Last night's Council meeting 19/04/2016 20:55:00......Posted by Mario Creatura
Fairfield Halls debate
Last night's Council meeting was as boisterous as ever. Over 11,000 residents signed a petition calling on Croydon's Labour Council to phase the redevelopment of Fairfield Halls. The campaign has been supported by the Conservatives, lead by a Labour member and endorsed by the local Green, UKIP and Liberal Democrat parties.
The Council debated whether it supported or opposed the premise of the petition. You can watch the debate online here. Sadly due to a convenient technical fault, you start the video during the last sentence of Andy Hylton's (the lead campaigner) speech. Despite protestations from Conservative councillors, Andy was not allowed to repeat his speech.
If you want to skip to the vote of the council, you can see that here. Sadly the Mayor decided that the vote was counted by a shout of 'aye' or 'no' rather than a show of hands. As Labour has 40 councillors to our 30, Labour won the vote to cried of shame and booing from the campaigners in the public gallery.
Coulsdon parking petition
Last night I handed in a petition with 878 signatures from Coulsdon residents who are objecting to the Council's plans to break their manifesto promise and reduce one-hour free parking in Coulsdon town centre. You can watch this online. It's worth noting that the Traffic Management committee where the final decision will be made is on 26th April. The meeting starts at 6.30pm and will take place in the main Council chamber of Croydon Town Hall. All residents are welcome to join me in objecting to this proposal, the more the merrier!
Protecting Croydon's Libraries
The Conservatives proposed a motion for debate:
This Council believes that Croydon's libraries should be kept as centres of books and learning and not turned into bookish gyms or bookish cafes as they have been in Labour Lambeth. It also believes that library branches should be run by professional staff and librarians and not rely on volunteers alone.
After months of obfuscation, we learned that the reason for the mysterious collapse of the Lion Green Road development was due to a single report by the developer released just before Christmas 2015. The report apparently reveals that the cost of construction materials and land values have fluctuated so much that the scheme was now no longer viable.
Council officers have refused to allow me to see this vital document, so almost a month ago I asked Cllr Newman, Labour Leader of the Council, if he could release the document in the interests of openness and transparency. After receiving no reply from Cllr Newman, I asked him publicly for access to the document. You can watch the exchange here. I'm grateful for Cllr Newman saying that "there is no reason, I would imagine, that I'm aware of, for you not to see that paper" and I look forward to receiving the document in due course.
A leaflet has been distributed in Coulsdon by Croydon Labour quoting Labour campaigner Charlie King as saying: "I am delighted the Labour council is listening to Cousldon [sic] residents. The local Labour Party would like to see housing on the site..." For my second question I asked Cllr Newman whether his Labour administration supported their party leaflet. He was less than clear as you can watch here. We were not satisfied with his non-answer so my colleague Cllr Bashford tried to ask for a second time here where he confirms that "we are looking at all options". A worrying development for a town where the infrastructure is already struggling with a large and growing population.
Talking about Coulsdon West
Last night I was also given the opportunity to speak on issues facing Coulsdon West. I focused my remarks on parking challenges and the mystery surrounding the collapse of the Lion Green Road scheme. You can watch my speech online, or read a rough transcript below:
'It’s a pleasure to be given the opportunity to speak about my ward, Coulsdon West.
Earlier this evening, I presented a petition concerning a subject close to the heart of many of my residents: parking. 878 signatures on a petition calling on the Council to honour their manifesto pledge and keep one-hour’s free parking in district centres. In total over a thousand of my residents have contacted the Council on this one issue alone. One wrote to me saying: ‘Residents are increasingly faced with broken promised given by politicians… It is time that these failures by these elected individuals supposedly representing us are made accountable in the public eye and by the electorate’. This is just one of hundreds of similar comments, noting the actions of this Labour administration.
In a similar vein, residents and councillors will have heard me ask the Council Leader why he has failed to reply to my email of almost a month ago asking for more transparency about the collapse of the Lion Green Road scheme. After a lot of digging, and months of obfuscation, we found out that it’s based on one single solitary report. A report that the Council isn’t letting elected councillors see. I have an email from Waitrose where they say they have no idea why the scheme collapsed, that they were ready and raring to go Madam Mayor! So why the failure? The Council claim it’s because the land value and construction costs have changed. Well, when you close a much-used car park for seven months and don’t do anything, what did they expect? We have been asked to trust the word of this secretive administration, blind faith that they are acting in the best interests of Coulsdon and Purley, when there is so much evidence to the contrary. Where’s their much paraded pledge to be open and transparent now? Why are they being so closed and secretive?
Well Madam Mayor, I think we know. This local Labour leaflet says they would like to see housing on the site. By 2040 the GLA estimates the population of Coulsdon West will increase by over 40%, the third highest in the whole of Croydon – that’s an extra 5,000 people on today’s figures. It’s well known that in Coulsdon our infrastructure is creaking. Schools are taking bulge classes, GP surgeries are struggling, roads are constantly jammed with traffic. Why does this Council want to add yet more people into my ward? What has Labour got against Coulsdon?
The Leader of the Council has said he thinks my residents are from ‘a bygone age’, a disgraceful comment about my residents. Those living in Coulsdon and Purley are fiercely loyal and will always fight for what’s best for our community. I’ll end with one comment from the parking petition, a comment that was repeated time and time again: ‘This current Croydon Council appear to be intent upon not providing any services of benefit to Croydon residents who live in the South of the Borough. As a Resident of the South of the Borough and an active Voter I shall ensure that they are not returned next time, enough is enough. They cannot be trusted.’
Evolving the suburbs 15/10/2018 08:25:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura
Today is the deadline to respond to the Council's 'Evolution of the Suburbs' planning document, a piece of work that will provide the framework for a significant number of buildings and developments across Croydon.
Residents have until tomorrow to feed their views into the process - my submission is below. You can find the full document here and email your views to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To whom it may concern,
I am writing as one of the elected representatives for Coulsdon Town ward, please accept this as a submission on the SPD2 Document that is currently out for consultation.
I have a number of concerns about the language used in the paper, not least that it appears to be a subjective document that raises significantly more questions than it is supposed to clarify. The report should be more of a definitive piece of work, instead it appears to allow a substantial amount of interpretation which could have detrimental effects on the character of Croydon.
There appears to be scant suggestion about developing the infrastructure needed to support significant population growth – was this not considered to be something merited in the document? Will there be a supplementary paper outlining the plans for increasing capacity on roads and services to cope with the residential increase? My fear is that the impartiality of the Planning Committee necessitates that each application is considered on its own merits, but that this does not factor in the wider implications of many applications sequentially being considered for the same area over a period of months. Put simply – if 10 applications are considered and approved in the same area over the period of 12 months, what guarantee is there in SPD2 that commensurate infrastructure improvements will be developed and progressed to aid in the increase in parking, sewage and other vital requirements for a good standard of living?
A good example of this is contained in paragraph 2.30 on car parking – an issue that is plaguing my ward in Coulsdon. Multiple blocks of flats are being erected, without commensurate car parking spaces. Residents moving into the properties, knowing that parking space on the street is limited, still bring their vechiles. They feel it will be the job of others to abandon their cars. Coulsdon is on the edge of the North Downs and is quite hilly. Whilst public transport is well-connected, the train service quality is intermittent and most modes do not reach out into Reigate, Banstead and wider Surrey in way that means cars lose their value. The increase in population due to the density of the new developments means there is a huge volume of vehicles needing parking space, causing traffic gridlock most mornings and evenings. Parking is not a luxury, it is a basic necessity to support the sustainability of development and communities.
Has the recently rolled out amended waste service programme being accounted for in paragraph 2.31? If not, then this will have implications on the ability for officers and councillors to interpret the report.
Whilst I am fully supportive of the need to develop new housing opportunities, these can and must be done in line with the reasonable support of the local residents already habiting in the area. Paragraph 4.2 details the papers support for ‘character’ but then details the three residential extension approaches of subservient, innovative and seamless. Can a development policy simultaneously respect the existing ‘character’ whilst being ‘subservient/innovative’? I am fearful that good quality affordable housing that fits into the local community aesthetic will not be a red-line in the document, meaning anything can and will happen to my residents.
In paragraph 2.7 and 2.8 the three types of approaches to character is described as ‘sympathetic and faithful’, ‘innovative and original’, ‘contemporary reinterpretation’. Surely any application, development or scheme can apply to any of these? Isn’t the scope for interpretation so large that this set of descriptions is legally meaningless? How can it be measured and enforced on each application? What happens if it can be easily justified (due to its lack of definitiveness) that a scheme has breached this criterion?
This fear for the respect of the local residents and existing character is not eased when I read paragraph 2.2 which details the overarching principles for development: to provide the right mix of homes in the right location, improve or positively contribute to local character and minimise impact on neighbouring amenity. How is this monitored and maintained? Is this rhetoric or are there tangible figures and targets that can be applied to what is a laudable aim? What is to stop someone ignoring this piece of guidance? To what extent are the views of the local people and their representatives taken into account on inappropriate developments that do not fit this nebulous aspiration?
This subjectivity and lack of clarity also exists in figures 1.3a, 1.3b and 1.3c which detail the evolution of the different types of suburbs, but are open to interpretation.
I believe that SPD2 requires a substantial reworking to address the concerns I’ve outlined above. These are very real, practical fears that I know many of my residents feel. Each time they attend a Planning Committee meeting to comment on a scheme they leave disheartened. I hope that by engaging with some of my concerns that this may be limited in the future.
Croydon badly needs good quality, affordable family homes. I know my residents would support them if they are proposed, and this plan is vital in making that happen.
Cllr Mario Creatura, Coulsdon Town
Response to local planning consultation SPD2 14/10/2018 17:59:00.......Posted by Luke Clancy
Documents setting out planning guidance for the borough and how the Council will engage with stakeholders are available for comment. Below are some of the points from my response to the consultation on Suburban Design Guide Supplementary Planning Document (SPD2).
Figures 1.3a, 1.3b and 1.3c are used to justify expected development patterns including ‘backland development’ in the suburbs over a period of 10 – 15 years, “so that change is gradual and can be managed to ensure that the benefits of such growth are optimised.” But the examples given of the types of development expected are not defined in sufficient granularity and are too scattergun to give an objective sense of whether what is being proposed would be acceptable.
In terms of how acceptable a development might be to existing residents, the bullet points provided in paragraph 2.2 will be key, in particular emphasis on two of them: whether a proposal improves or positively contributes to local character; and how the impact on neighbouring amenity can be minimised as far as possible. Much will depend on how sympathetically these policies are applied.
Para 2.3.2: “Smaller suburban proposals providing up to 9 dwellings should also seek to maximise the number of dwellings with 3 or more bedrooms.” It would be helpful if this could be expressed more accurately, perhaps setting a target or requirement for three bedroom family units in developments of 9 dwellings or less.
Para 2.3.6: “A development proposal that seeks to deliver a scheme that could form part of a larger potential development on the same or adjoining land will be assessed as an application for the larger development potential.” Whilst the intention of this policy might be laudable, I have concerns that in borderline cases this could result in developments being tipped over the threshold because more studios, one- and two-bedroom units are built at the expense of larger three bedroom properties which would be suitable for families.
Paras 2.3 & 2.4: “Optimising sites building across boundaries.” Whilst in economic terms this makes sense, in reality the developments that result from such consolidation may not be sympathetic to an area if they create ‘mega’ blocks. The schema in Figure 2.4a is an alarming example of the type of over-development that could result.
Paras 2.6.3 and 2.6.4: ‘Minimal necessary car parking will be the starting point for all development proposals and the borough will encourage lower parking provision in areas of PTAL 4 and above.’ I can see why the Council may want to do this. The Croydon Local Plan currently seeks to reduce the need to travel by concentrating development in areas with a higher PTAL rating. As such, from 2011 to 2014 the majority of new homes (58%) were in areas with a PTAL rating of at least 3 - typically areas that have already undergone a degree of intensification. Only 10% of homes were built in areas with a PTAL of 4. The proposals therefore seek to increase density in less urban areas. But this ignores the fact that areas with PTAL ratings of 4 can have quite patchy access to public transport. Also, that residents in those areas will still aspire to owning a car. Any policy should seek to balance these challenges in part by ensuring sufficient provision of more public transport and other sustainable methods of transport, as is encouraged in 2.6.8.
Para 2.7.2 refers encouragingly to some areas within Croydon “being defined by the predominance of certain types of homes”. This aspiration may give hope to residents that the Council will extend protection to what is perceived to be the character of their areas on those grounds. But the three approaches to how to respond to local character in the design of new developments that the Council goes on to endorse in Para 2.8 would appear to allow a very broad interpretation of what is acceptable in any area, if interpreted loosely. A braver and more specific interpretation of what is acceptable would be welcomed in the SPD.
Para 2.9.9: “Where there is a concern that a development would appear overbearing to a neighbouring property and/or create a poorly designed streetscene, they will not be supported.” This is to be welcomed.
Para 2.15.2: “Proposals which span plot boundaries may seek to achieve this through stepping form to create a link element between two main building forms located on each of the original plots.” I am not convinced that such designs necessarily reduce sufficiently the sense of massing created by developments that incorporate links.
Para 2.23: A prohibition on materials that are proven not to weather well or provide longevity is to be supported.
Labour threatens U-turn on free bulky waste collection 14/10/2018 12:23:00.......Posted by Luke Clancy
Last week at a meeting of Croydon Council’s Streets and Environment Scrutiny Sub-Committee, I challenged the Cabinet Member, Cllr Stuart Collins, when he said that Labour is looking to renege on a manifesto pledge to run a free bulky waste collection service.
Labour only made the pledge after the Conservatives had come up with the idea earlier this year. We put the policy to tackle the fly-tipping plaguing Croydon’s streets in our manifesto ahead of May’s local elections. We were pleased when Labour later also recognised the soundness of the idea by copying it.
It would be cynical of Labour to steal this policy only to drop it once they got re-elected.
The free bulky waste collection service is extremely popular, but Labour now says it is expensive to run and creates a too much of a financial pressure on the Council's budget.
At the meeting, Cllr Collins claimed the free bulky waste service was always intended as a “trial” to see what effect it would have on fly-tipping. But when he was challenged to demonstrate it was only intended as a trial - and not introduced to residents as a more permanent measure - he could not do so.
Even Cllr Collins’ Labour colleagues on the Committee then went on to express their concerns that a review of one of their manifesto pledges was taking place so soon after this year's election.
The Conservatives will continue to hold Labour to account over the withdrawal of a key policy to tackle fly-tipping in the borough.
Petition on wheelie bins achieves partial win 14/10/2018 11:36:00.......Posted by Luke Clancy
Last week at a meeting of the Full Council in Croydon I presented a petition to residents objecting to the new wheelie bins in Ashdown Park in Coulsdon.
Residents in Ashdown Park felt that as their houses all have small frontages they did not have the facilities for storing two large bins, one medium sized bin and a food caddy in a discreet way.
In 2005, the estate was granted an exemption from the Council’s requirement for landfill collections to be from medium sized wheelie bins, as these would not fit inside the bin cupboards.
Shortly after the petition was sent in, the Council granted a continuation of the concession for retaining the smaller cupboard-size landfill bins.
Residents do support aspirations in the borough to increase recycling rates but say they already separate their rubbish by type and think it unlikely that they are withholding materials that could be recycled if bigger bins are provided.
Looking around the estate, residents say the majority of houses are struggling to hide the new bins away. All the houses on the estate have covenants that the associated grounds be maintained in a good and tidy condition, and the front gardens be open plan - the latter making it difficult to store the bins.
Bid for funds from our Community Ward Budget 08/10/2018 20:14:00.......Posted by Luke Clancy
Each year every council ward in Croydon is given a £24,000 ward budget to spend on local activities and resources that benefit community groups.
The budget is actually £8,000 per councillor, but in Coulsdon Town your three representatives elect to jointly pool the funds and spend the money as one lump sum.
For a number of years now we have therefore contributed to the costs of the Yulefest lights in the town centre - although as a recurring item of expenditure this is rare. In fact, the vast majority of projects sponsored by our Community Ward Budget are one-offs.
That means if you have a good idea for a project that would benefit the community, but lack the funds to make it a reality, we may be able to help. The type of projects that we can support include those that require revenue or capital expenditure, but cannot create an ongoing maintenance cost for the Council.
An example of a project that gained our support in this financial year, for example, is buying some kitchen equipment for Purley & Coulsdon Clubs for the Elderly, while in the past we have bought defibrillators and hearing loops that benefit local people as well as funded youth activities including the Scouts.
But there are still some funds left to be bid for this year. So if you have any suggestions as to how we should spend that money please don’t hesitate to get in touch:
Shredded litter 04/10/2018 13:42:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura
A resident has got in touch to let me know that while they were litter-picking on the A23 between Coulsdon South station and Woodplace Lane, that they noticed a significant amount of the litter in the area had been shredded.
On investigating it appears that TfL, who maintain the grass levels, had cut the grass but not removed the litter in advance, thereby shredding it and making it that much harder for the Council or conscientious residents to pick it up.
I'm pleased that TfL have said they are going to get a copy of the Council's clean-up schedule so that they can co-ordinate better in future. A victory for common sense!
Coptic Church - Coulsdon 07/09/2018 14:34:00.......Posted by Ian Parker
Delighted to have been invited along with ecumenical and other representatives to hear His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos speak on the integration of the Coptic Church in society.
The Coptic Church, St Mary & St Shenouda on Rickman Hill, Coulsdon provided the perfect setting for an inspirational address by the Archbishop.
A tour of the impressive church after the address was the 'icing on the cake'.
Residents' Associations - Stewards Night 06/09/2018 10:58:00.......Posted by Ian Parker
I attended a joint meeting of Hartley and District and East Coulsdon Residents’ Associations at which their road stewards were warmly thanked for their good work on behalf of the two associations.
It was a great opportunity to thank the association members for their good work delivering leaflets and collecting subscriptions throughout the year. Also an opportunity to thank the organisers of both residents’ associations for their sterling work fighting to preserve what's good about Purley and Coulsdon. Councillors have a good working relationship with the residents’ associations. Long may this continue and thank you to the organisers of the ‘Stewards Night’.
Details to re-register for a doctor following the closure of Dr Khan's surgery 31/08/2018 16:35:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura
We've now had in confirmed that Coulsdon Medical Practice, a single-handed practice run by Dr Jamil Khan, is closing permanently on 26 October 2018.
NHS Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group have written to the patients currently registered at his practice to advise them of the closure. A list of nearby practices which all have room on their register for extra patients is included here:
branch surgery: 140 Chipstead Valley Road, Coulsdon CR5 3BB
They are also holding drop in sessions for patients who wish to discuss next steps and registering with a new practice:
Saturday 8th Sept 10 – 12 noon
Monday 10th Sept 10 – 12 noon
Wednesday 19th Sept 11-1 pm
Wednesday 26th Sept 5.30 – 7.30 pm
All will be held at the Coulsdon Methodist Church, 83 Brighton Road, CR5 2BE.
New waste regime - impact on those with mobility issues? 30/08/2018 17:21:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura
I've just sent in this question to Cllr Stuart Collins, Labour's waste and recycling chief, to find out how much consultation and mitigation work has been done to ensure those with mobility issues will not be adverslly affected by the big increase in street bins that his reforms are necessitating across Croydon.
With many streets where the front door opens up directly onto the path, no side alley or other location for storing the bins, having them on the street may cause significant issues for some residents.
I'll update the blog as soon as I hear back from Cllr Collins.
'The Cabinet Member is currently overseeing the rollout of a dramatic change in the way Croydon is processing our waste and recycling, which is understandably causing some difficulties for many residents.
Many of the properties across Croydon have small frontages, with no front gardens and front doors immediately off pavements. This means that the three full-size bins will often be blocking the public high way.
Could the Cabinet Member please:
1. Publish the list of streets in the borough assessed to have small frontages. Those being properties where the front door is immediately on the pavement, there is no front garden or area for storage and no side passage for storage.
2. Publish the results of any formal consultation and correspondence with organisations like the Croydon Disability Forum and Croydon Vision who represent the many residents who will be impacted by the practicalities of the waste and recycling changes.
3. Detail guidance for any resident with mobility issues who may find their path regularly obstructed by these bins
4. Outline the communications plan for how and when these residents and organisations will be informed of this advice.’
Please do contact us with any issues or concerns you may have. We answer all our constituents' correspondence and value your comments. If you want your concern addressed by your local team, please follow the link above.