Planners taking a look at millionaires’ homes on Webb Estate

KEN LEE, Town Hall reporter, on the latest council consultation which seeks to provide a chimera of public input for the planning department’s latest wheeze in an area where Michael Buble, Wilf Zaha and Status Quo’s Francis Rossi have all had homes

Gated community: the Webb Estate has a well-deserved reputation for exclusivity

Another day, another vacuous-looking and deliberately opaque consultation survey arrives from Croydon Council.

This one is unusual since it has been raised by the council’s planning department and focuses on what amounts to a community of private homes in Purley, where some houses are being sold for over £4million.

Even three-bed flats on the Webb Estate sell for more than £1million.

Development of the estate, named after the landowner and developer, began in 1888 with construction on Banstead Road and Foxley Lane, before being extended into Upper Woodcote Village at the turn of the 19th Century.

According to the sumptuous website run by the residents’ association (they are so posh, they call themselves a “society”): “The Webb Estate is unique in the Croydon area because it was designed and built to one man’s vision.

“William Webb wanted to create a Garden Village in the suburbs, for people who worked in the City. For 30 years Webb set about creating a village in which buildings, gardens and the roads were carefully and distinctively designed to a high physical and aesthetic standard.”

“Unique in the Croydon area” indeed. High standards being the exact opposite of what Croydon Council’s planning department usually stands for.

Millionaires’ row: this eight-bed house and 2-acre garden on the Webb Estate is on the market for £4m

After Webb bought the 260-acre Foxley estate, he planted trees, flowers and hedgerows that were allowed to mature before homes were built and offered for sale. The coming of trams to Purley in 1901 spurred him to make a start on construction and the first dwelling to be completed was Upper Woodcote House, which he took as his own home. Webb was also involved in the building of St Mark’s Church, Purley.

Cottages were studded around a village green in the south-west corner, originally for Webb’s workmen but they were soon snapped up by commuters, in an early example of gentrification and the pricing out of the housing market of the working classes.

The outer roads of the estate were mostly built up with semi-detached properties. Most of the inner roads were laid out from 1907 and the plots were developed between 1912 and 1920.

Webb planted Rose Walk with 6,000 rose bushes, South Border with herbaceous plants and Silver Lane with a double row of silver birch and a host of bulbs and wildflowers.

The estate when completed comprised around 230 houses, of varying architectural merit (loads of mock Tudorbethan), but all in an incomparable setting.

Conservation area status for Upper Woodcote Village (which surrounds the village green) was granted by Croydon Council in 1973 and extended to cover the rest of the estate a decade later. There is a blanket tree preservation order and no subdivision of plots is allowed.

The estate’s residents are still bound by a list of arcane, Edwardian-sounding rules drawn up by Webb, including:

  • No clothes, except children’s garments, shall be hung out to dry unless hidden by a hedge or other suitable enclosure
  • No use of a lawn mower within nine inches of a tree stem, as the nut on the side of the machine is certain to tear the bark off
  • No purchaser should be seen emerging from their abode wearing shorts

However, estate resident Ron Noades, the former chairman of Crystal Palace football club, openly defied the rules, saying , “Our washing has been hung outside for 20 years.” And Noades was regularly seen out and about wearing shorts, usually when off to play a round of golf at one of the courses he owned.

Status quo: rock star Francis Rossi is one of the famous Webb Estate residents

After Noades died in 2013, his Webb Estate home – complete with a Palace Eagle in tiles on the bottom of his swimming pool – was bought by an even bigger star of Selhurst Park, Wilf Zaha. The house is rumoured to have been used as a location for the Footballers’ Wives television series.

Other well-known residents have included Status Quo’s Francis Rossi and Sir Bernard Ingham, Thatcher’s press secretary during her time in Downing Street, who died earlier this year.

In 2011, it was reported that Michael Buble brought a £3million house on the estate.

Television presenter Laura Hamilton lived there, too, with her husband re-vamping the Lord Roberts on the Green (named after a Boer War general) into a village store, post office and café, even getting an alcohol licence for the place, which Webb, as a teetotaller, would never have allowed.

The Webb Estate Society was formed by residents around 40 years ago, and they say, “In addition to conservation area planning requirements, the Estate’s character is protected by a series of restrictive covenants which are owned by Webb Estate Limited.”

Webb Estate Ltd is a company owned by residents of the estate, which acquired the freeholds to the roads from the Webb family in 1999. “This company continues the work of the Webb Estate Society in preserving the character of the estate,” they say.

Preservation area: the official Webb Estate and Upper Woodcote Village conservation area, as mapped out on the council website

And with soaring housing prices generally, the residents have much that they will want to preserve.

When estate agents start their spiel for homes on the Webb Estate, the location is invariably mis-described as “Purley, Surrey“.

The “C” word – Croydon – is barely ever mentioned.

One eight-bedroomed mansion currently on the market is described: “A spectacular home seamlessly blending elegant style with modern sophistication. Extending to over 8,000sqft of sumptuous accommodation, this beautiful home also stands on wonderful parklike grounds of just over two acres.” You get the drift.

Magnificent: estate agents give it large when on a commission for selling houses for £4m

So it doesn’t take much to imagine the likely reaction to the announcement slipped out late last week from the propaganda bunker at Fisher’s Folly.

“Croydon Council is inviting residents to take part in a survey and help shape a Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan for the Webb Estate and Upper Woodcote Village in Purley,” bureaucrats at one of the worst-run local authorities in the country said.

There’s even an acronym for the exercise: CAAMP – Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan.

The council consultation has a web page which tells us that Nicolette Durham, a “lead conservation officer”, and Selin Karsan, “senior conservation officer”, are “listening”.

Trouble is, as many who have had the misfortune of dealing with the planning department will know too well, while they may well “listen”, they rarely pay attention or take any notice.

CAAMP-ing it up: the council’s report on the Webb Estate from 2007

“A conservation area exists to conserve and manage the character or appearance of an area of special architectural or historic interest,” the council press release says.

“This CAAMP will assess how best to maintain the estate and the village, taking into account residents’ views and ideas.”

The CAAMP “is now being reviewed and updated by the Conservation Team – Spatial Planning who will research the historic development of the estate, undertake a character assessment, and produce a management plan for the area”.

And they also say that the CAAMP “will also set out principles for managing the Conservation Area in the future and guidelines for alterations and new development”.

Nowhere on the press release or on the council’s survey page is there provided an easy link to this important document. It’s almost as if the council planners don’t want the public, and the Webb Estate residents, to see quite what they have got in mind…

But in the spirit of investigative journalism (we did a Google search; Pilger would be so impressed) we found a 50-page document on the council’s website which dates from 2007 (the introduction refers to the South Norwood conservation area; council officials cutting and pasting material over, and not managing to proof the report before publication).

The document could be of use, and as a service to our readers, we are doing what Croydon Council has failed to do (again) and making it available here.

It might be helpful. It lists some of the covenants – legal restrictions – that apply on the Webb Estate. The sort of thing that Croydon’s planners routinely ignore.

The Webb Estate Society will no doubt be keeping a very well-resourced check on what their council comes up with in terms of “guidelines for alterations and new development” in a conservation area… After all, it’s unlikely that Francis Rossi will be the only Webb Estate resident who wants to maintain the status quo.

Read more: ‘Important’ council flood survey that suffers from missing links
Read more: How the council’s planners help developers dodge conditions
Read more: Council in cover-up over planning’s husband and wife act

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10 Responses to Planners taking a look at millionaires’ homes on Webb Estate

  1. It’s about time the anti-LTN Tories removed the Webb estates gates to allow us plebs in our clapped-out ULEZ non-compliant motors to drive through the poshest part of Croydon. This would improve traffic flow on the nearby main roads (Foxley Lane, the A2022 and Smitham Bottom Lane, the A237). After all, it’s what Mayor Perry and Councillor Roche want for the Labour-held council wards in the north of the borough.

    • 1. It’s private ground: the Tories are no more responsible for the gates than they are for my garden gate, your front door or that to the gents in the Royal Standard.

      2. The gates are easy to navigate. How do you think the post, Amazon, Waitrose (it is the Webb Estate after all) etc etc etc get through them? They don’t have magic keys you know…

  2. Ian Kierans says:

    Let me get this right.
    Hard working successful people buy their home in a place that has legal covenants with the roads and land all privately owned and secured in a perfectly legal development as a gated community and with conservation status and this Council sweeps in and says bugger that. Here’s what we think.
    Croydon Council? Pardon the language but I am L.M.F.A.O.

    I have complete faith in the residents on the estate to do the right thing that is relavent and beneficial to that community. If their view are not taken on board or not listened too, there will be a lot of career limitations taking place at the council moving forward. Not too mention a storm of judicial reviews and some very interesting outcomes moving forward.

    I am just amazed that with all the failure and incompetence anyone at Fishers Folly has both the time and public money for this indulgance. And that makes one very suspicious as to what their actual agenda is!

  3. James Seabrook says:

    How sad that the incompetent council want to get their grubby little mitts into the Webb Estate. They must be truly desperate. Unfortunately I can’t believe it is for any good reason. Since when has the council done anything good for any residents?

    • Andrew Pelling says:

      Croydon council is in a very bad place when, 14 months after an election, it is still seen as a malevolent institution.

  4. Bill Kilvington says:

    There are some absolute bangers in the document.

    Reason given for not extending the conservation area to South side of Foxley Lane “There have been many plot divisions and infill development along Foxley Lane and there are also various flattedd evelopments which are contrary to Webb’s covenants.” I wonder who could have allowed that?

    But best of all
    “Changes in modern day living requirements have influenced our development in the Conservation Area. Examples include:

    Families now require more and larger rooms and houses inevitably contain a home office

    Home-based offices and home entertainment facilities mean a higher level of incoming services e.g. cable and satellite dishes

    Multi-ownership of cars requires greater hardstanding areas replacing previously grassed or planted areas”

    All considerations denied whenthe planner approve knocking down family homes to build flats!

  5. Stephen Blythman says:

    How much are these people being paid for wasting their time and our money. If they want to do something meaningful, look at the crap that the planning department is giving permission for. Non has any architectural merit, no relationship to its surroundings and only serves to destroy the feeling of an area by breaking it up and destroying it. There is only one reason most of this stuff is given permission and it is not design, appropriateness or need.

  6. Actually, it’s worth completing this survey for the last question if nothing else.

    Q: How do you prefer to hear about Croydon Council campaigns and news?

    A: Other (please specify): Inside Croydon.

    • Sarah Bird says:

      I agree with Jack Griffin. Everyone should compete the survey and specify inside Croydon..

  7. Lewis White says:

    As long term villagers of the beautiful Surrey Village of Woodcote (aka Purley Webb Estate), we are rather concerned that the Council might have some hidden motive in updating Planning Guidance for our modest homes and gardens.

    Could it be that an aerial photo has revealed how large the plot sizes are, relative to those of the sadly less well-off surrounding areas? Too many trees to allow for vibrant, cutting-edge urban forms of development?

    Might there be a plan to “intensify” the density of development, building 36 to 56 storey blocks of 1 bedroom flats on every garden, so that there would no longer be enough outdoor space to have 100 metre long herbaceous borders and 1 acre drifts of spring bulbs that currently grace the frontages of many a humble abode along our leafy byways?

    However, in fairness to the report, it does seem that the writers have readily understood the essential need for leaving enough room for a driveway of sufficient dimensions to accommodate a typical modern family’s essential transport needs of 3 x 4-wheel drives, 1 x Bentley, 3 x Porsche and 2x Jaguar. Small, yes, indeed, but important.

    Nevertheless, we would urge all fellow villagers and friendly readers of your esteemed organ to be on their guard !
    Rose Walk, Silver Laine, Promena de D’Verdun

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