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."
Update on Fiveways 14/03/2018 12:36:00.......Posted by Lynne Hale
Residents who use Fiveways in Waddon may be interested in knowing that Transport for London has updated us with regard to the consultation which took place last year about improving traffic flow through this notoriously congested junction and improving provision for pedestrians and cyclists.
TfL has now advised the following:
“Working in partnership with your borough, we consulted on our proposed major changes to the road layout on the A23 and A232 at Fiveways in Waddon between 10 July and 18 September last year. I am writing to let you know that the factual consultation report is now available.
We received 431 direct responses, of which 63 per cent supported or supported most elements of our proposals, 19 per cent opposed all or most elements of our proposals, and 18 per cent did not give an opinion or were not sure. To view the consultation report, please go to www.tfl.gov.uk/fiveways-croydon
Following careful consideration of consultation responses, we have identified some areas in the design which could be amended. We are currently exploring the options available and testing their feasibility. Together with Croydon Council, we will continue to work through the issues raised and will consider how best to respond to them in line with the Mayor’s Transport Strategy. We plan to publish a detailed response to issues raised indicating how we propose to move forward with the project in summer 2018.”
Cherry Blossom Tree Dies in Purley Oaks Road 13/03/2018 16:25:00.......Posted by Yvette Hopley
Very sadly a Cherry Blossom Tree has died in Purley Oaks Road. It must be @100 years old and has added to the street value over many years. Its a terrible shame as it was just about to blossom. I am informed by the new tree officer that it wasn't at all well and the roots were diseased. Fortunately the family had gone out for the day as the very large tree fell across their drive blocking the pavement. Officers at the council were quick to respond and the tree has now been cut up and removed. A temporary tarmac patch will cover the area until a new tree is planted in the winter time.
Application for 48 Mitchley Hill withdrawn 03/03/2018 07:21:00.......Posted by Tim Pollard
We have recently learnt that the planning application for 9 x two bedroom flats and parking at 48 Mitchley Hill has been withdrawn by the applicant.
We don't know the reasons for this withdrawal. I had referred the application so that it could only be determined by committee. I imagine there may well be another application for the site at some point.
Interestingly Cllr Paul Scott (Labour chair of the planning Committee) had also referred the application to committee. History suggests that he normally does that only when an application might be earmarked for refusal by officers or the site could be more intensively developed.
Temporary stay of execution on 105-7 Purley Downs Road 02/03/2018 10:57:00.......Posted by Tim Pollard
I heard today the the application to demolish two beautiful detached houses on Purley Downs Road and replace them with two blocks of flats has been refused by Croydon Council. Whilst on one level that's good news, it is not as good as it sounds due to the reasons for refusal, which are:
A legal agreement has not been provided to mitigate the impacts of the development in relation to:
- Provision of affordable housing (up to the Policy requirement of 50%)
- Car club - 2 years membership for residents
- Carbon offsetting (financial)
- To address air quality (either financial or Low Emission Strategy).
In other words the council is happy with the principle and the design, but they have not been assured about the proportion of affordable housing they will get in the development!
I am sure we can lok forward, in short order, to another application which is substantively the same but with the technical issues addressed (unless the appplicant chooses to appeal this decision instead).
Noisy drain cover at Waitrose traffic lights fixed 19/02/2018 08:57:00.......Posted by Lynne Hale
If you have been anywhere near the Waitrose traffic lights since Christmas, you may well have heard a particularly noisy drain cover rattling around when vehicles drove it. I reported this and some repairs were attempted with tarmac. However, although it quietened the noise a bit, it was clear that this drain cover was in fact broken and needed replacing. It must then have come as a considerable relief for residents living nearby when Thames Water replaced the defective cover in early February.
Wentworth Way closure 12/02/2018 12:38:00.......Posted by Tim Pollard
SGN are continuing with their gas mains replacement scheme this week in Wentworth Way. These works will take place during the half term break. Wentworth Way will be closed at its junction with Limpsfield Road to Ellesmere Drive, with two-way signals at the junction with Ellesmere Drive. Displaced traffic will be directed via Hilton Way.
Spineless council backs developers again 09/02/2018 11:20:00.......Posted by Tim Pollard
Last night I represented residents in Gainsborough Drive before the planning committee - and as is normal these days the Labour-run committee backed the developers rather than the residents.
The site is a back garden development which was refused by the council when under Conservative control in 2013, but the developer then got permission on appeal. When they came to build it, they built in the wrong place, to the wrong height, the wrong width, on a raised plinth instead of at ground level and with a sloping ramp to get access to the front door. Once it became clear that they were building much more than they had permission for, local residents contacted myself and the council enforcement team, who told the builder to stop and seek permission for what he was actually building. They repeatedly ignored this and the council did not compel them to, so in the end they completed the building at their own risk.
They then applied for permission for what they had built, which was refused by the council. They went to appeal and lost.
In his refusal of the appeal the Inspector particularly commented that removing the ramp “would still leave it sitting on what is in effect a raised plinth, with a door threshold level that would be incompatible with those of No1 to 7. I am not persuaded that the imposition of a planning condition requiring the ramp's removal would provide an acceptable alternative."
So the developer made a few changes, namely moving the front door so as to be able to delete the ramp and create a 1m space in front of the pavement in which they propose some planting to try to disguise the odd proportions of the raised building they are left with.
Council officers decided that was fine, saying ‘The proposed removal of the existing raised ramp, balustrade and the alteration to the location of the front door will help alleviate the inspector’s concerns.’
I don’t think so. With the door moved, and the ramp removed, we have an oddly proportioned building with its windows at the wrong height. The developer has not very successfully tried to disguise that with planting, but the reality is that the plants will struggle to survive in the few inches of space they have between the wall and the pavement. It will look horrible.
In his conclusion the 2016 Inspector said “I have found that the appeal development has an unacceptable appearance. The nature of the harm is such that I consider it could not be addressed by my imposition of reasonable planning conditions. The appeal is therefore dismissed.”
The Inspector was effectively saying that he does not believe there is anything the developer can do to make the building acceptable.
Clause 7.9 of the council report says ‘The inspector and officers are minded that reverting to the 2012 consent would involve the demolition of the house.’
And that’s exactly what should have happened to prevent the council becoming laughing stock amongst developers.
But no, the Labour controlled committee decided by 3 votes to two (breaking along party lines) that although the resulting building is wrong on virtually every level, it can stay, and they granted it permission. The message this sends to developers is quite clear. Build what you like in Croydon, our spineless council won't stop you.
Westfield Avenue – road name plate being replaced 09/02/2018 09:02:00.......Posted by Lynne Hale
A resident recently let me know about the very sad state of the Westfield Avenue road name plate – at the west end. Seemingly he has in the past painted it to keep it in good condition but it is now rotten and collapsing with heavily rusted supports. I am pleased to say that the Council has agreed to replace this sign so we can look forward to seeing a new one there shortly.
Seat at 403 bus stop Sanderstead Recreation Ground 06/02/2018 12:38:00.......Posted by Lynne Hale
Following the loss of the bus shelter, with the toilets, and the opening of the wonderful Priscilla’s café a while ago, a number of residents have been in touch about having a seat installed. Clearly for some people if there is a bit of a wait for a 403 bus it can get a bit wearying standing at this stop. I am pleased to say that a suitable spot has now been identified and he job is now being costed. I will update with further news…
20mph Zones in South of the Borough 16/01/2018 19:20:00.......Posted by Yvette Hopley
As residents will be well aware signs are appearing in the south of the borough for the introduction of the 20mph zone. We realise that this may well be confusing for some residents with Sanderstead Road and a number of others remaining at 30mph whilst others such as Purley Downs Road are 20mph.
Residents may also find it particularly confusing when faced with a choice. What do you mean you might say? Well in some roads, Farmfields for instance, just by Sanderstead library the signs on the entry to the road show 30 on one side and 20 on the other.
I have asked officers if they can explain the signage which residents have brought to my attention saying they are quite confused.
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