Making a Splash: big bailouts behind Brick by Brick’s buyers

STEVEN DOWNES reports on the colourful character behind the business which is set to buy up Croydon’s loss-making house-building company

Character: Tom Bloxham, the man behind Urban Splash

The company tipped to take failed housing company Brick by Brick off Croydon Council’s hands has broken loan covenants and needed multi-million-pound bail-outs of its own in the past to enable it to continue trading.

And since the Grenfell Tower tragedy four years ago, a number of developments by Manchester-based Urban Splash have been reported as having used flammable cladding which failed to comply with building safety regulations – hardly reassuring from a company that was established by a bloke whose previous job was selling fire extinguishers door-to-door.

Urban Splash was co-founded in 1993 by Tom Bloxham, a colourful character and Labour-supporting “celebrity” entrepreneur of the kind you might expect to see on Dragon’s Den. Bloxham is so celebrated, he even has his own portrait in the National Portrait Gallery – posed with loads of breeze blocks, arranged, of course, brick by brick.

A former pupil of Tiffin School in Kingston, Bloxham has been based in Manchester since going to read politics and history at the university there. From running a poster shop and being a fire extinguisher salesman, in his mid-20s Bloxham partnered with an architect, Jonathan Falkingham, to form Urban Splash, with a focus on “regeneration”, converting Manchester’s ample supply of disused industrial buildings for residential use. Continue reading

Posted in Brick by Brick, Business, Chris Buss, Colm Lacey, Croydon Council, Jo Negrini, Tom Bloxham | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Croydon in crisis: Investigation into housing scandal finds systemic failure and incompetence in council

Independent consultants confirm that housing officials treated tenants with ‘a lack of respect’, and even lied to the local MP over repairs to damp and mouldy flats in South Norwood. By STEVEN DOWNES

A “relatively routine” building failure, a water leak, was allowed to go unrepaired for four years, according to a damning investigation into the appalling housing conditions endured by council tenants in South Norwood.

Kept under wraps: the council withheld the damning report for a month

Independent consultants found that Croydon Council and repair contractors, Axis, had failed “to deliver even basic ‘core’ housing services effectively… potentially symptomatic of poor performance across the council’s housing service”.

Among their key findings, Ark Consultancy said that there was “a poor operating culture with a lack of care and respect for tenants”, that there are senior managers at the council “who do not appear to know what is going on”, and “a lack of capacity and competence” in the council’s housing department.

They also highlighted how, when the tenants’ elected representatives intervened on their behalf, council officials even lied to an MP over whether the leak had been repaired.

Croydon’s Labour-run council commissioned the urgent report following the ITV News broadcast in March of the conditions in the residential block on Regina Road. One housing specialist described the condition of the South Norwood flats as the worst they had ever seen. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Croydon North, Hamida Ali, Housing, South Norwood, Steve Reed MP | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Going to the lowest, only bidder: council finds buyer for BxB

EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

Croydon Council could have to pay at least another £40million in order to sell off Brick by Brick, the Labour-controlled local authority’s failed housing developer which bankrupted the Town Hall.

Going cheap: the sale of Brick by Brick won’t end the council’s spending on the failed project

And the multi-million-pound spending on the failed brainchild of Jo Negrini, the council’s ex-CEO, and discredited ex-leader Tony Newman won’t end there, either.

Trade magazine Property Week has reported that Croydon has found a buyer for Brick by Brick: the Manchester-based property group Urban Splash.

The deal is going through the final stages of due diligence, and is set to be rubber-stamped at the council cabinet meeting on May 17.

Property Week reports, “The deal would wipe out almost all of the council’s debt related to Brick by Brick.” Which, if confirmed, would be a minor miracle. But to use an overworked cliché, the devil is in the detail. Continue reading

Posted in Brick by Brick, Business, Chris Buss, Colm Lacey, Croydon Council, Fairfield Halls, Housing, Jo Negrini, Urban Splash | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Unique opportunity in heart of Croydon: Boswell Mews

A D V E R T I S E M E N T


Continue reading

Posted in Advertisement features | Tagged | Leave a comment

Only 10% of council housing repair jobs ever get checked

The new cabinet member for finance says he is ‘worried’ by dodgy data provided to justify a four-year extension to the multi-million-pound deal with the council’s repairs contractor. By STEVEN DOWNES

The contractor at the centre of the national scandal over the “worst flats in Britain” had their multi-million-pound contract extended by Croydon Council just weeks before ITV News exposed the terrible squalor endured by tenants in the neglected and badly maintained blocks on Regina Road.

Axis have been the council’s contractors for seven years, and have been doing such a bang-up job, they’ve just landed a four-year extension

Under the terms of the deal, fewer than 1-in-10 of repair jobs get independently checked by council officials, Inside Croydon can reveal.

Housing repairs contractor Axis (Europe) were handed a four-year extension earlier this year – after council papers showed that they met or exceeded every performance benchmark.

Yet council tenants in Shirley and Waddon, as well as those featured in the TV news broadcast in South Norwood, have told Inside Croydon that they have had to wait weeks, sometimes months, for even basic repairs on their homes to be carried out. And even then, the works may fail to last, maybe of questionable quality or require repeat visits. Continue reading

Posted in Alison Butler, Callton Young, Croydon Council, Housing, South Norwood | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Emergency? What emergency? Council helpline’s crossed lines

Residents have contacted Inside Croydon concerned that they might lose their democratic rights in today’s elections because the council’s “emergency” helpline to arrange proxy votes in health emergencies was not working properly.

The helpline for ’emergency’ voting closes at 5pm

Voters who suffer a medical emergency today and are therefore unable to visit their polling station in person – particularly in cases where someone has to self-isolate for covid-19, for example – should be able to arrange for someone to act as their proxy through a call to the council’s democratic services department before 5pm today.

But when one mother called the council helpline number on her daughter’s polling card this morning, the staff member at the council contact centre didn’t know anything about the proxy voting arrangements.

The loyal reader told Inside Croydon: “We tried this morning to register an emergency proxy vote for our daughter who was told yesterday to self-isolate because of covid. Continue reading

Posted in 2021 London elections, Croydon Council | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Council housing staff summoned to urgent briefing with CEO

The wait could almost be over: the report into how council flats in South Norwood fell into such squalid and appalling conditions is expected to be released tomorrow.

It has been six weeks since the conditions in this council block in South Norwood shocked the nation

All members of the council’s housing department have been summoned to attend an online “briefing” at 3pm today with Katherine Kerswell, the interim chief executive, and Sarah Hayward, who was recently promoted to the exec director Place role, and so is in charge of housing in the borough.

Sources at Fisher’s Folly say that staff are braced for bad news. Very bad news.

The report about the disrepair of the flats on Regina Road has been withheld for more than a month, with Kerswell claiming that pre-election purdah prevented its publication.

The report, conducted by Ark Consultancy, is understood to have found systemic mismanagement and incompetence at the council, with few proper checks conducted over its maintenance contract which was outsourced to Axis.

Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Housing, Katherine Kerswell, Sarah Hayward, South Norwood | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So farewell, then, Steve O’Connell. Here’s what you achieved

Cheerio: Steve O’Connnell

As the curtain falls on the long and very well-paid career in local politics of Steve O’Connell (pictured right),  who is standing down from public office today, Inside Croydon pays tribute to the Conservative councillor for Kenley and the Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton by giving a brief summary of his many achievements. Continue reading

Posted in 2021 London elections, Kenley, London Assembly, Steve O'Connell | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

MyT offers easy accounting software for Croydon firms

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

Continue reading

Posted in Advertisement features | Tagged | Leave a comment

Tories are tipped to cling on to Croydon and Sutton seat

NOT-SO-SPECIAL ELECTION SPECIAL: With just hours to go before the polling stations open, WALTER CRONXITE, our political editor, offers some important advice to make  sure that your votes count

After a turgid campaign that has lasted, off and on because of covid-19, almost 18 months and with a record number of candidates, Londoners go to the polls tomorrow – but very little will ultimately change.

As well as a London Mayor and a Croydon and Sutton London Assembly member, electors in Croydon will also get to vote for a party on a list system to top up the Assembly with 11 members elected proportionally to parties’ shares of the list vote, employing a modified D’Hondt method. And then there’s five council by-elections – in Kenley, New Addington North, Park Hill and Whitgift ward, Woodside and South Norwood – where the vote is conducted on the old-school first-past-the-post system.

Such a profusion of different votes and voting systems confuses some voters.

In Croydon the last time there was a London election in 2016, 2,170 votes were deemed spoilt in the first preference vote for Mayor and 1,099 and 1,075 votes spoilt in the local member vote and the list vote respectively. Continue reading

Posted in 2021 London elections, Croydon Greens, Kenley, London Assembly, London-wide issues, Mayor of London, Neil Garratt, New Addington North, Park Hill and Whitgift, Patsy Cummings, Peter Underwood, Sadiq Khan, Shaun Bailey, South Norwood, Woodside | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More worries over Kerswell’s suitability for council top job

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Our council reporter, SANDRA STEAD, on the latest twist in the search for new leadership at Fisher’s Folly

Katherine Kerswell: expected to apply for permanent CEO job

Katherine Kerswell, the interim chief executive at Croydon’s bankrupt council, is expected to apply for and to be offered the £192,474 per year job on a permanent basis, according to multiple sources at Fisher’s Folly.

If confirmed, the move will mark a notable change in Kerswell’s career path, which in recent years has seen her take on a local government “gun for hire” role, hopping from senior job to senior job at distressed and struggling councils. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Improvement Board, Jo Negrini, Katherine Kerswell, Section 114 notice, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

#Binmageddon: Binface out-foxes rubbish Mayor candidates

Political editor WALTER CRONXITE says that after an over-long and extremely lacklustre London election  campaign, there has been one bright spot – and it’s not been Tory Shaun Bailey’s joke candidacy

Fine tradition: Count Binface renounced his peerage after running Boris Johnson close in Uxbridge

It has been a very long, and very tedious, London election campaign, but for some of the capital’s voters, perhaps bewildered by the multitude of different voting systems employed and vast number of candidates for Mayor or the London Assembly, there has been one bright spot: Count Binface.

In elections that were postponed from 2020, among the various races-within-the-race for City Hall, there is a fascination among those who long ago tired of the lies of Tory Shaun Bailey or the deadly dull platitudes of Sadiq Khan (did you know: his father was a London bus driver?), the idea that a geezer with a bin on his head could attract more votes than the spittle-flecked campaign of Laurence Fox has lightened the mood these past couple of weeks.

And what’s more, unlike so much of so many of the pointless political campaigns, Binface is actually doing some good, by raising thousands of pounds for homelessness charities. Continue reading

Posted in 2021 London elections, London-wide issues, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mayor’s relocation plans place City Hall on ‘at risk’ register

City Hall: What do you do with a purpose-built building when the organisation it was built to serve decides to move out?

The 20th Century Society expresses fears for landmark building and for under-threat social housing at Cressingham Gardens

On the eve of the sixth election for the Mayor of London, City Hall, the building which has been the home of the capital’s devolved authority for nearly 20 years, has been placed on an “at risk” list.

Also included in this year’s 20th Century Society at risk list is Cressingham Gardens, the model social housing development alongside Brockwell Park, which Labour-controlled Lambeth Council wants to demolish to make way for expensive private houses. The 20th Century Society describes the council-built homes as one of the “most exceptional and progressive post-war social housing estates in the UK”.

The 20th Century Society publishes a Buildings at Risk List every two years to help the architectural campaigning charity “demonstrate how severe the threat is to some of the very best examples of the architecture of our period”. Continue reading

Posted in Art, Environment, History, Housing, Lambeth Council, London Assembly, London-wide issues, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Time for London’s politicians to redesign streets for people

South Norwood Country Park, one of Croydon’s many ‘green lungs’ which have served us so well during lockdown

CROYDON COMMENTARY: For South Croydon resident CONNIE MUIR, it is a manifesto from a community organisation which has impressed her most during the latest election campaign, as she’s voting with her feet

During the pandemic, people in London have rediscovered the simple act of walking – the oldest, cheapest and greenest transport there is. It has allowed us to stay healthy, happy and connected to those around us.

But lots of us still struggle with narrow, cluttered, uneven pavements, crossings that prioritise cars rather than people, and growing numbers of speeding vehicles. Continue reading

Posted in 2021 London elections, Croydon Friends of the Earth, Environment, Walks | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Police and agencies stage clampdown on scrap merchants

Waste sites in Croydon and across south London and into Kent got a surprise early knock on the door from Environment Agency officers working with the British Transport Police, Kent Police, the Joint Unit for Waste Crime and Openreach, all part of a clampdown last month on the burgeoning crime of catalytic converter theft.

Police and EA officials carried out a clampdown on scrap metal merchants last month

Officers visited six sites in Croydon and Dover as part of a multi-agency week of action targeting metal and vehicle recycling businesses.

A number of vehicles stopped during the week were found to have no waste carrier’s licence or duty of care paperwork. One site was found to be illegal and is no subject to enforcement action.

British Transport Police searched the sites for stolen metal, in particular catalytic converters that are stolen for the precious metals they contain.

There were nearly 1,000 cars in Croydon that had their catalytic converters stolen during 2020 – almost doubling the number of such thefts reported in 2019. Croydon had the second-highest number of catalytic converter thefts of all London boroughs reported in 2020. Continue reading

Posted in Crime | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Wallington groups seek to clean-up for Christian Aid Week

Members of St Michael and All Angels junior choir, siblings Viviene and Jansen Lim are getting ready for a sponsored litter pick on May 23.

Viviene and Jansen Lim are cleaning up their neighbourhood, and raising funds for Christian Aid

They will be raising money for international relief and development charity Christian Aid in its 75th anniversary year.

Teams from Wallington and South Beddington churches and youth groups will join them to help clean up Beddington Park, Mellows Park, woodlands south of Roundshaw Common and public areas around local churches.

“Climate justice and the environment are a big part of Christian Aid’s work in places of need across the world, and it’s a local issue too, so what better way to raise awareness, show support and make a difference?” said organiser Immo Hüneke. Continue reading

Posted in Charity, Church and religions, Outside Croydon, Sutton Council | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Silvertown build costs Khan backing from Friends of the Earth

The proposed Silvertown Tunnel will increase traffic in south-east London and undermine many of the Mayor’s other measures to improve the capital’s toxic air

The hugely polluting Silvertown Tunnel scheme, backed by both Labour’s Sadiq Khan and the Tories’ Shaun Bailey, could see both candidates in Thursday’s Mayor election lose the support of Londoners who are rightly concerned about the climate crisis and the capital’s toxic air.

Today, influential environmental group Friends of the Earth issued an assessment of the Labour and Conservative candidates’ policies and statements and found them both to be lacking. Continue reading

Posted in 2021 London elections, Croydon Friends of the Earth, Environment, London Assembly, London-wide issues, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, Shaun Bailey, Sian Berry, Waste incinerator | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Palace fans’ donations help homeless charity cook up hope

Homelessness charity Evolve Housing + Support, together with Crystal Palace FC and their charity, the Palace for Life Foundation, are launching a 12-week cooking course for people who are homeless in Croydon.

Residents and staff at a Evolve hostel serve up one of their meals

The Foundation has donated £1,000 to pay for the food that will be used during the course at an Evolve homeless hostel.

The socially distanced course is organised by a team of senior workers at Evolve’s supported housing service, and aims to teach vital life skills to former rough sleepers and people with complex needs living in supported housing. Continue reading

Posted in Charity, Crystal Palace FC, Evolve | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Big Local looking to fund deserving Broad Green groups

Got an idea for a small project that will improve the lives of people in Broad Green? There’s an organisation in your neighbourhood that wants to distribute thousands of pounds of grant money to the right causes.

In the past five years, Big Local Broad Green has awarded small grants to more than 70 local projects who have provided much-valued support, assistance and improvements to our local community. And now they are looking for other groups and causes that deserve similar support. Continue reading

Posted in Broad Green, Charity | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Official accused of bullying Regina Road tenants over meeting

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Did the council leader lie to a parliamentary committee when she promised to release the investigation findings into the ‘appalling’ state of council flats in South Norwood ‘as soon as we have them’?
EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

Residents in Regina Road have had requests for a meeting ignored

More than six weeks since Hamida Ali was approached by journalists from ITV News about the “worst flats in Britain”, and the Labour council’s leader is still refusing to meet with residents who have had to endure the “appalling” leaks, damp and mould in the South Norwood council blocks.

Ali has failed to accept repeated invitations for a face-to-face meeting from a group representing the residents.

Instead, in a move which has been described as “gas-lighting” by the council and an attempt to bully residents, many of them vulnerable, a council executive director has had letters hand-delivered to flats in the blocks on Regina Road, presenting them with what some see as little more than an ultimatum.

The letter, seen by Inside Croydon, was delivered on Thursday and is signed by Sarah Hayward, as “interim executive director, Place”.

Before she got her job in Croydon, Hayward had been a Labour politician, the leader of Camden Council, a position she resigned after she was forced to undertake anger management classes and was subject to an investigation by a Queen’s Counsel into serious allegations of bullying.

Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Housing, Katherine Kerswell, Sarah Hayward, South Norwood | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Climate crisis protest brings Selsdon Road traffic to a halt

XR protester Grace Onions staged a sit-down protest in the Selsdon Road this morning

Traffic was stopped for an hour this morning on Selsdon Road when a local woman staged a sit-down protest in the street wearing a sign that read, “I’m terrified for those born after 2000 because of the climate crisis”.

Identified by Inside Croydon as local environmental campaigner Grace Onions, her protest was part of Extinction Rebellion’s “waves of rebellion for 2021”: protests held each month, increasing in pressure towards the staging of the UN’s climate conference, COP26, in Glasgow in November. Continue reading

Posted in Climate Crisis Commission, Environment, Extinction Rebellion | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Addiscombe, the academies and the artistry of the Fieldings

Windsor Castle from the River Thames (part of the British Museum collection) shows how Theodore Fielding was one of the leading British artists of the early 19th Century

MARVELS OF THE MINSTER: The family connections of some of England’s foremost artists of the early 19th Century have been traced to the churchyard by DAVID MORGAN

John Singleton Copley is the famous American-born artist who is buried in Croydon Minster. Many over the years have visited the church in order to see the memorial of his final resting place. But there is another accomplished 19th Century artist who lies forgotten in the churchyard.

Theodore Henry Adolphus Fielding died in July 1851 and was interred in the churchyard of what was then known as Croydon Parish Church. Some time later, in common with so many, his gravestone was removed.  If that stone was laid down to create a pathway, any inscription was long ago worn away.

But his records remain, and from them it has been possible to discover much more about Fielding and his gifted family. Continue reading

Posted in Addiscombe East, Art, Church and religions, Croydon Minster, David Morgan | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Boxer Edwards determined to take his chance for world title

South Croydon boxer Sunny Edwards will step into the ring in east London tonight seeking to end the career of one of the hard old game’s toughest champions.

Tough old game: Sunny Edwards will need the fight of his life to win the flyweight world title

Edwards, 25, faces the experienced South African Moruti Mthalane for the IBF flyweight world title.

Edwards is unbeaten in 15 pro fights, but is reckoned to be the underdog against 38-year-old Mthalane, who has claimed 26 of his 39 wins by knock-out. The South African has not lost a contest in 13 years.

Edwards comes from a family of fighters, he and his brother, Charlie, having acquired a degree of local fame when their father, Larry, built a ring in the garden of their Beddington home so that the boys could spar and, literally, learn the ropes. Charlie Edwards, who was narrowly denied the chance to box for Britain at the 2012 London Olympics, won a professional flyweight world title himself two years ago. Continue reading

Posted in Boxing, Sport, Sunny Edwards | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Developers’ Purley Way report is ‘bunkum’ says councillor

Just because Paul Scott has been kicked off the planning committee doesn’t mean that inappropriate development schemes have suddenly stopped being presented to the council.

This Stonegate Homes ugly block would tower over all the existing buildings along the Purley Way

And a 12-storey block next to the Wing Yip Chinese superstore on the Purley Way has raised serious questions once again about the veracity and reliability of some of the reports submitted to support planning applications, with the findings of developers’ consultants on traffic and parking being ridiculed as “bunkum” by Robert Canning, one of the Labour councillors for Waddon ward.

Canning calls the developers’ traffic report “inaccurate and misleading”.

The period for objections to be submitted to the scheme from Stonegate Homes for 550 to 550A Purley Way closes tonight.

With lockdown only recently eased, few local residents on the Waddon Estate nearby are likely to be aware of the massive block proposed, with the council’s planning department having done the bare minimum of public engagement, by tying a single application notice to a lamppost alongside the busy A23.

Details of the proposals can be seen and objections registered online by clicking here. Continue reading

Posted in Planning, Purley Way, Robert Canning, TfL, Transport, Waddon | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lockdown shop closures will extend town centre’s blight

Our retailing correspondent MT WALLETTE reports that covid’s impact on the High Street leave little hope of Westfield’s long-promised redevelopment on North End any time soon

Croydon town centre, already devastated by the development blight caused by Westfield, has been hit hard again by covid-19 lockdown

One-tenth of shops in London are now vacant, according to the latest figures for the retail industry. And averages across the whole country for vacancies are even worse, with the British Retail Consortium saying that 1-in-7 shops are empty.

“After a third national lockdown, it is no surprise that the vacancy rate has continued to soar,” BRC chief Helen Dickinson said today.

The continuing and worsening downturn for retailing is seeing the operators of large shopping centres, such as Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, look to shift the focus of their businesses, towards the ever-booming residential sector.

Westfield this week unveiled revised plans for a £1.3billion scheme at White City, including 1,760 new homes, an increase of 75 per cent on their previously approved proposals.

Continue reading

Posted in "Hammersfield", Business, Centrale, Whitgift Centre, Whitgift Foundation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment