Croydon Planning Committee has 3 options re-Whitgift Centre application

 

It seems to me that the Planning Committee has three options re-taking decisions on the Westfield/Hammerson revised outline planning application.

Option 1

To refuse the application because the developer has had plenty of time to prepare a much more detailed planning application which would leave less matters to be dealt with as reserved matters, and because:

(1)      it does not make a significant contribution to meeting the Borough’s housing needs which is both affordable akin to social housing and secure in terms of length of tenure

(2)      it is premature as the developer has not completed discussions with the GLA in relation to viability matters and the requirements of the now adopted Affordable Housing and Viability SPG 2017)

(3)      the applicant will need to set out  the proportion of affordable housing and allow it to be interrogated

(4)      in order to contribute to meeting the provision of 3+-bedroom homes as required by Council policy the applicant has failed to offer off site provision of social rented family housing

(5)      it is inappropriate to leave the mix of bedrooms to be dealt with as a reserved matter

(6)      the proposed tower blocks are unacceptable as a form of housing when the units could be built across the top of the shopping centre (see Note 1)

(7)      the tower blocks are too close together and their height will make it difficult for access by the Fire Brigade to upper stories in the event of fire.

(8)      the failure to publicly summarise the viability assessment to show how it why it cannot offer more than 20% affordable (especially since 60% of this is at 80% market rent and 40% at London Living Rents ( based on 30% average incomes)

(9)      the provision of the option for a hotel means that the development will not maximise its potential for contributing to housing in the COA

(10)    it does not safeguard the setting of St Michael’s Church

(11)    there is no detailed commitment to participate in the Council job brokerage service

(12)    it does not contain a commitment that all employers involved in the development of the scheme and renting or leasing units in the completed scheme will be required to comply with the Council’s London Living Wage policy

(13)    it does not commit to ensuring visible active street frontages above the ground floor (see Note 2)

(14)    it fails to provide adequate external amenity space for residents

(15)    it fails to specify an adequate amount of flexible community space both within the Centre for the wider community, and within  the residential blocks for residents

(16)    it fails to provide adequate external play space for children in family accommodation

(17)    the proposed level of car club parking provision is too small for the potential number of residents who might wish to have use of  a vehicle

(18)    there is no provision for residents visitors car parking needs

(19)    there is no provision of free car parking for doctors, nurses and carers visiting residents

(20)    there is no taxi provision in or immediately next to the scheme requiring Centre users and residents to cross Wellesley Rd to the taxi rank in Dingwell Rd

(21)    there is inadequate details with regard to accessibility for Centre users and residents using wheelchairs.

(22)    it has failed to amend the design of the stairs at Poplar Walk. (Officer report para 6.39)

(23)    it has failed to give consideration to ideas put to Westfield in the past that to incorporate a swimming pool, a gymnasium and a sprung-floored dance hall which could be used recreational dancing, pop concerts, discos or “strictly come dancing” events.

Option 2

To defer approval to enable further discussions on the following matters.

(1)      Consideration of the implications for the outcome of the discussions with the GLA in relation to viability matters and the requirements of the now adopted Affordable Housing and Viability SPG 2017.

(2)      A redesign of the residential element to spread the units across the top of the shopping centre so  that the proposed residential towers can be taken out of the scheme, which would also assist in the safeguarding of the setting of St Michael’s Church (see Note 1).

(3)      Bearing in mind the uncertainties about their future retail unit plans to seek legally binding commitments from Marks & Spencer  and John Lewis that they will sign up to rent the proposed Department stores without which the retail attraction of the new shopping centre will be considerably reduced.

(4)      The allocation of the rented units to the Council and its partners to ensure that lettings are made to those in need from the homelessness, housing waiting and transfer lists.

(5)      More detailed impact assessments of the revised scheme on the Town Centre bearing in mind the view of the Inspector in his report on the CPO Inquiry (para 7.18 – see Note 3)

(6)      An assessment from Thames Water on (i) the water resource needs of the scheme and how they are to/should be met; (ii) the implications of the scheme for (a) the surface water drainage and (b) sewerage systems.

(7)      An assessment by UK Power (i) about the estimated energy consumption of the scheme, the need for more supply infrastructure, (ii) the maximisation of energy generation on the site, including the use of solar panels, and (iii) the energy that will be required to supply the tower blocks (inc. pumping water up them) and the residential units if spread across the top of the shopping centre.

(8)      An assessment of the conflicts in vehicle movements between the car park, and deliveries to the residential units (a)   in the proposed tower blocks and (b) if the residential units are spread across the top of the shopping centre (see Note 4).

(9)      An air quality assessment of the number of (a) cars that are expected to seek to park in the Centre car park, (b) the extra bus transport to be provided, and (c) the vehicle deliveries to the residential units both in (i) the proposed tower blocks, and (ii) the units if spread across the top of the centre.

(10)    Detailed proposals for visible active street frontages above the ground floor (See Note 2)

(11)    Non-use of panelised metal materials on exteriors of the buildings.

(12)    Any pre-cast concrete surfaces must not be in grey slab form.

Option 3

To approve the application on the following basis.

(1)    A special sub-committee held in public be established to consider all applications dealing with reserved matters so that Councillors are satisfied that the conditions on reserved matters are properly scrutinised and enables the public to comment to it.

(2)      The option for student accommodation be retained and for a hotel to be deleted. (See Note 2)

(3)      Submission by the applicant of  plans for the off-site provision of social family family housing.

(4)      A legally binding commitment by the applicant to participate in the Council job brokerage service.

(5)      A legally binding commitment by the applicant to will include in its contracts and agreements with employers involved in the construction of the scheme and those renting or leasing units in the completed Centre  to comply with the Council’s London Living Wage policy.

(6)      Matters discussed in  Options 1 and 2.

Note 1. Spreading the units across the shopping centre

If the residential units are to be spread across the top of the shopping centre instead of in the proposed tower blocks then the complex could be built in one phase.

Such a solution would spread residents over a wider area of the site reducing some of the potential conflicts over access and means of transport.

It would ensure a much higher footfall in the public walkway areas of North End and the Galleria especially late at night. It would also encourage more interaction by residents with the facilities in the new Centre as opposed to their being concentrated on the edge largely overlooking Wellesley Rd, and interacting more with the facilities (than those in the Centre) on that side of the road as they return from work by tram and bus and from East and West Croydon Stations.

Particularly in the early days in which new occupiers will move in when the residential blocks (if approved) are complete, is there a danger of the build up of queuing and what additional impact could this have on Wellesley Rd if queues are building up for access for retail and leisure?

If the residential tower blocks are approved how many lifts and what sizes are envisaged to maximise speed of deliveries and minimise temporary vehicle parking?

Note 2. Visible active street frontages above ground floor level

The issue of how retained frontages should be dealt with was subject to discussion in the report of the Inspector of the Whitgift Centre CPO Inquiry.

In para. 7.14 he states ‘I agree entirely that it is imperative for the environmental well-being of the area that the detailed design of the Scheme does not repeat errors that have been perpetrated in the past, particularly around the treatment of retained buildings and facades.’

His report also contains further discussion in paras. 3.109-3.113. In para. 6.3 he highlights: ‘A plea was made for the Scheme to exhibit a better, more sympathetic approach to the existing buildings to be retained as part of it.’

The report to the Planning Committee does not appear to contain sections discussing whether:

(1)      the proposed treatment of the facades meets the potential hinted at by the Inspector in para. 6.3 of his report.

(2)      the application avoids the past errors, particularly around the treatment of retained buildings and facades, referred to by the Inspector.

Allders frontage – Heritage Statement (p. 72-9)

It is unclear to what extent the application is bringing the whole front of the Allders building back to life, avoiding creating a partially dead façade like the Grants Building upper floors. Each floor should have uses at the frontage that people will be able to see when they look through the ground and first floor windows, and look up to the higher windows. Similarly people should be able to look out of the windows on each floor. This appears to be possible given the Design Guidelines Section 2.3.1 states: either ‘Clear glazing to be reinstated, revealing illuminated shop window displays behind;’ or ‘New glazing to be installed that relates to the proportions of the existing fenestration. (No curtain wall systems to be used).’ The first alternative makes it clear that the first and second floors will be visually live, but the second does not.

Note 3. Impact on Town Centre
The CPO Inquiry Inspector stated:

‘7.18 I can appreciate that if the Scheme proceeds, some people will find that the changed environment created is not to their taste. However, it seems to me that the forum for a philosophical debate about the future of Croydon town centre was through the evolution of policy, in the FALP, the LP(SP) and the OAPF. That debate has already taken place. Similarly, if the Scheme was felt to be wanting in terms of the impact it would have on the character of the town centre, then the time for that discussion was when the application for outline planning permission was under consideration. That opportunity has passed, and outline planning permission has been granted for the Scheme. The policy background has been arrived at in a proper, transparent fashion and outline permission was granted largely because the Scheme accorded with that policy background. Indeed, the applicants consulted widely on the Scheme and the responses were, in the main positive.’

The revised application provides a new opportunity to consider the changes to the environment especially as it now proposes the demolition of the Marks & Spencer building, Green Park office block and the building of residential tower blocks.

Is the Committee satisfied that the impact of the revised scheme will be more or less beneficial to the character of the environment on the Town Centre, especially given the proposed concentration of the residential tower blocks at the West Croydon end of the site.

Note 4. Traffic and Air Pollution

Q1. Given the queues that can develop to gain access into the existing car parks what is the estimated likelihood of queues developing to get into and leave a much large single car park?
Q2. What effect could queuing have on traffic flow along Wellesley Rd?

Q3. What effect will this large scale increase in cars, particularly those coming from Kent, Surrey and Sussex, have on the road network in the southern part of the Borough and through Fiveways?
Q4. Have the 2013 ‘modelling’ estimates been updated to include this extra traffic (generated by all the new schemes in the Town Centre) , which will also be held up in the reduced lanes by pedestrian crossings and new proposed entry from the north to be in Wellesley Road instead of Poplar Walk?

Q5. Will the many bus routes using Wellesley Road on each side get priority, creating more delay for vehicles through the underpass?

Note 5. Benefits of student accommodation

The provision of student residential accommodation has several advantages, including:

(a)      providing an alternative to family housing units if the proposed towers are approved bearing in mind that tower blocks are not the best environments for children to grow up in.

(b)      decreasing the pressure on traditional homes being let to students which results in a loss of family sized homes with gardens which are more suitable for children to grow up in.

(c)      A workforce for the businesses across the whole Town Centre.

Sean Creighton

13 November 2017

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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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One Response to Croydon Planning Committee has 3 options re-Whitgift Centre application

  1. Susan Oliver says:

    Wow, Sean, this is a magnum opus.

    One thing is still bugging me: this build is going to be damn tough on the population. The demolition and build is going to last 2-3 years – probably more – and will take the heart out of the city. Let’s face it: Croydon Town Centre is going to look like a dump and that’s going to be tough to live through. This is going to have a major psychological impact and affect people in different ways – some more than others. Ultimately, this will result in insecurity and unrest. Will there be another riot? I don’t know but one thing I think you can bank on: crime and domestic violence are going to go through the roof. The question is: how much responsibility for this will the Partnership take on? Meaning, how much money will they contribute to policing and the Family Justice Centre during the project? I think they will try to wrangle out of these responsibilities, of course, and that’s why this subject needs to be a part of the application.

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