My contribution to the Coulsdon Debate 26/04/2016 09:47:00......Posted by Jeet Bains
My ward colleague, Luke Clancy, recently posted here regarding a debate in Coulsdon. We debated Maureen Levy on the motion “Croydon council is destroying Coulsdon”. This was held at the Old Coulsdon Centre. We opposed the motion, emphasising that it's particularly the Labour administration that is ruining Coulsdon, contrasting this with the Conservative record. Luke concentrated on Coulsdon issues, and I referred to wider Croydon issues and their relevance to Coulsdon. I thought you might like to see my notes which are below.
Hello, and thank you for inviting me to this debate. And particular thanks to Maureen Levy and Angela Applin for organising this and keeping me informed about it. The motion in front of us is “Croydon council is destroying Coulsdon”. I oppose this motion and I’ll say up front that I will be very political in my argument tonight. My opposition makes a distinction between the current Labour administration, which is indeed destroying Coulsdon, and the previous Conservative one which I contend, far from destroying Coulsdon, was moving Coulsdon forward. In short it’s not Croydon Council per se that we need to look to as the bane of Coulsdon, it’s the Labour party that currently runs it.
My ward colleague, Luke Clancy, and I have broadly divided our opposition to this motion so that Luke will cover specific Coulsdon matters, and I will address how wider Croydon decisions by Labour are adversely affecting Coulsdon.
First I’d like to tackle transparency. As with many things, I guess that achieving 100% satisfaction in this regard is nigh-on impossible, as is keeping all interested parties completely happy with the level of transparency. But transparency is important to Coulsdon and all Croydon wards. It’s important that residents are clear about the priorities for the Council by the party they have elected. It’s also important to know what’s going to be measured and then how the Council is performing against those criteria. Whether it’s governing or running a business or any important endeavour, it’s crucial for us to know that the right things are being done and that things are being done right.
With regard to the current Labour administration, despite much noise about transparency when they were in opposition, their own track record is patchy at best. A couple of recent examples: The live broadcasts of Council meetings have been reinstated. But who listens to them? Hardly anyone. And what meaningful information is gathered by watching them? Not much. It is fine in opposition to take a high moral tone about transparency. But when you are given the opportunity in power to address the supposed transparency deficit, it behoves you to implement something that is meaningful and useful to the electorate. It’s too easy to just broadcast meetings on the web. I think you’ll find the recordings to be not of the highest quality and the proceedings will be a mystery to many. Is this what Labour meant by transparency? I would say that this is an eye-wash, mere posturing, insubstantial and counter-productive. People see it for what it is and the consequence is disengagement and disillusionment. If Labour were serious about transparency, they would be much more careful and deliberate about their approach to such things, and there would be a revisiting and checking and fine-tuning to make it easier and better for the electorate. But the reality is that effort does not go into such things. Instead it is a mere tick box: tick, we’ve done the web thing.
This matters to Coulsdon because it sets the tone for what Cousldon residents can expect in terms of information and answers from the Council. Another example: recently, your Coulsdon West councillors asked to see the details of the decision not to proceed with the Lion Green Road car park development. This was and is an important matter for the area. There will be different views about the proposed development and its various implications for traffic, parking etc. But on the point about transparency, the Council would not provide important information about the delay to the scheme, despite clear indications that the developer is still interested and despite Councillor requests.
Again, the tone is set by the current Labour administration and Council officers take their lead from this. Coulsdon loses out from this faux transparency that Labour has imposed. But the conclusion to be drawn from this is not that Croydon Council is destroying Coulsdon. Rather, it is the current Labour administration that is bad for Cousldon, and a key manifestation of this is the lack of transparency. Contrast this with the previous Conservative administration: wide consultation on all matters, scrutiny meetings open to the public and in fact held in various locations around the borough, and clear setting out of priorities and sound implementation.
Building on this theme, I now turn to the matter of Fairfield Halls. Coulsdon benefits from Fairfield Halls as the prime entertainment location south of the Thames, just as all Croydon wards do. In fact, one might say that it benefits Coulsdon more for this reason, as the northern Croydon wards are obviously closer to central London locations as an option. So Fairfield Halls is good for Coulsdon. Coulsdon is not destroyed in any way by being in the same borough as Fairfield Halls. But, again, the current Labour administration is taking away this great boon to all Croydon wards. Quite apart from the lack of transparency (again) – there has been no proper consultation and no meaningful accommodation of views. But aside from the transparency issue, the actual decision to close Fairfield Halls is detrimental to Coulsdon. The organs in Fairfield were unique – now to be dismantled and carted away. The acoustics of the main hall were superior to those of the Royal Festival Hall in London, and some say the best in the country. What it needed was sensible, well managed investment to see it back to its best. Even in its admittedly less than perfect state it was attracting some of the best musical and theatrical acts around. Its history and pedigree boasted some of the biggest names in the history of the arts. So of course it was great for Coulsdon, as it was for all wards. Its demise and disappearance betrays the current administration’s short-sightedness and lack of cultural and intellectual depth. Contrast this with the previous Conservative administration’s commitment to invest in and protect Fairfield Halls.
I want to touch on two more things to illustrate my contention that it’s not Croydon Council that is the problem for Coulsdon, rather it’s the party that currently runs the Council. These two things are Boulders and the Fairness Commission. I’m sure you’ve all seen the boulder outside the Coulsdon library. I’m sure you all love it, especially when you trip over its unlit beauty at night. What’s this all about? Costing thousands of pounds, the Council took it upon itself to distribute 20 of these things around the borough to celebrate these particular wards being part of the London Borough of Croydon for 50 years. Well, I think the priorities should lie elsewhere. And it’s yet another example of who you vote for as being important rather than whether you’re part of Croydon.
And finally the Fairness Commission. I don’t know how many of you have heard of it but the Labour Council has seen fit to spend £200,000 on a Fairness Commission. Whilst admirable in its aim to ensure that council decisions are “fair”, why should a new layer of bureaucracy be put in place to pronounce upon this? Decisions should be made by elected Councillors and then they should be held to account for those decisions. There was no demand from the public for this commission. It serves no useful purpose and it undermines Labour’s claims of operating in a tough environment. This decision does not benefit Coulsdon. The answer, however, does not lie in somehow being outwith Croydon because bad governance can be found in other places too.
The contrast is to be made with the previous Conservative Council which looked after the interests of Coulsdon, fought for residents and their views and ensured that the benefits of being part of Croydon were accrued.
I therefore oppose the motion that Croydon Council is destroying Coulsdon, and instead contend that it is Labour that is harmful to Coulsdon.
The more who object, and the more who attend the Planning Committee where it'll get decided, the more likely it is to be thrown out. I hope the Council will listen, and I'll be working with my fellow Councillors to do just that!
I would like to please object to two linked applications 17/06216/FUL and 17/06297/FUL and refer them both to the Planning Committee for refusal.
Taking them each in turn:
17/06216/FUL - demolition of existing community centre and erection of 33 residential units comprising 4 one bedroom flats, 12 two bedroom flats and 17 three bedroom houses, together with provision of car parking, landscaping and other associated works). My reasons are as follows:
1. There is no compelling case for the Council owned and run development company to use Croydon taxpayer funds to relocate the Coulsdon Community Centre given its immense popularity with the thousands of residents who use it on a regular basis. It is fine where it is and has served its community very well under its current management committee.
2. Parking is already very heavily congested at the section of Chipstead Valley Road that the Centre currently occupies, including the perpendicular roads of Coniston and Sherwood. One space per property for 33 properties is not enough for these new builds and will only make parking worse for those residents already in the locale - particularly those in Barrie Close.
3. As the new proposed development is up hill from existing properties there is fear from the many residents who have contact me that they will be able to look down directly into bedrooms and bathrooms of existing properties, seriously affecting privacy and security.
The council’s own Development Presentations for item 5.1 of the Committee Planning Agenda for 21 November 2017 state: “Thought should be had in terms of mitigating the loss of privacy experienced at these properties, perhaps through landscaping provision.” The planning statement’s claim that “existing residents [sic] amenity is protected” is therefore contradicted by the council’s own documentation, and nothing has been included in the design to mitigate this issue.
The 21st November 2017 Development Presentations for item 5.1 of the Committee Planning Agenda state:
“It is considered that 3 storeys would be an appropriate maximum height for the properties to avoid the development having an overbearing impact on the surrounding 2 storey context. It is important that only the rooftops of the properties are visible through the trees from the surrounding area to be consistent with local character.”
The design of four storeys high is therefore contradictory to the council’s own development presentation. A reduction in the height/size of the development should be considered to mitigate these very real fears.
4. There is fear that the removal of trees will negatively impact the local ecosystem.
5. It is well known that the sewage system on this part of Chipstead Valley Road has overflown several times in recent years, adding this many properties to the outflow without heavily investing in underground sewage infrastructure is believed it will only make the problem worse.
6. There are a large number of other residential developments that are either in construction, have been recently finished or have recently been approved including the hundreds of homes on Cane Hill, the Lion Green Car Park development, new flats at 177 Chipstead Valley Road, new flats at 193/195 Chipstead Valley Road etc. all with insufficient parking provision. Altogether, this will result in around an extra 900 dwellings in Coulsdon. Without any planned changes to the town’s infrastructure – especially with regard to trains, roads and schools – this is a clear case of over-development.
7. The loss of the existing Coulsdon Community Centre building would be a sad event. The building dates to 1935 and has much architectural and historic interest to the local community. It is well-used, with 95% occupancy rate. Last year Cllr Timothy Godfrey, Labour Cabinet Member for culture, praised the community services offered by the Coulsdon Community Centre and has cited it repeatedly as an example of best practice in the borough. Demolishing this Centre seems entirely contradictory, hypocritical and destructive to our community.
17/06297/FUL - redevelopment of site to provide 5no. five, six,seven storey buildings providing 96 one bedroom, 42 two bedroom and 19 three bedroom flats: provision of vehicular access, residential and town centre car parking spaces, hard and soft landscaping works and new private and public amenity space.
1. Out of keeping with the local area: the 7-storey buildings are at the back of the site where the elevation is higher. The plans appear to reduce the elevation from the current level, however I believe the development will appear to be more like 8-stoeys above St Dunsten’s Cottages.
2. The previous plans for this site proposed a non-residential development of four-storeys. This is significantly higher than that, and all other properties in the locale. Consideration should be considered to revise this application so that the height-limit is protected and therefore in keeping with the local area.
3. There will be a loss of light to the rear of St Dunsten’s Cottages and Wells Cottages not to mention a loss of privacy at rear of St Dunsten’s Cottages homes, in back gardens and to Wells Cottages.
4. St Dunsten’s Cottages are part of a Local Heritage Area. The view of the cottages with towers over them will result in a significant loss of their aesthetic charm. There is deep concern that the huge scale of this development will put that at risk, harming the character of the local area which should be protected.
5. Impact of increased traffic and changing traffic flows at the Chipstead Valley Road/Lion Green/Woodcote Grove Road junction. This is further impacted by the development of the Coulsdon Community centre and the increased capacity planned at Smitham School.
6. The Traffic Assessment makes no mention of the Chipstead Valley Road/Lion Green/Woodcote Grove Road junction. This surprised all of us as anyone local to the area would see the contact queue of traffic at that junction. Adding to this daily misery for my residents should not be something actively pursued by this Council.
7. The biggest reason for objecting to this application, however, is lack of consideration for the increased strain on local infrastructure that the at least 237 additional residents (96 x 1; 42 x 2 and 19 x 3) will have. Virtually everyone agrees that Coulsdon needs more parking. The site has historically had 350 parking spaces, now cut to 115.
8. The current Lion Green Road car park has over 100 of its 115 spaces used nearly all day. In the context of the rest of the town, there is no argument for reducing this provision:
o The CALAT car park has 35 well-used spaces.
o Aldi car park is often full with four or more queuing and over-flowing into the main road, obstructing public transport and other vehicles.
o Waitrose car park likewise is often full with a couple queuing and some obstruction of passing traffic.
o The side roads with free bays or no controls are also heavily parked - notably The Avenue, The Grove and South Drive. Other roads with no charges are also well parked.
9. Continued reduction of parking provision will continue to strangle local businesses, harm the environment through increase pollution and over-burden our straining local infrastructure. This is not the first time that I’ve written to the Council or spoken at Planning Committee on this subject!
Objecting to the Purley Skyscraper 27/12/2017 23:06:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura
In the new year the planning inspector will be holding a series of public hearings to investigate the controversial Purley Baptist Church site. Below is my submission, do feel free to send in your views to email@example.com as soon as possible.
Reasons for objection:
1. Excessive height, out of keeping with the local area
The tallest building at present in Purley is four to five floors. The plan you are adjudicating is for 17-storeys. This proposed scheme is therefore around five times taller than the average building in Purley.
The local character would be change utterly if this scheme was allowed to progress - indeed the next nearest 17-storey building is roughly 2-3 miles further north into Croydon town centre. The building would cast a literal shadow in the local area, and is the main reason why I feel this should be opposed.
2. Density of the development
The scheme exceeds the upper end of the density reference range as specified in the London Plan, when taken as a whole. It exceeds the upper end of the range by 17%, the lower end by 308% and exceeds the mid-point of the range by 82%. The proposed development is denser than the current London Plan allows for in a setting such as this one.
3. Harming local views
One of the attractions of living in the wider Coulsdon area is the wide expanse of park land and green spaces that local residents can enjoy. Farthing Down, further into the south of the borough, has a protected panoramic view as stipulated by the Croydon Local Plan. The Purley Baptist site development would be clearly visible the Downs and impact the protected view this protected panorama. It has been estimated that at least the top 25m of the tower (around eight storeys) would be clearly visible.
4. Construction on a flood risk site
Purley, in particular the area surrounding the Purley Baptist site, has experienced severe flooding over the past decade. The most recent extreme example is from February 2014 when the whole underpass at Purley Cross was completely underwater.
The current design of the building does not mitigate for flooding, taking extra precautions to ensure whomever lives in the building are protected. The high risk of flooding is noted in the Croydon Local Plan and construction on such sites is to be 'avoided' according to the NPPF.
5. Not enough parking (and other local infrastructure)
As one of the local councillors, by far and away our biggest complaint from residents comes not from the principle of construction, but from the lack of due care given to planning for the impact an increase in residents will have on local infrastructure.
Local roads are already severely congested, but this is exacerbated by developments approved without commensurate off-street parking. For the 220 flats proposed in the development there are only 37 parking spaces provided. Croydon's current administration bizarrely never usually sees this to be a problem in granting applications, but even they (in their planning report for the Planning Committee) admits that the development needs at least 165 car spaces (paragraph 8.149).
Section 8.147 of the same report recommends that future residents of the scheme are excluded from residents parking permits. This will cause parking chaos on other roads, forcing residents to compete for the same level of space in the surrounding area. The argument that residents choosing to move there will forgo their vehicles due to the proximity of Purley train station is fallacious - every one of those new residents will think that other new residents will either not own or not bring their cars, and the congestion will continue to increase.
The local residents are passionate defenders of the integrity of their community. It is an area that is well-integrated into the fabric of Croydon, with main transport routes and major road intersections meeting in the area. It is for this reason and in this context that the overwhelming opposition of residents to this scheme should be considered.
So far the GLA member; the Member of Parliament; at least 15 of my fellow local councillors and seven residents' associations are opposed to this development. You will hopefully be aware that when the application was first heard in the Council it received 616 formal responses, with 551 of those objecting - one of the highest reactions for any application in the history of the borough.
Labour hypocrisy over 'support' for local taxis 20/12/2017 09:03:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura
A few week's back I asked Labour Cllr Mark Watson about his views on local taxis and the huge increase in tax being forced on them by the Labour Mayor of London.
He replied saying that he 'believe[d] mini cabs should be regulated' and they 'should pay their fair share of tax'.
On 15th September, Transport for London's Finance Committee issued a report on taxi license fees revealing the following licensee tax increases (see left).
Transport for London is controlled by the Labour Mayor of London. As such, I asked him if he beleived this massive increase in tax on local small businesses is 'fair' as he stated previously. To this he answered: yes.
He told me earlier that he has 'met with local mini cab companies and continue[s] to support local, Croydon based companies'. I asked him if he will write to the Mayor of London opposing a nearly 1000% increase in tax for a mini cab company with just 51 cars. He said 'no'.
The hypocrisy is simply astounding.
Gas works distruption 20/12/2017 08:55:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura
SGN have a large project to replace the gas main and services in the following roads:
The works will commence in Ridgemount Avenue on 08/01 until approx. March. The road will be made one way for the duration. The works will then continue in the order above.
A question about Mud - and the viability of businesses in BoxPark 05/12/2017 09:20:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura
A question from Councillor Mario Creatura to Councillor Mark Watson:
Today news has emerged that Mud, a unit in BoxPark, is closing its doors.
It joins Donde, The Potato Project, Knot and many others who have shut up shop since BoxPark opened.
Could the Cabinet Member please detail the total number of units that have closed in this Council-subsidised business?
There have been whispered reports of poor management practices in BoxPark that may have influenced this spate of closures.
Could the Cabinet Member please research and detail the reasons why the units closed and whether he feels the rate of closure is indicative of an issue with the business model?
It is clear that there have been some changes at Boxpark since it opened with some units closing and some new ones taking their place. It is important to recognise that our businesses are facing increasing pressures; the rise in the cost for goods, increase in business rates and pension auto enrolment to name but a few. This is especially hard for new businesses just starting their journey or existing businesses expanding into new ventures.
In order to support their tenants Boxpark have delivered an extensive event and promotional programme to attract visitors. Between January and June 2017 Boxpark Croydon held 157 events (10 of these events were held in partnership with Croydon Council). These events featured 420 performers and were attended by 48,052 people.
Boxpark is seen as an extremely positive addition to the Croydon economy, offering a real draw for visitors and we are very keen that we work with Boxpark, their tenants and the surrounding business community to ensure the area continues to thrive.
This year the Council has spent a lot of time engaging with hundreds of businesses through the Small Business Commission. The aim of this work was to understand the barriers to, and opportunities for business growth so that we, in partnership with others, can create the right kind of environment for our small business community to thrive and prosper. The Commission has allowed us to work with stakeholders to understand and promote the Croydon business support offering.
I regularly meet with businesses to explore issues and will be holding a surgery in Boxpark for occupiers to better understand their concerns and to identify what the council, partners and Boxpark themselves can do to ensure continues success.
I recommend that any business in Croydon that needs help or advice is that they contact the Economic Development Team which is well placed to offer support with regards to loan financing and Discretionary Business Rates Relief as well as general signposting to business support through initiatives such as Business Hub Navigators. We and our partners have designed these services to delivery business growth and sustainability across Croydon.
Aldi parking - just not good enough 04/12/2017 11:12:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura
The parking situation at the Aldi supermarket in Coulsdon is not tolerable. Cars are regularly queuing out of the entrance, across the roundabout and up the Brighton Road. This blocks the road and key access points for drivers and public transport.
We have written to Aldi's head office to ask them to urgently look into this and will post their reply. If it is not good enough, then further action will be taken to address this intolerable situation.
Dear Mr Barnes,
We write as elected representatives for Coulsdon Town Centre, the location of one of your stores.
We, and residents, welcomed the store to the Town some years ago and we very much hope the store is proving to be a success for the Aldi Group.
Local residents however have complained bitterly about the problem of cars entering the store’s car park and creating traffic flow problems at the roundabout. They are unable to speedily find a space resulting in cars backing up or stopping on the roundabout. This is having a significant impact on traffic flow through the Town Centre.
The Police have been involved at store level but were rebuffed by the duty manager at the time who claimed to be unaware of the problem. This we find hard to believe in view of the number of complaints we, the Police and local residents’ associations have received and the clear evidence of traffic disruption.
It would be appreciated if you could look into ways of solving this problem. Maybe a site visit with ourselves and the local Police with an appropriate Aldi representative would be beneficial?
Thank you in anticipation of your help sorting out this problem to the benefit of our residents and your customers.
Cllr Jeet Bains, Cllr Luke Clancy and Mario Creatura
Letter to Lloyds Bank 04/12/2017 10:27:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura
Late last week, Coulsdon West councillors were informed about the closure of yet another bank in the town. We have written to Lloyds Bank to ask them to urgently rethink their decision:
Dear Mr Harris,
We write as the councillors for Coulsdon West ward in the London Borough of Croydon.
We are very concerned at the news we recently received that the Coulsdon branch of Lloyds Bank will be closing on 26th February 2018.
This past week we received notification of the closure of this branch, and it appears there has been no consultation among your customers or key local stakeholders.
This news follows the closure of NatWest bank and Yorkshire BS this autumn and HSBC branch a couple of years ago. Each has made money management more difficult for our residents.
We note that you advise our residents to travel to Caterham branch in future - a full 30-minute journey from Coulsdon by public transport requiring two trains or two buses. This is not acceptable, particularly for the elderly who often do not have access to personal computers, let alone online banking.
We urge you to reverse your decision, particularly taking into account the increase in housing units that are in the process of being constructed in our town, and the footfall that will bring.
Cllr Jeet Bains, Cllr Luke Clancy, Cllr Mario Creatura and Mr Ian Parker.
We have also written to Barclays and Santander, the remaining bank branches in Coulsdon, to ask them to confirm they will be staying in the town.
UPDATE - 5/12/17
Barclays have confirmed that they have no plans to close their branch in Coulsdon, saying:
'I can confirm that we have no plans to make any changes at this branch and if this situation changes then we will contact you.
'Clearly it is not possible to give an open ended commitment to remain open, however we do not take the decision to close any branch lightly and we are committed to following the Access to Banking Protocol.'
UPDATE - 6/12/17
Santander have written back confirming they won't be closing their branch:
'We have no current plans to close the Santander branch in Coulsdon. However, if this were to change, we would of course contact you as soon as we’re able.
'I note your concerns regarding the elderly customers of the community. We are committed to offering our customers a variety of ways to bank, including online or mobile banking, using Santander branches is just one possible option for the local communities. For customers who are unable to access online services, all Santander current account holders can also use local Post Office’s for cash and cheque deposits, withdrawals and to check their account balance. We also have Telephony Advisors who are available to support customers with account management and any advice they may require.'
New lifts and bridge to be installed at Coulsdon South station 02/11/2017 12:17:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura
Plans will shortly be going to the Planning Committee at Croydon Council for a significant investment in Coulsdon South train station.
The plans will see lifts and a bridge installed to go over the tracks to make it significantly easier for those with mobility issues to move between the two platforms.
You can look up the plans using the Council's planning portal and entering 17/05225/GPDO and send in your comments either there or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will be writing in support of this investment, and welcome the consideration that Network Rail is making in our town.
South Drive petition success - eventually! 30/10/2017 21:18:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura
Tonight I presented a petition from the residents of South Drive in Coulsdon who ask the Council:
“It is currently extremely difficult for residents of South Drive, Coulsdon to park on the street due to parking by non-residents.
We would like Croydon Council to make parking on South Drive available to residents only, using a Pay and Display system.
We understand that those residents wishing to participate in this scheme would incur charges of £80, £126 & £305 per annum for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd permit issued to a household.”
I'm very pleased that Cllr Stuart King, the Cabinet member in charge, has agreed to consult formally with residents on this but that due to other consultations this will not happen until next Summer. Odd that it takes this long, it cannot be said that Labour Croydon is in a rush to work for their residents!
Question on housing policy 29/09/2017 18:41:00.......Posted by Mario Creatura
I today have asked this question of Cllr Alison Butler, the Labour Cabinet Member for Housing in Croydon:
'At this week's Labour Party conference Jeremy Corbyn, your Party Leader, announced that under a Labour government, those who live on an estate earmarked for redevelopment would have to be guaranteed a replacement home at the same site and on the same terms, and no work could take place unless approved by a ballot of existing tenants and leaseholders.
Haringey, a London Labour-run Council, has today said that they would oppose such a measure because a yes/no vote would risk 'oversimplifying a complex issue' citing guidance from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
Whether Labour form a government or not, could the Cabinet Member please outline Croydon Council's position on what is now official Labour Party policy?
Were this policy to be enacted, could the Cabinet Member please list any local developments since 2014 (including those of Brick by Brick) that this would apply to?'
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