At the end of last year, the Labour administration running Croydon Council held a consultation on its proposed planning policies. Once approved, these policies will determine what development takes place in our borough for the next twenty years and where exactly it goes - for example, whether the houses next door to you could be knocked down and replaced by a block of flats.
The documents were over 700 pages long, but buried in the fine print were some proposals that would have changed the character of our area very much for the worse including:
- three gypsy/traveller sites, all of them in inappropriate locations;
- the development of some of our precious green spaces;
- a weak policy on back garden development that would have been a green light to infill development;
- plans to replace terraced and semi-detached housing in Forestdale and parts of Shirley with medium-rise blocks;
- plans for tall buildings in New Addington district centre; and
- a too-widely-drawn tall building zone around East Croydon station.
Along with a number of Residents Associations, I did my best to alert people to these proposals and encourage them to object. Thousands did so (if you were one of them, thank you very much because it has had some effect!) The Council has now published revised proposals and I am pleased to report that they have dropped some of their most damaging ideas, though sadly not all of them.
The Council had identified three locations in or just beyond my constituency - all three of them in the Green Belt - for gypsy/traveller sites, namely:
Pear Tree Farm and Pear Tree Farm Cottage on Featherbed Lane;
Coombe Farm off Oaks Road; and
Coombe Lodge Nurseries off Conduit Lane.
I am delighted to report that the Council has abandoned all three of these ill thought-out proposals. They now propose to expand the existing site off the Purley Way (which is what I argued they should do) and to provide a new site next to the Purley Oaks recycling centre (this isn’t in my constituency, but I am not convinced this is an appropriate site either).
METROPOLITAN OPEN LAND AROUND SHIRLEY OAKS VILLAGE
The Council still proposes to de-designate the Metropolitan Open Land on either side of Shirley Oaks Road and all around Shirley Oaks Village, weakening its protection from development.
However, three of the five sites:
the land to the west of Shirley Oaks Road;
the land to the east of Shirley Oaks Road and to the rear of Beech House and Ash House; and
the land to the rear of 5-13 Honeysuckle Gardens
are no longer designated for housing.
The land at Poppy Lane and at Stroud Green Pumping Station on Primrose Lane is still designated for housing - see Policy DM47.4 on pages 233-234/380 and Sites 502 and 504 on page 369/380 of Croydon Local Plan: Detailed Policies and Proposals (Proposed Submission Draft) here for more details.
I will be objecting to the decision to de-designate four of these sites (all but Stroud Green Pumping Station) as Metropolitan Open Land. This land is a vital green corridor and should remain protected.
THE GREEN BELT AROUND NEW ADDINGTON
Sadly, the Council has also not dropped its proposals to de-designate a section of Green Belt to the west of Timebridge Community Centre and the east of Lodge Lane (most people refer to this site as Rowdown Fields) so that it can be used for a new secondary school - see Policy DM36.2 on pages 196-197/380 and Site 636 on page 373/380 of Croydon Local Plan: Detailed Policies and Proposals (Proposed Submission Draft) for more details.
We certainly need additional secondary school places in parts of the borough, but there isn’t a shortage of secondary school places in the New Addington area and this land is another vital green corridor. I will therefore be objecting to the de-designation of this land as Green Belt and the use of this site for a secondary school.
PROTECTING BACK GARDEN LAND
I am delighted that the Council has listened and strengthened its policy on protecting back garden land. The draft policy was:
“The Council will permit new dwellings or other development within the curtilage or garden of an existing dwelling or the redevelopment of existing dwellings and their curtilage or gardens where:
a) it will complement the local character; and
b) biodiversity is protected”.
The first of these two tests in particular was highly subjective and therefore very weak. The new proposal, which is a significant improvement, is:
“Proposals for residential buildings within the rear garden of an existing dwelling will be permitted where:
it would complement the surrounding character of the area and each new building must be subservient to the original dwelling;
a minimum length of 10 metres and no less than half or 200m2 (whichever is the smaller) of the existing garden area is retained for the host property after the subdivision of the garden; and
there would not be a detrimental impact on existing or future occupants in terms of overlooking and outlook”
See Policy DM2 on pages 67-69 of Croydon Local Plan: Detailed Policies and Proposals (Proposed Submission Draft) for more details.
ALLOWING HOUSES IN PARTS OF SHIRLEY TO BE REPLACED BY MEDIUM-SIZED BLOCKS
The policies published at the end of last year identified two areas of Shirley - the area around the Shirley Road Shopping Parade and the area around Shirley Library - as locations where the Council wanted to see “focussed intensification associated with gradual change of area’s local character”. The Council was honest enough to describe exactly what “focused intensification” would mean:
“New development located … would be significantly larger than existing and may be associated with merging smaller properties. The promoted character types are: ‘Medium-rise blocks with associated grounds’, ‘Large buildings with spacing’ and ‘Large buildings with strong frontages’. Their gradual introduction will alter over time the predominant character of intensified areas”.
The two areas were quite widely drawn - for example, the area around Shirley Library included not just the Wickham Road itself but Ridgemount Avenue, Wickham Avenue, Peregrine Gardens, West Way Gardens, the northern section of Hartland Way and the western parts of Bennetts Way and Devonshire Way.
The Council has retained these proposals, but the two areas are now more tightly drawn. In my view, they are still a bit too big and I will be arguing for some further small changes.
ALLOWING HOUSES IN FORESTDALE TO BE REPLACED BY MEDIUM-SIZED BLOCKS
The policies published at the end of last year also identified Forestdale as an area where the Council wanted to see “focussed intensification associated with gradual change of area’s local character”.
The Council has retained this proposal, but as with Shirley has reduced the size of the area affected. In my view, it is still a bit too big and I will be arguing for some further small changes.
NEW ADDINGTON DISTRICT CENTRE
Another area where the Council has not backed down is New Addington district centre.
Policy DM36.1 on page 196/380 of Croydon Local Plan: Detailed Policies & Proposals (Proposed Submission Draft) says that proposals for the west of Central Parade should:
“ .. create buildings … that complement existing predominant building heights of 3 storeys up to 12 storeys within Central Parade”.
The document goes on to say:
“Additional policies are required to manage the area to the west of Central Parade where there are precedents of large and tall buildings. This location presents opportunities for growth through the creation of large or tall buildings” (ibid.).
While I do want to see the regeneration of the western side of Central Parade, I don’t believe 12-storey tower blocks are appropriate nor do I think this is what the people of New Addington want. I will therefore be objecting to this policy.
ADDISCOMBE AND EAST CROYDON
My main concern about the proposals for Addiscombe and East Croydon remains that the Council isn’t amending its tall buildings policy. When the Menta planning application for a 50+ storey tower on Cherry Orchard Road was approved by the previous Conservative Council, both Labour councillors and I agreed that very tall buildings weren’t appropriate on this site. However, now that they are running the Council those same councillors haven’t changed the Council’s policy.
I will be calling on the Council to amend its tall buildings policy so that the tallest buildings have to be in the centre of town, not right on the edge of the tall buildings zone next to two-storey residential housing.
How to object
The Local Plan will be examined by an independent inspector whose role is to assess whether the plan has been prepared in accordance with the Duty to Cooperate, legal and procedural requirements, and whether it is sound. This is determined by the following four statements that the plan must be:
Positively prepared – the plan should be prepared based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development;
Justified – the plan should be the most appropriate strategy, when considered against the reasonable alternatives, based on proportionate evidence;
Effective – the plan should be deliverable over its period and based on effective joint working on cross-boundary strategic priorities; and
Consistent with national policy – the plan should enable the delivery of sustainable development in accordance with the policies in the Framework.
Objections to the plan at this stage should therefore be worded as to demonstrate that the Local Plan is not positively prepared, justified, effective or consistent with national policy. It is not sufficient for this consultation to simply state that you object to a part of the plan. You must link your objection to the plan failing one of the four requirements above.
The process for registering objections will be communicated in time for the 6 week consultation starting on the 5th September 2016. I will send this out as soon as I receive it.