Andrew Kennedy has penned the following critique of the plans for Taberner House and Queen’s Gardens (planning application 17/01046/FUL).
Mis-use of Council resources
If the Council is effectively donating public land to satisfy a private requirement ie:- providing playspace in the Queen’s Gardens then the private developer should compensate the public by either donating land elsewhere for public use, build the requirement on their own land or otherwise provide something for the public’s benefit such as a cultural facility.
No wait, they haven’t left enough room on their own land to meet their own obligations so why don’t they compensate the public then?
This development is too big in every dimension. I don’t believe the environmental study that has been done by the developer showing minimal decrease in sunlight falling on the gardens. The mass is too great, it has got bigger on every iteration of the project.
Mis-leading illustrations in the D&A statement
The developers Design and Access statement has distorted the projected view to it’s own advantage thus misleading all who look at it. The main illustration lengthens the view making the buildings seem shorter and further away than they will be in reality. Other illustrations better illustrate the true nature of the massing and it’s deleterious effect on the Town Hall, Bernard Wetherill House (which is architecturely more interesting) and the Queen’s Gardens.
The designers Landscaping Document is mis-informed
The Mid-Croydon Masterplan does not favour one use over another, playspace over cultural space and bearing in mind that the Queen’s Gardens is in the Council’s “cultural quarter” then where is the provision for cultural activities (an amphitheatre or bandstand) in the redesign? I’m not saying do away with the playspace I am saying that the landscaping and the utilities (electricity etc) should be flexible enough to accommodate outside open air performances and that the residents have in their lease that they realise they are buying flats next to a public park and it is reasonable to expect that some public entertainment will go on in that park and that they won’t object to this. Perhaps specify the hours an decibels. that will be permitted.
Insufficient allowance for public performance in the Queen’s Gardens
The plans omit sufficient provision public performance or gathering in the Queen’s Gardens and for a performance area to be cordoned off so that paid for orderly public concerts can take place and the gardens can be closed at night to stop vagrancy and drunken behaviour. The gardens already have cast iron railings on three sides, it wouldn’t be difficult to arrange railings and gates, great wide gates in the daytime, on the forth side.
No reference to on going maintenance
Who is going to pay for the upkeep of the play area in the Queen’s Gardens? Will the residents of Taberner House pay seeing that it is used by the general public. If they did pay a maintenance fee would they feel they had special rights to use it or restrict it’s use? In the Mayor’s Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) for London boroughs a developer can consider playspace adequately provided for if their is a designated playspace within 400 metres. Well Queen’s Gardens is not a designated playspace and the nearest other green space will be College Green and the council is vigourously protecting this from being a playspace because they want it as a clean uncluttered openspace in front of the Fairfield Halls. They certainly don’t want it used by skateboarders or for five-a-side football and they have so far not picked upon the suggestion that a multi-use hard surfaced sports court be built there for the benfit of students at the college and children on the proposed Fairfield estate.
I suggest that one tower block not be built, preferably the one that is going to cut out most of the sun falling on Queen’s Gardens and that that space be used as private amenity and playspace by the new residents. Then they can have climbing frames, skateboard ramps (though noisy), room for youngster to cycle and play football or whatever on their own territory and within view of their own families.
Poor design of tower blocks
Finally I refer to the architecturally poor design of the proposed tower blocks. I can’t believe that you would pass such a dreary and unimaginative design. It’s as if the architects got off the train at East Croydon and looked around and said. “OK so this is 1960’s vernacular architecture. Let’s give them more of the same”. Where is the imagination. At least Saffron tower has got something interesting about it in terms of colour though I despair at the windy desert it creates underneath it.
Queen’s Gardens separate from Taberner House
Legally Queen’s Gardens are a separate hereditatment to Taberner House (See Land Registry). They might ultimately belong to the same organisation Croydon Council but the Queen’s Gardens are in the same title as the Town Hall and Taberner House is it’s own title. The Queen’s Gardens are an established public park, designated local open space, not a play space. Taberner House was offices and for the first time in that piece of land’s history you are going to build an intensive residential estate on it. It is down right cheeky, taking liberties with your decision making ability to make use of any part of the Queen’s Gardens for private benefit or obligations.
Make sure Taberner House is self contained, doesn’t spill out over the gardens and does not affect the future use of the gardens for cultural activities and entertainment. Don’t shade the Gardens from much needed sunlight and provide buildings that have greater architectural merit.