Key Questions for the Whitgift Centre CPO Public Inquiry

Yesterday was the closing date for the submission of written evidence to the Whitgift Area CPO Public Inquiry. Susan Oliver explains why as a  member of the public she has made a submission and explains the questions she is posing on Inside Croydon: http://insidecroydon.com/2015/01/13/ten-compelling-questions-on-the-whitgift-centre-cpo.

My Recommendations to the Inspector

In my submission to the Inspector I raise a wide range of questions about the details and have set out recommendations. Many of these relate to the Council and the developers providing additional and update information, including:

  • the confidential reports to Cabinet, especially the one on the financial viability of the proposed 15% affordable housing, and an up-date of it.
  • a Town Centre assessment
  • changes in the planning framework covering the Town Centre since November
  • more detailed information on the nature of current and proposed retail space.
  • detailed analysis on the nature of existing employment in the CPO area, the proposed jobs being offered, the pay levels that will be required of businesses, the skills needed and the skills training to be provided.
  • an update on the proposed timetable including the detailed planning and public inquiry stage.

Sustainability

I am asking the Inspector to consider whether in the light of the shortcomings in Council information on the built environment heritage acknowledged in the Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Review last year the developers’ Heritage Assessment is adequate for the purpose of complying with the planning framework. Supporting this I suggest that Council inform the Inquiry of the timetable for the completion of the Review and its adoption as an additional element of the local planning framework. 

The Proposed Cinema and Bowling Alley

I am recommending that:

  • the developers submit their business cases for the cinema and the bowling alley.
  • the Council provide evidence that it saw the business cases prior to the approval of outline planning permission, that it carried out its own evaluation as to the potential effect on the Vue Cinema and Borough bowling alleys, and that it consulted the relevant owner/management companies.
  • the owners/managements of the Vue and the bowling alleys be invited to attend the Inquiry in order to be asked about what their assessment will be on their customer base of establishing a second cinema so close to it.

Financial Risk to Council

As the CPO document approved by Cabinet in April mentions that a risk could be the developers going bankrupt I am recommending that the Council:

  • submit the current and projected Council Tax and business rate income for each of the financial years from 2015/16 to the project completion.
  • provide its estimates for what the financial losses to the Council of Council tax and business rates may be if the developers become bankrupt.

Whitgift Foundation

The aim of the CPO is to consolidate the whole area’s freehold ownership in the Whitgift Foundation. I am suggesting that the Foundation:

  • explain what might be the effect on it as freeholder if the developers become bankrupt leaving a site which includes areas of unfinished construction sites and empty buildings.
  • make available to the Inquiry the full documentation (including a risk analysis) involved in it reaching its decision to enter the agreement with the CLP and the Council to become the ultimate freeholder of the CPO area, including any correspondence with regard the views, procedures and permissions of obtaining Charity Commission approval.

The CPO Adoption

Given the CPO decision was made by Cabinet just before the local elections I am suggesting that the former Leader of the Council explain to the Inquiry the rationale made for the timing of presentation of the CPO report to the Cabinet, and why it could not wait until after the local election results were known.

Council Officers and Neutrality

I suggest that Council officers may not be acting in a neutral manner. I am therefore asking the Inspector to consider:

  • asking the Council to make public the details of the officer posts and % and amounts of salaries involved in cost reimbursement on the Inquiry by developers.
  • questioning relevant Council officers about why they have expressed partisan views.
  • assessing whether or not the Council officers have acted in a partisan and non neutral way which will impede the achievement of the project.

Business and Community Involvement

Finally I am recommending that if the CPO is approved and the project goes head the Inspector should consider whether or not business and community panels be set up with the developers and the Council to monitor the implementation of the project. 

Note: Due to my PDF programme not working properly a PDF version of my submission is not posted here, but the submission will be uploaded onto the Inspector’s Inquiry website. Meanwhile copies are available from me at sean.creighton1947@btinternet.com.

Inquiry website: http://persona.uk.com/Whitgift/index.htm

 The first day of the Inquiry is 3 February.

To hear my explanation of the  Inquiry on Croydon Radio go to:

https://seancreighton1947.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/croydon-radio-interview-on-cpo-inquiry

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About seancreighton1947

Since moving to Norbury in July 2011 I have been active on local economy issues with Croydon TUC and Croydon Assembly, and am a member of the latter's Environment Forum. I am a member of the 5 Norbury Residents Associations Joint Planning Committee, and a Governor of Norbury Manor Primary School. I write for Croydon Citizen at http://thecroydoncitizen.com. I co-ordinate the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History Networks and advise the North East People's History Project.. I give history talks and lead history walks. I retired in 2012 having worked in the community/voluntary sector and on heritage projects. My history interests include labour movement, mutuality, Black British, slavery & abolition, Edwardian roller skating and the social and political use of music and song. I have a particular interest in the histories of Battersea and Wandsworth, Croydon and Lambeth. I have a publishing imprint History & Social Action Publications.
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