CROYDON IN CRISIS: Even the usually placid residents associations in the south of the borough have begun to realise that they were sold a pup by Jason Perry over the fate of the leisure centre at Purley, where the Conservative Mayor is now backing another £100m residential development. By STEVEN DOWNES
Jason Perry, the Tory Mayor of Croydon who has his own swimming pool in the garden of his £1.3million mansion, wants to keep the residents of Purley and the south of the borough waiting for at least three years before they will see the opening of their leisure centre.
When he was running for election as Mayor, Perry claimed he could get Purley Pool and leisure centre re-opened with a “fully costed” and funded £3million plan. He even repeated that boast as recently as July 2022.
But Katharine Street sources have confirmed that Perry, from his time as a mere member of the council cabinet, will have been fully aware of a confidential internal council report from 2013 that said that Purley Pool would be too costly to repair and reopen.
Certainly, the site owners have had plans to develop the site for housing for even longer, which is why council officials blocked or vetoed even modest spending on the leisure centre and adjoining multi-storey car park.
Piss-poor Perry is now backing the private developers’ scheme that includes a 12-storey skyscraper and around 245 retirement flats, worth an estimated £100million. As a planning “benefit”, the developers Polaska, say that they will provide a new pool and leisure centre, though that won’t be ready much before 2026.
A first round of consultation events for the proposals has already taken place, with further “workshops” planned for next week.
But residents’ groups in the south of the borough, usually unflinchingly loyal to the Tory cause, have begun to wake up to the reality that Perry and some of his senior councillors – “the Beavis and Butt-Head of Croydon Town Hall”, as one council figure described Conservative councillors Jeet Bains and Simon Brew – either chose to ignore the internal council briefings, or simply lied to get elected.
And the residents are not too impressed with the tall towers alternative being offered now for the already heavily developed Purley town centre. “Piss-poor Perry has sold Purley a pup over his plans for a pool,” was how one long-standing member of a residents’ association put it to Inside Croydon this week.
The latest emailed newsletter from HADRA, the Hartley and District Residents’ Association, made no attempt to hide their scepticism over a scheme that is now being foisted on the community.
“On the surface, we too were excited to hear of the possibility of the pool finally being re-opened,” HADRA’s official email began.
“However, after attending the presentation and digging a bit deeper into the proposed development, a number of local residents’ associations, including HADRA, have expressed concerns.
“HADRA wrote to the developer on June 23 seeking answers to a few questions, but as yet, they have refused to engage with us.” Inside Croydon’s questions to the developers’ agents have also been ignored. So much for “consultation”.
“Do we want a pool in Purley?” HADRA asks. “Absolutely we do! But at what cost?
“Did you know – that at 12 storeys high, this is only a few storeys less than the Purley Baptist Church complex which was so bitterly resented by many of our residents?
“Did you know – that a second 12-storey building in the centre of Purley is contrary to the council’s own Croydon Local Plan?
“Did you know – that Purley Multi-storey Carpark will be demolished to make room for the pool, with a loss of 424 car parking spaces? How would you imagine this would impact local businesses and commuters?
“Did you know – that the plans will give back only 12per cent of those parking spaces, yet there will be increased demand for parking from the pool and leisure centre users?
“Did you know – that there are plans to build over 200 ‘older person’ apartments above the pool, yet there’s no provision for additional medical facilities in the already stretched Purley area?
“Clearly there are questions which remain unanswered regarding this development, such as why funding for the works could not come from unallocated Community Infrastructure Levy as promised by the council in July 2022, instead of building yet more apartments.
“We hope the developers will respond to our questions soon so that we can continue to update our members on this proposal.” Or HADRA might want to ask the Tory Mayor, that they did so much to get elected, to provide some of the answers.
Even the Save the Purley Pool campaigners, who for so long thought that they had the support of Perry and the local MP, Chris Philp, have begun to sound a little less gullable.
In an email from the campaign’s Richard Willmer this week, they said, “The council has not provided details and costings as to why re-opening the existing pool is no longer viable as this was, until recently, still under consideration.”
They are a tad kind to Perry when they describe his election pledge to re-open the pool as “implicit”.
They go on: “At Save Purley Pool, we see the merits of the proposal, but believe it will be important for the council to hold the developers to account for delivery of the new centre, in particular the new 25-metre pool, to time.
“The last thing we want is a demolished or unfinished development in Purley. We are also aware that, even if a new centre is delivered to the proposed timetable, Purley will have been without a pool for at least six years…
“We will be focusing on the early development of the new leisure centre and pool, but hope the proposal generally can give the widest possible benefit to boost Purley [town] centre.”
The 2023 reality, however, is all a very long way away from the Tories’ “implicit” promises. Or what the Tories call “an absolutely firm, unequivocal commitment” to reopen the pool.
Even as recently as November 2021, Croydon Conservatives were using Purley Pool as an election pawn.
“It has been fantastic to hear… that mayoral candidate Jason Perry as firmly committed to re-opening this vital facility in Purley,” a page from the Croydon Conservatives’ website of just 18 months ago states.
“It’s about time the council started listening to the whole of Croydon, rather than punishing the areas they do not like.”
They even offered a video of Beavis and Butt-head, Bains and Brew, inspecting the facilities and coming to the conclusion that they could open it all very quickly, and at minimal cost.
“Over the weekend, Cllr Simon Brew and Shadow Cabinet Member Jeet Bains visited Purley Pool… We were shown around by managers from GLL, the company that runs the site, as well as an ex-general manager of Purley Pool.
“Whilst some cosmetic issues need to be fixed, as well as mending the ventilation system, it was quite heartening to see that the condition of the pool system was functioning – and in the case of a couple of the pumps, completely brand new!
“We do not see any reason why it should cost £3million to open this pool, despite Croydon Labour arguing that this is the case.”
And they encourage readers to “Watch the video to see what we found inside!”
In case you missed out on that opportunity at the time, Inside Croydon is delighted to give another airing to Bains and Brew, aka Beavis and Butt-head, finding only “cosmetic issues” with Purley Pool…
- Inside Croydon – as seen on TV! – has been delivering local community news since 2010. 3million page views per year in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
- If you want real journalism, actually based in the borough, you should consider paying for it. Please sign up today. Click here for more details
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at email@example.com
- As featured on Google News Showcase
- We offer FREE ads to community groups when they have members who are paid subscribers to Inside Croydon
- Our comments section on every report provides all readers with an immediate “right of reply” on all our content
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: Croydon was named among the country’s rottenest boroughs for a SIXTH successive year in 2022 in the annual round-up of civic cock-ups in Private Eye magazine