The new proposal for the Taberner House/Queens Gdns scheme envisages a 30 storey town block. The current Local Plan stipulates no more than 20.
So one section of the Council is seeking to breach planning policies set out in the Mid-Croydon Masterplan. It seems that the Planners are concurring with this breach recommending its approval at yet another Planning Committee meeting being held on Thursday 18 May.
With the new Local Plan Public Hearing starting next week this raises questions as to what seriousness the Masterplans that underpins it will be taken by future Council administrations if they can find ways to argue against complying with its requirements. Whether this is an issue that the Inspector will allow to be discussed remains to be seen.
The Planning Committee
Town Hall at 6.30pm
Thursday 18 May
The report can be read here.
Objection to Height Breach
An objector to the scheme presents the following arguments about the proposed breach of height and the consultation process.
“The Localism Act 2011 introduced a new duty governing consultation before applying for planning permission. Prospective developers must first consult the local community and any specified persons, so that they may collaborate or comment (the prospective developer must have regard to any advice that the local planning authority may have provided). The developer must have regard to any comments or responses generated by the consultation undertaken when deciding whether to make any changes to their proposals before submitting their planning applications. The outputs of such consultation must accompany any planning application for development to which the new duty applies, in order to make it valid”.’
‘The consultation did not specifically ask consultees if they approved of building being larger than those mandated in the mid Croydon local plan or of a building 35 storeys high. This is a significant issue as a building of greater than 20 storey has not been mandated by the Croydon public for the Queens gardens site. In fact the Mid Croydon Master Plan states quite specifically in paragraph MC14 that the Queens Gardens site has “Potential for a slender tower of up to 20 storeys on the South Eastern corner” Evidence that the public were not aware of this and that it is an issue of significance follows from the answer to the question raised during the consultation “Are you aware of the existing planning permission for 5 tall building on the old Taberner House site “ to which 66% of consultees answered no. The consolation is thus flawed in this significant area and it cannot be said that the requirements of the Localism act of 2011 have been met. A further consultation should be held asking the specific question “Do you approve of a building greater than 20 Storeys on the Queens Gardens site”.’
‘As stated above the Mid Croydon Master Plan states quite specifically in paragraph MC14 that the Queens Gardens site has “Potential for a slender tower of up to 20 storeys on the South Eastern corner” Furthermore the council has recently submitted the “Croydon Local Plan Detailed Policies and Proposals” and has not included a requirement to alter the parameters for building heights on the Queens gardens site thus the councils own policy remains as stated above. The significant difference between the requirements of paragraph MC14 of up to 20 storeys and the applications proposal of 35 storeys ( a 75% increase) is of such significance the application should be rejected.’
Tory Cllr Helen Pollard took up these issues with Pete Smith, Head of Development Management, and received the following reply:
‘It is important to note that at this stage, the application is still under consideration and the officers recommendation has not been confirmed as one for approval. However as you will appreciate from the pre-application meetings, this is what officers are working towards and we have stated our broad support in relation to the bulk, height and massing of the scheme. We would normally respond to these matters at the end of the determination period when everything is confirmed and therefore are now only talking in general terms.
Any divergence of the proposed scheme from the Masterplan would be clearly outlined in the officers report and Members would be aware of this as part of their final decision making process. The Mid Croydon Masterplan and Opportunity Area Masterplans in general provide a useful tool to outline key requirements for a site and encourage development to be brought forward with known parameters. However, the critical point is that they remain non-statutory guidance which needs to be applied flexibly and cannot be given the same weight as a material planning consideration, compared to fully adopted local plan policy or site designations. The Council is obliged to consider any extent of Masterplan non-compliance on its own merits, based on individual impacts and detailed assessment material.
With regards to the public consultation at pre-application stage, there is no legal obligation for developers to undertake this, unless in relation to proposed wind turbines. Notwithstanding this, it is best practice and Croydon Council strongly encourages developers to undertake consultation, which they have done in this case. We have no concerns with the comprehensiveness of the consultation exercise undertaken which reached a very large number of people. It is also important to note that members of the public have been invited to review and comment on the submitted application by Development Management as part of a statutory consultation exercise. Any comments submitted as a result of this process are being fully considered.
Turning now to the previous design review (which was undertaken by CABE – rather than Design South East – as previously advised) the CABE response was prepared and issued at a time when the Taberner House scheme was being progressed by another developer. The CABE response was prepared and issued exclusively to this developer (rather than the current applicant) and I am not able to issue this response (as it is their exclusive property). That said, the views raised by CABE have helped planning officers to inform and direct current plans and drawings. As previously advised, at the time of the Place Review Panel launch (November 2016) the most recent pre-application process was at an advanced stage and had already been to Planning Committee for pre-application presentations on a number of occasions. It was considered that the emerging scheme had been sufficiently reviewed and commented upon – especially as it was informed by the previous CABE Design Review.’
Concern about chairing of Planning Committee
At one of the Tory Councillors meetings with residents associations on planning issues held this week to discuss the final preparations for the Local Plan Local Hearing, vocal concern was expressed about the way in which the Planning Committee is chaired. Several formal complaints have been submitted against the Chair’s apparent pressure on a Councillor not to vote against an application. Such action would appear to be prejudicial to the semi-judicial nature of the Planning Committee’s role.