Well over 400 Shirley residents were jammed into the council chamber and an assortment of overflow rooms last night to hear the presentation of a petition of well over 3,000 signatories who are deeply opposed to the Labour plans to concrete over Shirley.
Normally few residents participate in consultations over planning policy, but in the recent consultation over 7,000 residents from up and down Croydon took part and expressed their (mostly) opposition to elements of the plan. You might think that this would make the Labour administration think again...... but apparently not.
The proposals for Shirley are probably the most draconian being put forward for any of our suburbs, but all of them will be affected to one extent or another. In Shirley it is proposed that:
• A ring of green space currently designated as Metropolitan Open Land which surrounds Shirley Oaks Village would be de-designated and made available for building on
• Areas behind the shopping parades on Wickham Road will be available for 'intensification'. This means replacing houses and bungalows with blocks of flats.
• Nearby areas of Green Belt will be designated as suitable for providing Traveller sites, in spite of this being deemed by the Government as an unsuitable form of development.
• The strong protection for back gardens introduced when the council was Conservative-controlled, which presumed against garden-grabbing, is being removed. This will delight those developers who specialise in shoe-horning houses into back gardens.
The council meting was delayed by nearly half and hour as council officers struggled to accommodate the large number of residents who wanted to hear the council's response to their concerns.
The views of the residents, ably supported by Monks Orchard Residents' Association (MORA) and all the other local RA's, were expressed by Dave Greenwood from MORA. After Mr Greenwood had made the residents' case (which you can watch here) and asked the council to withdraw its plans, three councillors from each of the Labour and Conservative Groups spoke in a debate. Residents were strongly supported by Shirley Councillors Mike Fisher and Sue Bennett and Conservative Planning Spokesman Cllr Jason Perry. Needless to say they were not supported by the three Labour councillors, whose message for Shirley was 'stop being a NIMBY'.
Cllr Fisher said afterwards "These proposals are so badly thought through it almost defies belief. Yes, we need to build more home is Croydon, but we have plenty of 'brownfield sites' where this can happen. These are previously developed sites such as former industrial estates or commercial land. The modest amounts of green space we still have must be protected, along with the character of our areas."
At the conclusion of the debate a Conservative proposal that the residents should be given the satisfaction of seeing a vote taken to indicate whether the council was minded to support their concerns or not was repeatedly refused.
Leader of the Opposition Cllr Tim Pollard said "It really is quite ludicrous that residents present a petition, that councillors then debate it and the outcome is.......nothing! No vote, no formal response, just a 'thank you and goodnight' from the Mayor. This just serves to undermine public confidence in our democracy."
You can view the debate here.