Croydon’s first elected Mayor, Tory Jason Perry, is showing himself to be just as useless and unreliable as Labour’s discredited Tony Newman, one of his predecessors in the role as council leader.
The failures of both third-rate politicians could now lead to the destruction of Croydon’s newest piece of public open space and children’s playground.
The Friends of Love Lane Green, in South Norwood, have been given notice to quit their patch of reclaimed wasteland by this Friday, and they are waiting to see whether Perry’s council will action the wishes of the landowners to carry out the eviction.
Over the last decade the Love Lane community has transformed the land, near the tram lines in Woodside ward, into a much-used garden, veg patch and children’s playground.
But they now face eviction after the council refused to update the site’s Asset of Community Value protected status. Instead, the council offered the Friends of Love Lane Green what one of the group has described as a £20,000 “bribe”, on behalf of property developers, to vacate the site.
The Friends politely refused the toxic offer.
Perry, the £84,000 part-time Mayor, has failed to honour his promise to meet the Friends of Love Lane Green. While claiming to be acting as a “mediator”, Perry has managed to find time to meet the landowners.
Newman, when he was council leader, had promised the Friends group that the site would be protected from development because of its Metropolitan Open Land planning status. As a result, he declined to arrange a Compulsory Purchase Order – a decision which the landowners have since sought to exploit.
The failure of Town Hall officials to act under Newman has been compounded by the council’s recent about-face over ACV, which would have allowed the Friends group ultimately to purchase the plot from its owners.
According to Land Registry records, the land was valued 20 years ago as being worth £114,000 – MOL status makes the site virtually worthless for developers, since they should be denied planning permission for any project. MOL is supposed to carry the same protections as Green Belt.
Had the site been granted ACV, the Friends group was confident of raising the required purchase funds within a five-year time limit.
Instead, council officials, and piss-poor Perry, appear to have been siding with the landowners.
The land is owned by Jane Morris and Richard Morris, brother and sister from Bromley. A development firm, Skillcrown Homes Ltd, also based in Bromley, is listed as having a beneficial interest.
The land was originally playing fields, but became disused after the Croydon tram network came into operation in 2000.
According to one member of the Friends group, “Mayor Perry and the council officers have met with the landowner but could not arrange time meet us.
“They are claiming a stance of mediator, but have not asked what the community wants.”
The Friends group was served with an eviction notice at the start of this month, giving them 28 days to vacate the site.
Mayor Perry also wrote to the Friends.
In his undated letter, he sought to blame Newman’s administration for not following through on the ACV status in 2019. “But the council has had the chance to grant ACV status any time over the last 18 months, and has refused to do so,” the source said. “We can only guess at their reasons.”
In his letter, Perry said that he was “deeply disappointed” that the landowner had terminated the existing licence arrangement.
“Whilst I understand there have been tensions between the landowner and the Friends of Love Lane Green, the positive community use of this otherwise unused land space…”, get that: “land space”! “… has been a testament to the work of the local volunteers that have curated and maintained it.”
Referring to the 2019 agreement over the site, Perry played his usual blame game. “As far as I am aware, the arrangements were not properly finalised in 2019 which has resulted in the current position that no formal legal framework is in place to secure the future endeavours of the Friends of Love Lane Green – which the council has been seeking to rectify.”
The Friends maintain that this is untrue, and that Perry’s council could have granted ACV status, if they wanted to.
“By terminating the agreement, the landowner has effectively left the Council, and by extension the Friends of Love Lane Green, with no legal option other than to vacate the land within the next 28 days.”
Perry claimed that he wrote to the landowner “to ask that he withdraw his termination notice and continue to allow your group access to the site, which clearly benefits the local community”.
He added, “I would be more than happy to meet with you to explore whether we may be able to find a potential solution which works for all parties.”
Perry has failed to honour this promise.
“Irrespective of the outcome, I understand your concerns about the potential development of the site, particularly given it is Metropolitan Open Land (MOL). I want to reassure you that any proposed development of the site would be subject to a full planning application process which would also have to take into account the MOL designation.”
As Perry well knows, Croydon Council’s planners have often waived the rules against development when it has suited them, or their developer mates.
The Friends of Love Lane Green have been seeking public support through an online petition.
“Since 2015 the community surrounding Love Lane has worked tirelessly to develop Love Lane Green as a place for rest and play, and a unique local garden for South Norwood,” they say.
“Our work has been celebrated and supported by organisations including Croydon Council, Play Streets, London in Bloom, and We Love SE25.
“Love Lane Green makes a real difference to local residents.
“Despite this the landlord has published his intention to close off access to the community garden. If the green is closed to the community, children will have their play space taken away, adults will not be able to meet, chat and work together, a centre of the local community will be removed.
“We the undersigned are asking Jason Perry, the Mayor of Croydon, to find a solution for the community so that we can continue to access our Asset of Community Value which is Metropolitan Open Land.
“We believe that all of Croydon’s green spaces should be valued for their social and natural worth. We want to see Love Lane remain open for public use and for the council to commit to keeping Metropolitan Open Land free from development.”
- To add your support to the Friends of Love Lane Green’s campaign, visit the petition page by clicking here.
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