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( extracts from Winter 2018 newsletter)

Councillors Report

Planning Problems In Our Borough by Chris Philp MP 

Full Planning Report by Geoff James

Councillors Report 

….serious strategically and long term, is the onslaught on our village by developers and the Council’s encouragement to build out and change the character of our lovely area. We continue to work with KENDRA objecting to the worst applications. In this KENDRA and ourselves seek your support. We are battling against an Institutional tide: a Planning system biased in favour of the developer, a Council encouraging intensification, and top down Government and Mayoral Housing targets which at best are debatable.

Planning problems in the borough by Chris Philp MP

I am deeply concerned about the Council’s appalling approach to planning. They are granting 95% of applications that go to planning committee, which are supposed to be the contentious applications. They intend a further 10,000 homes to be built in suburban areas of the borough by 2036. The council is targeting green areas with intensified building – which I strongly oppose.

The most obvious example of this is the 17 storey skyscraper that the Council has granted planning permission in Purley. This application is totally out of character with the area – most of Purley’s buildings are 3-5 storeys tall, but this skyscraper is planned to be 17 floors tall. It would be visible as far away as Farthing Down.

After successfully lobbying the Secretary of State, I was able to persuade him to call in this decision, and it is currently being reviewed by an independent planning inspector. We are still awaiting a final decision.

The Council is also planning to intensify development in areas that have traditionally been low-density. This includes South Croydon district centre and areas off Godstone Road in Kenley.

In many cases family homes are now being replaced with blocks of flats. This means sharp increases in population in previously quiet areas.

Unfortunately, the council does not seem to care about the impact that these changes will have on existing residents. I will continue to work with residents to strongly oppose the damaging applications that are being granted by the Council. I will be launching a campaign on this issue in the near future.

Furthermore, the necessary improvements in infrastructure, such as providing adequate numbers of GPs, are not taking place to accommodate the dramatic increase in population. There is already inadequate parking in the south, but the council regularly waves through applications for flats that provide parking for only a fraction of their residents.

I am not opposed to development of new homes. All of London is in urgent need of more homes for people to live in. Without this, the cost of renting and buying will continue to sky-rocket. However, homes should be built on suitable sites.

A neighbourhood that has pre-existing tall buildings is a suitable place for the Council to allow more tall buildings to be built. The Council should be prioritising building on brownfield sites – and not building on fields or green areas.

Croydon town centre is an ideal place for development. It has excellent transport links from East Croydon and tram services that make it highly desirable for young professionals. The town centre has many unused buildings that could be converted into flats, or replaced with tall buildings that would be entirely in keeping with the rest of the area, such as the Royal Mail site next to East Croydon station, or the old Nestle building. I want to see a Brownfield first policy.

By focusing on Brownfield first, the Council would be able to ensure that the borough meets the demand for housing, but also protect green areas and the historic character of our neighbourhoods. The Council should re­examine its priorities and put the concerns of residents first.

Report by Kendra’s Planning ‘watchdog’ Geoff James

(published in the Winter 2018 Newsletter)

There is a lot of activity within Kenley that relates to planning and developers. This mostly affects the area around the station but there are important things happening across the rest of Kenley. Accordingly, we are providing an extended planning update in this issue of the Kendra magazine.

Croydon Council has issued a new planning policy. This policy describes how the Council will deliver around 30,000 new dwellings over the next 20 years. This is a very large number of new dwellings. The Council takes the view that the northern part of the borough is already densely built and so it is encouraging more residential building in the southern part of the borough.

As part of meeting this housing target the Council has proposed and fully won the argument to create a Focused Intensification Zone (FIZ) around Kenley station. There are several areas within Croydon that are now deemed to be a FIZ. Of these areas, Kenley is by far the least able to support the increase in population due to our poor bus and train services, poor retail services, poor road network and lack of general amenities.

The Kenley FIZ is a defined area that follows housing plots as shown: 

Kenley Intensification Zone FIZ

The draft Croydon Plan (called CLP2) included the proposed Kenley FIZ, and supporting documents provided a breakdown of the housing target for Kenley FIZ.

  • The Council believes that we currently have around 300 dwellings within the boundary of the Kenley FIZ. Over the next 20 years the Council intends this to increase to between 1250 and 1600 dwellings.
  • Housing in the area of the Kenley FIZ is currently at a density of 12 units per hectare. Any new schemes within the FIZ will be expected to deliver between 50 and 64 units per hectare.

To help you understand this expected increase in housing density we can consider Oaklands. This estate currently achieves 17 dwellings per hectare. To achieve a density of 60 dwellings per hectare Oaklands would need to provide 129 dwellings. This is 3.5 dwellings for each dwelling that exists today.

Until recently, and despite numerous requests and questions to the Council, we have never received a reasonable explanation of what an area of focused intensification is and why it needs to be treated differently. The Council recently published a consultation document called SPD2.

SPD2 explains what building will be “encouraged” in all residential areas of Croydon and goes some way to explain what can occur within a FIZ and the vision for the Kenley FIZ that the Croydon Planning Department have been developing.

It is correct to use the word “encouraged” in the above paragraph as the Council has been meeting with groups of developers to explain their planning policies and to provide very strong indications of what they “expect” from development proposals throughout Croydon and in the areas such as Kenley that are identified as an area for focused intensification.

The reason why so many Kenley residents are currently receiving unsolicited letters from companies wishing to acquire our properties for redevelopment is because Croydon Council has been doing everything it can to encourage developers to take a significant interest in our area.

Recent SPD2 consultation

In October Kendra and Croydon Council held separate sessions at Kenley Memorial Hall on the draft council planning document called SPD2 that was open for comment.

Both sessions were very well attended because Kendra was able to leaflet all dwellings inside the FIZ and few that are just outside. We were surprised by how many residents attending the Kendra meeting knew nothing about the FIZ – let alone the SPD2 document.

At the Kendra meeting we distributed a template objection letter and encouraged all residents to get all members of their household to sign and return a copy. Nearly 50 copies were signed and handed in during the meeting and many attendees took copies home for their family and friends to sign that would be submitted later.

Kendra also provided the template letter via our weekly planning email. We suspect that several hundred Ken ley residents will have submitted the template letter or provided their own objection letter on the SPD2 proposals.

A rather long and detailed objection letter has been submitted on behalf of Kendra. The Kendra letter will be made accessible via our weekly planning email. The consultation for SPD2 is now closed.

What does the Croydon Plan and SPD2 mean to Kenley?

We need to distinguish between those parts of Kenley inside the FIZ and those outside. The table below provides some highlights.

The Council is actively working with the developers to maximise the number of dwellings that are delivered by each new development proposal. This will usually mean that any house that is demolished or refurbished by a developer will become a block of flats with each flat only just compliant with the minimum floor area requirements. The Council can refuse planning permission for any proposals that fail to meet the minimum room and dwelling density requirements.

When you get into the details of the SPD2 policy it is realised that the objectives of the Council and the developers are not quite in alignment. The developers are working diligently to maximise the profit they can achieve from each redevelopment plot that they can gain control of. This creates two results:

1) The developers try to limit each new development scheme to a maximum of 9 flats. If they propose a scheme with more flats, then social housing rules will apply and this will significantly reduce any profit. From the developers’ perspective they want to pack in as many minimum-floor-area flats into each scheme up to the ninth dwelling. Once they reach 9 dwellings they will upgrade the flats to increase their sale value without creating more flats – so they will add bedrooms, make the bedrooms larger or provide en suites. This optimum at 9 flats makes the typical Kenley plot sizes particularly attractive. The typical housing plots in Kenley are large enough to squeeze in 9 flats, but not so large that the developer is expected to provide 10 or more flats.

2) The re-development of Kenley will progress in a piecemeal way with each developer forming their own view of character and which design elements need to be retained. There will be no process to harmonise the new designs across multiple schemes so that a new positive character for Kenley is created. There is also no process to enhance our wider infrastructure such as transport, road design, and shopping facilities to support the massive influx of people that these new dwellings will draw in.

There is no budget to implement the vision in SPD2

Croydon Council has no budget to develop their vision for Kenley and they are certainly not using any compulsorily purchase powers to support the developers. The process to redevelop Kenley is likely to proceed in an opportunistic manner. The developers will make offers to house owners and some owners sell. This encourages neighbours to consider selling and the changes will ripple through the area.
Many house owners tell me that they will never sell to a developer. However, it does not take much to realise that Kenley has a much higher than average proportion of retired residents. Simple logic then suggests that a large number of Kenley houses will become available for sale over the next 20 years – one way or another.

Criteria Outside the FIZ Inside the FIZ
Number of Storeys A minimum of 3 storeys except in some locations A requirement for 4 storeys, but will be increased to 5 or 6 storeys for some sites
Preservation of character Blocks of flats made to appear as large houses. Semi’s and blocks of flats can be inserted where they do not exist today Little intention to maintain character. Blocks of flats can present as “blocks” of flats
Building higher than adjacent properties Slight increases in height permitted. If the adjacent property is a bungalow then 2 storeys may be acceptable Significant increases in height expected to permit the doubling of the number of prevailing storeys in the area.
Building forward of the building line Front building line is maintained Building forward of the building line encouraged to provide additional dwellings
Building beyond the rear building line Yes Yes — required to achieve the room density targets
Provisions for car ownership Requirement to ensure 1 parking space per dwelling is available (either on-site or on-street) Expectation is that occupiers will not own a car. On-site parking will be discouraged (except for some disabled parking provision).
Controlled parking As existing but expect more yellow lines to help keep the roads and junction clears for pedestrians and buses etc. It is very likely that the FIZ will become a controlled parking zone. Occupiers of new builds may not be eligible for any residents’ parking permits.

Update on Oaklands as described within SPD2

Croydon Council is the land owner for the Oaklands estate. As such the Council is more able to implement changes to Oaklands. At the Croydon Council consultation meeting at Kenley Memorial Hall Steve Deddington attended from the Council. Steve is a strategic planner and helped develop the FIZ strategy for Croydon.

Many residents expressed concerns that Oaklands might be passed to the Council’s own development company “Brick-by-Brick” for extensive building work similar to what has occurred to many other Council owned estates across Croydon.

Brick-by-Brick tends to redevelop garages into blocks of flats or build blocks of flats on amenity space. It is also clearly suggested in the Council’s SPD2 document that the Oaklands’ garage block will be converted to a block of flats and other major development will occur on the Oaklands estate.
Steve Deddington has contacted Kendra and asked that we pass a message onto to the residents of Oaklands and the wider residents of Kenley. He assures all Kenley residents that there are no current applications for any redevelopment of the Oaklands estate, and that the site has not been passed to Brick-by-Brick.

We are reassured by Steve’s comments, but we must recognise that this could change very quickly.

Keeping informed on SPD2, FIZ and any other planning issues

The best way to keep up to date on Kenley planning matters is to receive our weekly planning email. The issues related to planning change far too quickly for the quarterly magazine. All members are welcome to register for the weekly planning email – just drop an email to clearly stating your wish to join the weekly planning email list and provide your postal address so that we can verify your membership.