Enquiry into Purley Tower
16/01/2018 14:31:00......Posted by Tim Pollard
I today attended the morning session of the Purley Baptists' Church public enquiry. Below is the notes I based my comments to the inspector on - it's not verbatim, but it's pretty close to what I said.
I am not opposed to a mixed use scheme on this site per se. The Councillors’ manifestos in local elections 2002-14 all included a pledge to encourage appropriate development on this site. The issue for me is the scale and appropriateness of the application.
Many towns have faced a similar moment of decision, where a single application determines the future direction of an entire built environment. Croydon town centre had its moment in the early fifties – when it chose to become an edge city rather than a market town. This is Purley’s moment.
The future with this development seems certain to be quite different from the future without it. In most planning applications a building is just a building. In this case it is highly likely that it will determine the whole future of Purley.
Local MP Chris Philp has set out his view on how this development is in conflict with policy at national, regional and local level. That case has been extensively tested in the enquiry so I won’t repeat those arguments.
Just a few points from Chris’ evidence to highlight. From CLP2 (2017) DM16 tall buildings should “Respect and enhance the local character”. Elsewhere “The design should be of exceptional quality and demonstrate that a sensitive approach has been taken in the articulation and composition of the building form which is proportionate to its scale”.
I don’t believe this scheme in any way respects of enhances local character and my personal opinion of the design as set out so far is bog-standard at best. It is completely different to any other building in Purley or any building in the borough south of the town centre. It would not be out of character in Croydon centre.
As articulated by Chris Philp last week, there are other policies in CLP1 SP4 which it can be strongly argued this proposal contradicts: positive contribution to the skyline and high quality public realm appropriate to the scale & significance of the building.
Steve O'Connell spoke about the tunnel effect which would be created with the road running between the densely built southern site and the island site itself. I fully agree with him. The point has also been made that a ‘landmark building’ does not have to be tall – indeed the one marking the edge of the town centre which you see as you enter the gyratory under the railway arches is only 6 storey – it is the design which makes it a landmark, not the scale.
And the point has been made that Purley is accessible by public transport and has a high PTAL rating. That’s true if you are going north-south, but not east-west.
The strong local opinion against a development of this scale has been previously set before the Inspector. These residents are not nimby’s - they are local people who are concerned that this proposal will redefine Purley town centre for a generation and is taking the town in a direction which they, as local residents, have not signed up for.
Given the landmark nature of this decision I would urge that policy be interpreted in the light of the directional change it would mark for the town and great weight be given to those policies which can be seen as suggesting that this is not the right development for this site.
I would conclude by stressing that I want to see this site redeveloped. I want to see the church develop its community offer and I want to see the site contrivute to the housing needs of London. I just don’t want to see this happen at any price to the town. A smaller, less dense development which makes appropriate arrangements for parking in line with how people actually behave would be very welcome.
I therefore urge you to reject this application to enable a better one, which can have local buy in, to come forward.