Croydon Council’s Planning Committee is being asked to approve the plans for the redevelopment of the College Green/Fairfield Halls area at its meeting on Thursday 23 February starting at 6.30pm at the Town Hall.
The officers’ report can be read here:
Is the Committee really independent?
Getting any changes to this application will be impossible, despite the Planning Committee’s quasi-judicial role independent of the wishes of the Council as applicant.
The report addresses this issue stating:
‘The Applicant being LB Croydon has no bearing on how the LPA considers planning merits and/or engages. There is therefore no conflict of interest with the LPA operating independent from the applicant (as it does in any other circumstance.
Furthermore, in this particular instance, the LPA has employed an independent planning consultant to act as case officer (working closely alongside the Head of Development Management) to help ensure that no conflicts of interest arise.’
Consequences of rejection
However if the Planning Committee were to reject the application it would cause a major political crisis for the Labour leadership and its executive authority, not just because of its commitment to the flawed plans, but because it might jeopardise its development company Brick by Brick and risk losing the Coast to Capital grant towards the refurbishment of the Halls.
The Committee cannot be expected because it has a track record of failure to protect the existing built environment against ambitious developments which have little architectural merit.
Changes of adjournment
The Conservatives are unlikely to propose an adjournment to enable the newly established Place Review Panel to consider and comment on the plans because:
- two Conservative Councillors have submitted their support for the scheme.
- Since with its track record of rarely agreeing to reject officers’ recommendations it is likely to accept that the officers suggestion that the Panel will be able to review and comment on emerging detailed proposals and applications for approval even though these are not matters which can be considered by the Planning Committee.
Arguments against approval
(1) Its only providing 15% ‘affordable’ housing.
(2) The loss of the architectural uniqueness and familiarity of the College building- even though Historic England and the Secretary of State have refused to Grade II list it.
(3) The waste of the £ms invested in the College building in recent years.
(4) The squeezing of the open space and the failure to apply Garden City principles.
(5) Thames Water’s view that the existing waste water infrastructure is unable to accommodate the needs of the application.
(6) A design panel’s reservations including the unimaginative proposals for College Green.
Save Our Fairfield comment
Andy Hylton of the Save Our Fairfield campaign has emailed the following comments.
‘As you know, we campaigned for a phased development, to save over 150 jobs and to keep the Fairfield accessible for community groups and schools. Sadly, our concerns were ignored by Croydon Council. The Council’s forced closure put the charity into a difficult position. Without regular business or income they were forced into administration. This could have been avoided.
Since July 2016 we have seen little progress at the Fairfield. A wooden fence was erected around the entire site and the once vibrant venue fell silent. Christmas passed without the traditional Panto at Fairfield Halls and many diverse audiences, community groups, school children and vulnerable people have been denied access to this valued amenity.
Our campaign group will not sit in silence. We are theatre technicians, artists, musicians, architectural advisers, solicitors and patrons. We have the experience and knowledge to support this development from an operational perspective, technical and from the customer’s point of view.
The national advisory body for theatre, the Theatres Trust, agreed with our concerns when we advised against the costly ‘Truck Lift’ plans for the rear access due to logistical difficulties and maintenance costs. The Council have now scrapped this plan, saving £4 million of public money which could be spent on supporting the Arts and Culture for young people in the Borough. Just like the Theatres Trust, we also believe that “current and future generations should have access to good quality theatre buildings where they can be inspired by, and enjoy, live theatre.”
Croydon has an estimated population of 381,000 with 84,000 young people under the age of 15, the largest number of any other borough. Since the closure of Fairfield Halls, these young people now have neither a proper arts venue nor a strong, interim arts offering. Our young people deserve better than this. Six-months without this is already too long and two-years is completely unacceptable. If Croydon were a city it would be the sixth largest in the UK. A town the size of Croydon deserves a strong arts programmes of events, unified and under one banner.
Fairfield has the potential to be a centre of excellence for Music, Theatre and the Arts and we have always welcomed the investment in the building. In order for the venue to reach its potential the plans need to be right, especially for the incoming operators needs. We must ensure the venue’s viability for the next fifty years and beyond. We will be watching over the works until the Fairfield Halls are reopened and we will be submitting our concerns about the current plans to the Planning Committee.
This is a public meeting and all are welcome to attend, no tickets are necessary. There will also be a live webcast of the meeting which can be found through the Croydon Council website.’