half of the 180 new homes would be allocated a dedicated off-street parking space.
Parking stress on Waddon Way and neighbouring streets on the southern part of the Waddon Estate was identified by local residents as a key concern when Inside Croydon first broke the news of Bellway’s plan.
Croydon’s planners appear indifferent to the fact that this part of the borough is poorly served by public transport, with no bus service at all along Waddon Way, giving the site the poor Public Transport Accessibility Level, or PTAL rating, that was acknowledged in the planning application and the officers’ reports.
The Waddon resident said: “Public transport around here is lousy and you’re risking your life if you cycle on the Purley Way. Yet our council’s planners seem to think the owners of these new homes won’t need cars or will be able to park easily on Waddon Way or other local streets. They are completely removed from reality.”
With Bellway having already told residents about revised plans for a smaller scheme, there is an expectation that the housebuilder will be back soon with a new planning application – albeit without the unloved 10-storey tower block.
Whether the new plans will include adequate off-street parking remains to be seen, though residents who try to negotiate the roads around the Waddon Estate are not optimistic.
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This is a weird vacuum of a place in which to build a new community. It’s on the edge of a huge expanse of open playing fields. Probably the most difficult design challenge I can think of in the area, as it has next to no context, as it is next to almost nothing. Very isolated, and clearly, not at all related in design terms, to the nearby Waddon estate , with its cottages in a sort of garden village layout. It will be a big bulk of a development, looming over the surrounding area.
It looks very urban, suited to somewhere much more connected, and already built up.
Even without the tower block, these uncomfortably angular blocks will probably funnel the wind. How sheltered would the walkways be? What would they be like after 20 years?
I was trying to think myself as living there. Very difficult to imagine how it would feel. It has that New Town vibe, the kind where isolated new blocks were built out-of-town on the rural fringe.
I have an uncomfortable feeling that the layout will add up to an area that will be cold and draughty. It needs to be warm and cosy. It needs a focus– more than the diving board- and designed to create a decent microclimate, designed around sunlight and creating shelter. With much more generous greening to tie it into the wider landscape.
I can think of some English art deco developments with white balconies and mellow brown brickwork blocks, set in green lawns with specimen trees that might just act as a design role model.
At least, for once, they turned down an other oversized development. Heather Cheesborough and her nodding dog Nicola Townsend don’t understand ‘planning’ (clue: it’s in the title). They don’t understand the needs of residents (nor do they care), nor do they know how to ensure developments enhance existing street scenes and communities, or the type of housing needed.
Croydon has potential. But it needs regeneration and imagination, it needs houses for families not more empty flats, and it needs senior planners with vision and understanding of the changes in working working patterns, retail habits, and leisure.
But over and over Heather Cheesborough and Nicola Townsend have treated residents as an inconvenience, they have completely disregarded residents’ concerns, and they couldn’t (or don’t want to) interpret their own policy. Downsview, Purley Downs and so on, they show no sensitivity to the communities impacted by massive developments. There will always be different views on developments and that makes applying policy and acting with objectivity and integrity critical. They chose not to. They have outstayed their welcome in Croydon and should do the right thing and move on.
Alas no one with the power to do so is willing to implement what Andrew Pelling said he would do to effect real change in Croydon’s planning system when the Executive Mayoral contest was run in 2022.
of course, you could always re build and reopen the Lido… a much loved local resource !!!
Any suggestions how you would pay for that Hazel? And meet the operation costs once open?
While it’s not unreasonable to say “you’re risking your life if you cycle on the Purley Way”, that is not a reason to shrug collective shoulders and do nothing to promote transport choice and instead provide yet more car parking spaces in an inappropriate housing development.
It would be easy to connect the Waddon estate with Croydon town centre and the Purley Way retail sites for people who want to cycle to these destinations rather than walk, take a taxi or bus or drive.
Ten years ago, the then Croydon Council Cabinet Member for Planning, Regeneration & Transport wrote in the foreword of a bid for multi-million pound cycle route funding that “We are envious of the cycle mode share now seen on Central London streets. However if we can release much of the potential for cycling identified in and around central Croydon, then its streets will be used to the same effect. As people choose to cycle rather than use a car or public transport, then considerable pressure will be eased”.
His name? Jason Perry.