CROYDON IN CRISIS: Why is the council’s Tory leadership refusing to answer questions over its support for a £100m housing scheme in central Purley that is being proposed by a small, private company that did not exist 15 months ago? By STEVEN DOWNES
Serious questions are being asked of the council and Croydon South’s MP, after Tory Mayor Jason Perry this week took the latest steps to push through a deal that will lead to another 245 flats being built in Purley town centre – with not a single one of them for social rent or “affordable” housing.
Perry’s prize for Purley is a new swimming pool and leisure centre to be provided on the site of the old Sainsbury’s supermarket, multi-storey car park and the council-run leisure centre which has been closed since 2020.
The value of any new facility has been kept top secret by Perry, but it is unlikely to come close to the cost to the developers of providing more than 80 affordable homes, as would usually be expected under London planning rules.
The council, and Mayor Perry, have this week refused to answer questions about the suitability of the developers, simply claiming that they are the “long-term leaseholder“.
Yet according to public records, Polaska Assets Limited was first registered in… August 2022.
The company has little in the way of assets with which to fund the development, or to borrow against to pay for the extensive blocks of retirement flats it wants to build.
Polaska Assets Ltd has a single director, Paul Andrews, who has a string of other companies, some of which have what, at best, can be described as a chequered business history. None appears to have ever been involved in such a large-scale development before.
Polaska is currently flagged on Companies House for failing to lodge necessary paperwork in time, usually a minor infringement, but not one that would be expected from a thriving and capable business.
But none of this has rung any alarm bells at Fisher’s Folly.
Purley Pool represents another broken promise from Mayor Perry, who when seeking election said he would re-open the existing facility, claiming that make-do-and-mend was an inexpensive and do-able option. This week, Perry was calling the building “dilapidated”. Since becoming Mayor, Perry has thrown his weight behind a private development project that could be worth £100million to the developers if completed.
When residents’ associations raised reasonable questions about the loss of hundreds of parking spaces from a site close to Purley Station, and how the scheme breaks the council’s own planning policies for the area, they received a sinister warning from a Tory councillor.
This week, the retirement flats scheme (with a pool tacked on) got excited backing from Croydon South MP Chris Philp, who has previously spent years trying to block similar, large-scale blocks of flats in Purley town centre.
Given that Mayor Perry has private commercial interests in the wholesale supply of construction materials, while Philp describes himself as an “entrepreneur” whose business has been financing property developers, the need for proper transparency and scrutiny would appear to be more important than ever.
Particularly given Croydon Council’s track record over Brick by Brick.
And the Fairfield Halls.
And those poxy “smart” bus shelters.
Constituents have written to Philp this week to express their concerns over the status of Polaska: “As desperately as Purley needs this site ameliorated, this has another Westfield or digital bus shelter fiasco written all over it,” one resident wrote in reply to their MP’s latest email.
“Polaska has no trading history in property nor development and there is nothing to suggest it, nor its sole director, is a credible partner for this scheme.”
When Inside Croydon questioned Philp on the matter, the Tory MP’s response seemed astonishingly complacent.
Philp wrote: “I have been repeatedly told over time that Polaska is the long-term leaseholder, and indeed has held the long lease for very many years. Polaska’s name has been referenced to me as the long leaseholder of the site since as long as I have been Croydon South’s MP, which is since 2015.” Companies House records confirm that Polaska did not exist before August 2022.
“It may be that Polaska has multiple limited companies in its group…”, it doesn’t. We’ve checked, “… and the specific company that you refer to below was recently incorporated in August 2022 for another purpose (with the long leasehold in relation to the pool being held in another ‘older’ company in their group).”
We asked the council questions on this very point: Is there some other entity called Polaska that is involved in the development of Purley Pool? Can you share with the readers of Inside Croydon when Polaska Assets Ltd acquired the leasehold? Was it offered competitively? Who held the leasehold before them?
Given that the council has issued a press statement describing a company that has existed for barely a year as the “long-term leaseholder”, we also asked: Are you deliberately misleading the public?
The council has answered none of those questions.
In his reply, MP Philp said, “I have just spoken to the Mayor about this, who said to me that full due diligence has been done on Polaska.” Which is no reassurance at all…
Philp also said that he had passed on our questions over the ownership of the site’s lease “as the council holds the details you need rather than me”.
But again, there have been no answers from the council.
Just as there were never any answers from the council when they wanted to cover up the lengthening delays over Westfield’s development of the Whitgift Centre. One FoI request seeking a report into how £70million of public money came to be frittered away on the Fairfield Halls is coming up for its second anniversary. Multiple questions over Brick by Brick’s misuse of public funds were always dismissed.
And as for the “smart” bus shelters that were going to net the council tens of thousands of pounds every year, well… just remember to take a brolly with you when travelling by bus. You might also want to find somewhere else to go for a swim or to use a gym other than Purley for a while, too.
In the council’s deliberately misleading public statement issued this week, piss-poor Perry said, “We will continue to work with Polaska to ensure that any new development is in keeping and meets the needs of the local area.”
As another resident said this week, “I am sure that everything is perfectly legal, but at this stage of the chaotic disaster of Croydon administration, we deserve full disclosure and due diligence in public.”
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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