The not-so-selective licensing scheme 27/09/2014 08:24:00......Posted by Tim Pollard
On Thursday I attended a Public Meeting at the Hilton in Dingwall Road organised by the National Landlords Association, along with a number of other Conservative councillors, to discuss Labour's proposal to license landlords. Sadly there were no Labour councillors there to defend their proposal, as neither the cabinet member responsible (Alison Butler), nor her deputy, nor any other member of the Labour group was apparently free to attend. Around 100 people were present including many landlords and tenants, who will be a victim of Labour's planned tenant tax.
There was a rational discussion about the likely impact of the interestingly named 'Selective Licencing Scheme'. Of course, it's not selective - every private landlord in Croydon will have to pay £200 per property per year and the council would like the whole lot up front for a five year period. These licensing schemes are allowed in law, although the law (as the name suggests) was intended to allow selective schemes which only applied in two circumstances: that there was evidence linking crime or anti-social behaviour to a specific area with many private rented properties or where there is low demand for private rented accommodation (plainly not the case in Croydon).
The law also requires that the fee charged can only be used to fund the administration of the scheme. That's why many of the 70 boroughs who have introduced the scheme (of which 69 are Labour-controlled) are charging in the order of £50 per year (which is sufficiently modest for most landlords to probably not seek to pass on to tenants). At £200, Croydon's charge will be amongst the most expensive in the country - so either the council is the least efficient borough or they are blatantly profiteering!
It doesn’t take a genius to work out what will happen if this scheme goes ahead: landlords who make the payment will simply pass the cost on to their tenants. Lest we be accused of scaremongering, the Council admits this, though the admission is buried 19 pages into its report (“tenants may...be impacted by an increase in their housing costs as landlords seek to pass on some or all of the costs of licensing through higher rent levels”). At a national level, the Labour Party is arguing for the re-introduction of controls to stop rents increasing (a policy which, like many of Ed Miliband’s ideas, is superficially attractive, but which evidence from around the world shows would inevitably lead to fewer homes to rent and therefore higher rents in the medium term), but locally Croydon Labour Party is pursuing a policy which it admits will increase rents.
So why is our Labour Council doing this?
Well, it gives two reasons.
First, it says it wants to reduce flytipping and other forms of anti-social behaviour - a laudable aim. It claims that these problems are “commonly associated with poorly managed, overcrowded and low quality private rented accommodation”. Even if this is true, it would suggest that the Council should be doing something about poorly managed, overcrowded and low quality private rented accommodation, not taxing the whole sector. And it is very difficult to judge from the Council’s report whether it is true - little evidence is provided and what is said undermines rather than supports this claim (for example, the report says the private rented sector in the borough is growing rapidly but most forms of anti-social behaviour are declining and it also includes data which suggests that there is little correlation between the size of the private rented sector in different parts of the borough and the levels of anti-social behaviour in those areas).
Second, the Council says it wants to improve the quality of the housing in the private rented sector - another laudable aim. But again, the evidence in its report, both from within Croydon and from other London boroughs that have introduced Selective Licensing, suggests that most properties in the sector are in a reasonable state of repair. There are over 30,000 households in Croydon living in private rented accommodation: last year, the Council received 1,371 complaints (some households probably made multiple complaints so the number of properties complained about is probably lower than that, but set against that there are undoubtedly some tenants who don’t complain because their landlord makes it clear that they will evict them if they do). The London Borough of Newham has introduced Selective Licensing and registered 20,500 landlords, but has so far only banned 18, prosecuted 243 and cautioned 136.
In other words, all the evidence suggests that it is a minority of landlords that are causing the problem, not the whole sector. So why is our Labour Council taxing all landlords right across the borough (a tax which law-abiding landlords will pay but those causing the problems will try to avoid), rather than using powers it already has to take action against those landlords who are not maintaining and managing their properties properly?
Answer: because this tax is predicted to raise over £4.5 million, much of which will fund enforcement action the Council is already taking. It is a classic Labour stealth tax, in this case targeted at the people who are least able to pay (private sector rental tenants).
If you want to increase Council spending, you should have the honesty to make the case for higher Council Tax bills. To introduce a tax on landlords which you know is going to lead to some of the most vulnerable people in society facing even higher rents is beneath contempt.
Interstingly, it transpires that the Government is currently consulting on whether it should stop councils from introducing borough-wide Selective Licensing schemes. It is surprising to say the least that the Council's report made no mention of this.
You can read the Government's consultation paper here (pages 17-18) but this is the key section:
"A major drawback of licensing is that it impacts on all landlords and places additional burdens on reputable landlords who are already fully compliant with their obligations....The majority of landlords provide a good service and the Government does not want to impose unnecessary additional costs on them or tenants who may see their rents rise as landlord costs rise...The Government does not support the use of licensing across an entire local authority area. Such an approach is disproportionate...we believe that it goes against the policy intention of the original legislation (Housing Act 2004) which was designed to tackle problems in specific and strictly defined parts of a local authority area."
Enquiry into Purley Tower 16/01/2018 14:29:00.......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.
Mitchley View road safety 18/12/2017 14:54:00.......Posted by Tim Pollard
Last week I received a petition many residents of Mitchely View, Briar Grove and the nearby area of Mitchely Hill have signed to request that the council agrees to extend the double yellow lines on Mitchley Hill to either side of the Mitchley View junction, with the aim of improving road safety as residents leave Mitchley View.
I have written to the council’s democratic services manager to ask that this be put on the agenda for the next full council meeting on 29 January 2018. I will present the petition to the relevant cabinet member and he will respond to the request either at that meeting or the next one.
A couple of concerned residents contacted me in the summer about this and I wrote to the council’s road safety officer asking that the junction be prioritised for consultation. The response that I got then was not encouraging, reproduced in full below:
The officer wrote……
I did spend some time on site looking at the sightlines and also observing driver behaviour at the junction and of course driving out of the junction myself. I’ve attached a series of photographs showing the line of sight for drivers emerging from the junction.
In short the existing double yellow lines and the fact that the junction is on the outside of a bend helps provide good sightlines and there is no justification in extending these at the present time. Care is always needed when joining a main road but I don’t consider this junction any different to many junctions across the Borough and if anything probably easier to negotiate than some.
Although this response was not favourable, and this will therefore colour the view of the cabinet member making a response to the petition, I do agree with residents (as opposed to the officer) on this and am happy to keep pressing the council to think again. A letter similar to this blog post will be hand-delivered to the residents affected in the next few days.
Xmas Lights - Sanderstead and Hamsey Green 05/12/2017 17:12:00.......Posted by Yvette Hopley
On Saturday I attended the official switch on for the Xmas lights outside Priscillas Cafe. The Sanderstead councillors purchased additional lights for the trees and lamp posts from their councillor budget for Sanderstead and Hamsey Green.
It was a joyous occasion officiated by Jeremy Groombridge from All Saints Church and of course Santa who arrived courtesy of the Rotary Club. The lights will remain on during the day throughout the festive season and have low voltage bulbs.
It has made a huge difference to the area and we have received many compliments and thanks for all the work involved in making Sanderstead more festive!
Garden grabbing encouraged in Mayor Khan's London Plan 29/11/2017 13:38:00.......Posted by Tim Pollard
The key issues to note for Croydon are as follows.
As suspected, protection for back gardens has been removed. In addition, the Plan actually appears to be encouraging garden grabbing with a presumption in favour of 'infill development within the curtilage of a house'.
The housing density matrix has been completely removed. This means there are no limits or guidelines to the appropriate density of developments in particular areas.
Also as expected, there has been a drastic squeeze on parking standards. All developments with PTAL of 5-6 (i.e. areas with good public transport) are expected to be car free without exception. There is also a squeeze on office and retail parking.
Whilst internal housing space standards remain the same, it now says they should not be exceeded. The previous London Plan encouraged the space standards to be exceeded. So they are effectively now a maximum, rather than a minimum.
There are no targets for family homes, despite previous commitments. Boris's housing strategy had a target for 36% of affordable homes to be family sized. There was no target in Khan's housing strategy and we were told to expect this in the London Plan instead - however, it is not there. It also suggests that two bed units can be considered suitable for family housing.
As previously announced, the new London housing target is 64,935 homes a year across London. Croydon’s share is just under 3,000 homes per year, the fifth highest in London and the largest of any of the boroughs without large brownfield (former industrial or housing) sites. The borough breakdown show that Croydon’s target is double Bromley’s and three times Sutton’s.
Within this, there is also a new specific target for development on small sites of 24,573 homes per year. Again Croydon’s target is 50% more than Bromley’s and double Sutton’s.
There is a 'strategic target' for 50% affordable housing across London.
Cumulatively, these policies will encourage (particularly in outer London suburbs) a huge increase in the demolition of existing family housing and its replacement with blocks of flats with little to no parking provision.
Onslow Gardens closure: Tardis required 27/11/2017 13:05:00.......Posted by Tim Pollard
The council placed signs at the weekend announcing the closure of Onslow Gardens from 30th Nov to the 4th Nov. We think they meant until 4th Dec! So unless you have a time machine handy, don't worry about the closures in the past....
As is frustratingly common they put the signs up before telling the councillors, so we have been unable to shed any light on what is happening until now.
It seems that the closure is necessitated by the back garden development at no 24, about which I bloogged several times duing the planning process. The two infill houses need ot be connected to the mains sewerage and that is the cause of the closure.
The actual closure takes place on the following days 30/11, 1/12 and 4/12, according to officers, which suggests it will reopen over the weekend.
Displaced traffic will be diverted via Blenheim Gardens and Cranleigh Gardens. Access will be maintained for residents up to works site and via diversion.
South East Cancer Help Centre - AGM & Member's Meeting 23/11/2017 21:35:00.......Posted by Yvette Hopley
I was delighted to Chair the Annual General Meeting of the South East Cancer Help Centre along with the Members' Meeting. It has been another successful year with not only an increase in membership but funding as well. Paint Purley Purple was a great success with Chris Philp MP cutting the ribbon to start the week-long fundraising and awareness campaign.
Our guest speaker was Gary Das, who retired in 2016 from CUH. Gary was a consultant urological surgeon in Croydon and also a pelvic cancer surgeon at St George's Hospital in London. Gary gave a fascinating talk on his transition to becoming a surgeon at CUH and his book "Tender is the Scalpel's Edge".
The centre goes from strength to strength and is always looking for new volunteers. If you feel you could spare a few hours do get in touch with Linda Kenison on 020 8668 0974. The centre offers a wide range of activities and therapies and counselling can be booked through Linda.
Dementia Friends 23/11/2017 16:22:00.......Posted by Yvette Hopley
I was pleased to see so many Conservative councillors and selected candidates take part in the Dementia Awareness session given by Rachel Carse, the new officer appointed to take forward work on Dementia and Social Incusion. I have been working with the Dementia Alliance group for almost a year helping to raise awareness about people with Dementia. We all have lapses in memory and sometimes get a little confused but Rachel helped us all understand how we can help identify residents/family or indeed friends who are showing signs of the onset of dementia and explained how we can manage some of the challenges presented by people with Dementia. We have all signed up to undertake a small challenge and support Croydon becoming a Dementia Friendly Borough.
Anna D'Agostino from the Croydon BME Forum also visited the Sanderstead Residents' Association to talk about how to keep your memory strong and stay mentally active. The SRA will include an article in the spring magazine.
As community leaders it is important that we are able to support all our community, young and old and fully understand some of the more complex issues impacting our residents. I was pleased to see that the Borough Commander of Croydon Fire Brigade and Croydon's Metropolitan Police are also happy to take forward this agenda.
If you want to know more about the Dementia Alliance Group or would like to talk to me about the work I progressing do get in touch.
Friends of Purley Beeches AGM 23/11/2017 16:15:00.......Posted by Yvette Hopley
I attended the AGM of the Friends of Purley Beeches. Many of the members are shocked and horrified that 31 of the borough's parks and green spaces are without local protection. The Friends have worked hard in the beeches planting new trees and bulbs and cutting back much of the overgrowth from the natural pathways. It is a very beautiful spot and has some exceptionally rare and beautiful trees. Groups like this are so important in preserving our green spaces for all to enjoy. The group was formed after a number of trees were felled without informing local residents. Many trees have been planted by the Friends and I am pleased to announce that the Sanderstead councillors will be making a donation from their community budget towards some bulbs to be planted alongside some of the pathways. Do take a stroll through the woodland or maybe enjoy a game of tennis - its a real gem.
Trees Outside Priscillas and The Gruffy -- Xmas Lights 03/11/2017 15:58:00.......Posted by Yvette Hopley
Residents will be delighted to hear that work is underway to put up the new Xmas lights purchased with the councillors community budget. The lights will encircle the trees outside Sanderstead Recreation Park and at the Gruffy. In order for the lights to be installed some minor works needs to be undertaken to remove some of the low hanging twigs and branches from the trees. There will also be some new lights around the lampposts near the roundabout. This builds on the lights already provided by the Sanderstead Residents' Association which will also be put up at the same time. I am sure it will all look quite magical and we are looking forward to the official switch on and Xmas Fayre which will take place on Saturday, 2 December, in the Recreation Ground.
Residents may have noticed some boxes attached to trees with rubber lines across Purley Oaks Road. I enquired with officers why these have been implemented and they are monitoring traffic speed prior to the introduction of the 20mph zones being introduced.
Whilst the local Conservatives support resident concerns in relation to all traffic measures in roads where residents feel restrictions are necessary this is a blanket measure being introduced across the borough.
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.