The Labour administration is once again about to do further damage to its alleged green credentials by the likelihood on Thursday 30 July of the Planning Committee approving two schemes to build on small neighbourhood green spaces proposed by its development company Brick by Brick.
- Crescent and Covington Ways
- Hawthorn Crescent, South Croydon
Crescent and Covington Ways
Brick by Brick’s application (20/01330/FUL) is to partially develop the green space at the junction of in Norbury Park ward, to provide a part 3 & 4 storey building comprising 9 residential units together with associated landscaping treatments, car parking and enhancements to existing green space
The original application was posted on the Planning Register in March. Revised drawings were submitted on 8 July. These were added to the existing plans rather than treated as a new application. Were objectors informed that these revised drawings had been received so they could review their original objections in the light of the changes?
This is typical of the lack of transparency and devious and underhand way in which revised planning applications are processed. All Councillors should be ashamed that they allow this practice to continue. It make a mockery of the one of the reasons Paul Scott the former Chair and then former Vice-Chair of the Committee supported referral to the Committee raising the following issues:
- Public scrutiny of applications made by the Council and its wholly owned subsidiary.
- Openness and transparency during the Covid-19 crisis when stakeholders are likely to be distracted.
- Potential to provide new homes in response to the housing crisis in accordance with National, Regional and Local Planning Policy.
Objectors will only have three minutes altogether to put their case, another insult to public consultation.
The Amended Plans
The Officers report to the Committee states that Brick by Brick’s original plans raised concerns about the level of intensification. They claim that ‘As a result, the scheme has been reduced in scale thereby reducing its impact upon the setting of the conservation area, respecting the scale and character of the surrounding built form, preserving feature trees.’ The result is a reduction in the number of new homes blow the 10 which would require provision of so-called ‘affordable’ units.
The Planners downplay the significance of it as green space – details set out below. They state that ‘The scheme would provide high quality architecture and would appropriately respond to site context with suitable relationships to the form, mass and appearance of Crescent Way and Covington Way and would provide an appropriate feature building at the junction.’ This is matter of individual judgement. What may be ‘high quality’ design to them, can be seen as inappropriate design given the character of the nearby houses. Unfortunately the pictures in report cannot be saved as JPEGs to include in this posting.
(1) Given the restricted covenants on the site why is the Council allowing its development company Brick by Brick to waste public money to continue this processing this scheme?
(2) Have Norbury Park Ward Councillors damaged their credibility by not opposing the application?
(3) Will Leila Ben Hassel, the new Planning Committee Vice-Chair, damage her credentials in Nobury & Pollards Hill, if she votes for the application?
(4) How can the residents and other groups represented on the Norbury Regeneration Steering Group have any confidence in the Councillors in the future?
(5) As they cannot meet at the moment will the two Norbury ward Labour Parties consider later on calling on the Council to instruct Brick by Brick not to proceed with the scheme?
It seems to me that the only way forward for the Planning Committee is to defer a decision subject to:
(1) further time for consultation given the revised plans were only added to the planning register on 8 July
(2) obtaining legal advice on the restrictive covenants
(3) a meeting of its members held in public that consider the the legal advice and any counter advice.
Hawthorn Crescent in Selsdon – 20/01207/FUL
In a separate report on a green space site in Selsdon the Planners also discuss Brick by Brick’s proposal to build on neighbourhood green space, citing as with the Nobury application Para. 97 of the National Planning Policy Framework.
Because Selsdon Recreation Ground is not far away the Planners state: ‘In view of the overall level of open space provision within Selsdon/Forestdale (which has the second highest level of open space provision across the borough) Council officers are satisfied (on balance) that the loss of this small area of incidental open space (both from an functional and visual perspective) would be acceptable and in accordance with the NPPF can be considered surplus to requirements, especially when viewed against the need to deliver more homes and specifically family homes.’
‘The existing site comprises open incidental amenity land with a visual relationship to the houses surrounding the space. Whilst this presents a pleasant relationship and has clear visual benefits for those residents, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the principle of residential redevelopment of the amenity land from a townscape perspective, as long as the built form respects and positively responds to the character and appearance of neighbouring properties.’
This means there is a potential threat to
all such greens spaces across the Borough.
The 9 July meeting of the Planning Committee has shown that members can occasionally stand up to the obsession of Paul Scott to build more housing regardless of the other policies in the Local Plan. Scott. In relation to 6 More Close in Purley, when it looked like it might be rejected, he proposed deferral which was agreed. However other schemes in the Close were approved.
The full Committee papers can be seen at:
The issues involved in these two planning applications raise a wider series of questions, including for the Tory members of the Council, who have been badly stabbed in the back by their Government over the Purley Tower, and who privately may have reservations about the loss of development control under the Government’s increase in permitted development.
(1) Why is Paul Scott still a member of the Planning Committee given he is Cabinet member responsible for planning policy and strategy, therefore incapable of judging each application on its merits, which is the prime function of Planning Committees?
(2) Can the various groups which have campaigned against Brick by Brick and residents associations across the Borough concerned about future schemes that might involve building on neighbourhood green spaces come together to pay for advice from planning lawyers about how to put a stop to any more developments on land subject to restrictive covenants, and small neighbourhood green spaces?
(3) Can the various groups improve their building of support by improving their communications within their local areas to build up local support?
(4) Will any members of the Planning Committee compromise their ability to scrutinise Brick by Brick if they are members or reserve members on the Scrutiny Committee if they vote for the scheme – Leila Ben-Hassel is its Vice-Chair?
(5) Will the Tories press their Government to rule it illegal to propose developments on land subject to restrictive covenants without a ruling in favour from a court of law?
(6) Will the Tories press their Government to legislate for organised community groups the right to appeal against planning decisions they oppose on land and buildings owned by local authorities and their development companies?
Officer Discussion on Covington
/Crescent Ways Green Space
‘Notwithstanding the above, the site has not been previously developed and is an area of amenity land with some clear associations with the evolution of the immediate suburban settlement of Covington Way and Crescent Way, marking the junction between the two roads. As highlighted in the public submissions, the land is valued both visually and functionally by local residents. Whilst it was clear that the majority of residents who engaged confirmed that they regularly made use of the application site for amenity purposes, they also confirmed that they use other spaces located in close proximity (including Norwood Grove Recreation Area).
Whilst the site has very limited brownfield land credentials and is valued by local residents, it is significant that the space only appears to be used by those residents bordering the site and has more limited wider utility, especially as all houses in the immediate area have access to relatively sizeable rear gardens. Whilst it is fair to say that the space provides an open and pleasant outlook for existing residents living relatively close by, the space has relatively limited biodiversity value and apart from the three trees which are proposed to be retained, the site has relatively limited utility being maintained as open grassland as part of the public highway. The changes in topography between Covington Way and Crescent Way also limits its use (in terms of ball games and more active leisure pursuits).’
The officers recognise ‘that residents feel strongly about the loss of open space and the contribution it makes to the look and feel of the area and their mental well-being. Officers also acknowledge that the space is an important area for localised social gatherings such as street parties and alike, that are less likely to take place in the nearby larger open spaces. For these purposes, officers are of the opinion that the space is an important asset that is not surplus to requirement.’
‘It is clear that the site is surplus to requirement with regards to play space and for exercise purposes, as more appropriate open space is located in the immediate vicinity of the site. Notwithstanding this, it is also clear that the space still has a role in facilitating social gatherings for nearby residents and provides much appreciated aesthetics. Based on this, officers are of the opinion that on balance, the retention of around 500 square metres of open space provides sufficient area to both preserve the physical character of the locality and also allow for the continued use of the site for social activities. As such, the proposal accords with the intent of paragraph 97 of the NPPF and officers are comfortable with the partial loss of the open space to accommodate much needed new homes.’
The officers ‘do question the level of open space needed in order to preserve the look and feel of the area and also provide sufficient and useable space for those important community gatherings outlined above.’