Council planners agreed to the removal of admired public art

Borough of anti-Culture: the AMP House frieze. The building owners applied for, and were granted, planning permission to remove it

BOROUGH OF THE BANAL: Croydon’s professional planners had an opportunity to insist on the retention of a significant artwork, but approved its removal for something they said would ‘enhance’ the appearance of an East Croydon office block. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

If “Humanity Relief”, the much-admired piece of modern art which adorned AMP House at East Croydon for more than 50 years, has indeed been destroyed, then it is because Croydon Council gave the property owners permission to remove it.

Croydon is London’s Borough of Culture 2023.

“Humanity Relief” was made and installed above the main entrance to AMP House in around 1968, designed by architects Fuller, Hall and Foulsham. It has been described by respected art critics as probably the best piece of street art in Croydon.

But as far as Croydon’s witless professional planners are concerned, removing the artwork and replacing it with nothing much more than a corporate sign “will enhance and respect the appearance of AMP House”.

One noted architecture expert has described the removal of “Humanity Relief” as “a pointless act of Philistinism”.

Residents on their way to or from East Croydon Station had noticed the absence of the artwork earlier this week, and workmen on the Dingwall Road site, where refurbishment work is being undertaken, confirmed that the artwork had been removed and was not expected to be re-installed.

It seems that the precast concrete fins which surround the building at first-floor height, , designed by sculptor Michael Marriott, are safe for now, at least.

The 20th Century Society, in measured understatement, has described the probable loss of the “Humanity Relief” artwork as “concerning” and “disappointing”.

Planning records show that the works being carried out on AMP House were subject to consideration by the borough’s professional planners. Public consultation notices were posted, in this consultation-lite age, with pieces of paper stuck to lampposts down Dingwall Road. Hardly surprising, then, that no passers-by noticed or knew of the Philistinism contained in the proposals.

The matter was the subject of a meeting of the planning department, led by Nicola Townsend, Croydon’s “head of development management” in June 2022.

Planning chief: Nicola Townsend

The matter will have been notified to Fairfield ward councillors, including Labour’s Chris Clark, who until six weeks earlier had been chair of the planning committee. Clark might have used his powers to “call in” the application, so that it might be discussed by the planning committee. He did not.

According to a report on the council’s website, the refurbishment works to AMP House have been designed by DNA Architects on behalf of the building’s owners, Schroders (the developers of Ruskin Square, on the other side of Dingwall Road).

“The development shall be carried out strictly in accordance with the details thus approved,” the report says, “to ensure that the appearance of the development is acceptable and contributes towards a high-quality built environment.”

That’s the words of Croydon’s Townsend and Chris Stacey, the council official who drafted the report.

And this is what the planners approved to replace the best piece of street art in Croydon:

Borough of the Banal: this is what Croydon’s planners have given permission to replace the borough’s finest piece of street art

In his report, approved by his boss Townsend, Stacey wrote: “The existing main entrance to AMP House is not considered to be of any particular architectural significance (with the decorative panel above the main entrance not benefitting [sic] from any formal protection) and due to its inset position from the main building line fails to be a prominent and
inviting entrance point to the building.” Yep, he actually wrote that.

“As such the reconfiguration and redesign of this space in principle is supported.”

According to the council’s professional planners, “The proposed design seeks to enhance the prominence of the main entrance through the provision of a stone-clad outer frame (forming a portal) and projecting canopy, which is considered appropriate for a building of this scale and would complement the materiality/architectural language of the existing building.”

Cherished: AMP’s Sydney offices are not about to destroy their street art

The website Art UK includes an entry for “Humanity Relief”, an artwork that Croydon Council did not consider worthy of conservation.

It describes “Humanity Relief” as “A family group surrounds a female figure representing Charity, with her hand resting on head of a seated mother with a child. On the left is a farmer with a cornucopia of fruit and vegetables. The tableau sits against a background of a globe.”

Even after all the clusterfucks committed at FIsher’s Folly over the years, the utter imbecility of the council’s conduct in this matter is hard to process.

John Grindrod is the noted architectural author from New Addington whose book Concretopia celebrates the brutalist buildings of the mid-20th Century.

Today, he told Inside Croydon, “I really can’t believe it.

“If it is true that the artwork has been removed and destroyed, then what a pointless act of Philistinism. Shame on anyone involved in this.

“How could anyone think destroying a cherished piece of public art would make anything better for anyone? How monstrous.”

As well as spotting the planning consent, keen-eyed Inside Croydon readers have also noted that when the insurance company, Australian Mutual Provident, were commissioning the design for their new Croydon office, they asked for something similar in style and theme to what they already had adorning their offices in Sydney.

“Amicus Certus” is another relief that was created by artist Tom Bass in 1960. Happily, it remains in place.

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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
This entry was posted in AMP House, Art, Borough of Culture 2023, Business, Chris Clark, Croydon Council, East Croydon, Environment, Fairfield, History, Nicola Townsend, Property and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Council planners agreed to the removal of admired public art

  1. Sally says:

    Yet another example of the sheer incompetence of the Planning Department. Nicola Townsend (could her surname be any more apt?) and Heather Cheesborough have done untold damage to Croydon. But still they cling on while we pay the costs for their incompetence. I’m embarrassed for them.

    The planning appeal for 21 Downsview Road has just been turned down by the Planning Inspectorate – a planning application that the planning department recommended. It’s pitiful that the Planning Inspectorate has to point out where developments fail London and local planning. Our own planners are unable to understand their own policies. How many of such applications that didn’t meet policy were recommended by them and pushed through by Chris Clark and Paul Scott when they controlled the committee? We’ll never know.

    • James Seabrook says:

      Have a look at the Peter Principle.

      Dr. Laurence J. Peter could as well have used Croydon Council as his subject material. It would have been very easy for him.

      Here’s a paraphrase of his principle:

      “Organisations manage careers so that everyone rises to the level of their incompetence.”

    • JC says:

      I wish the Planning Inspectorate would review all those decisions approved by the planning managers, Scott and Clarke. Developers plus planners plus councillors minus any scrutiny or oversight or enforcement – we know where that leads. Just read the Penn report.

      • Ian Kierans says:

        The Planning Inspectorate should review every single planning application for the last decade and definitely every single one that was approved or three individuals over saw.

        How many lost judicial reviews does it take?

    • Ian Kierans says:

      One can hope that all will eventually be investigated and justice shall prevail. Or the regulations being shown to be unfit for purpose and slack diligence due to lack of resource is rampant.

  2. Heads should roll. Starting with the Head of Planning and the chair of the Planning Committee that allowed this to happen on his watch.

    • Don McNair says:

      Heads should roll, but they won’t. Croydon Council seems to be steeped in a culture of incompetence, nepotism, greed, corruption, and ineptitude. Look at Brick by Brick and the unholy trinity of Colm Lacey, Alison Butler and Paul Scott. How can we forget Nicola Townsend, Tony Newman and Jo Negrini. And now we are saddled with the lumbering part time powerless Perry. Croydon should declare itself insolvent (again), throw itself on the mercy of the government, get chopped up into smaller manageable boroughs and start from scratch. Let’s face it, anything would be an improvement to the quagmire we are stuck in now

    • Ian Kierans says:

      I do recall Mr Pelling mentioning that Cheesy cheekily raised a complaint however the one about her inaction was passed to – Nicola Townsend – hahahahah


    IT IS TIME TO CHANGE 50% of the people who work at Council .
    They have no artistic sense and other………………………

  4. Lancaster says:

    Shambolic, farcical ignorance by incompetent idiots.

  5. Ian Kierans says:

    IC – Did you mean Lite or Ephemeral?

    Not much footfall down that road for a while now.

    Still .

    Apparantly (acording to one developer recently spoken with about notices being removed) removing Council notices because there was a mistake is ok and developers have carte blanche to do so.

    Clearly as Ms Townsend knows that Developer after all she signed off those pesky non existant conditions sight unseen as being discharged- And strangely the Council departments were fully aware that the developer had removed notices for their own purposes and did not notify anyone and led to residents receiving fines – but all that is ok as ’tis all part of that ”perfectly legal development”

  6. Dan Maertens says:

    All well and good, but ‘where is the AMP House frieze now’?

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