Four storeys on Portland Road: hotel or hostel?

By - Monday 28th October, 2013

John Hickman, local historian and long-term resident of South Norwood, reports on local concerns over a rather peculiar planning application

On 25th April 2012, Croydon Council received a planning application for the demolition of the Queens Arms, a former pub on the corner of Portland Road and Doyle Road near Norwood Junction Station. The developers, Event Investments, propose to construct in its place a 58 room hotel able to accommodate 72 persons.

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The Queens Arms on Portland Road, May 2012. Photo © John Hickman.

The design of the building, in its scale, massing and height at four floors (reducing to three in Doyle Road) is totally discordant with its surroundings and overly dominant to the present street scene. Furthermore it is adjacent to the South Norwood Conservation Area, from which it would be visible — and the view of which at four storeys it would impede. This, according to Croydon Council’s own planning policies, ought to be taken seriously into consideration.

There will also be a loss of vital open space. Although within the property boundary, the forecourt area has been in public use for 165 years, providing a much needed “sense of space”.

In return for this, what does the proposed development offer? The target customers, according to the application, include “IT contractors, airline staff, exhibition companies, conference delegates, short-course students and cost-conscious travellers”. In a private meeting arranged by People for Portland Road, the applicant stated that the rooms would cost around £50 per night.

No feasibility study is presented with the application, and there’s no evidence of demand for this hotel. Can anyone in their right mind imagine airline staff landing at Heathrow or Gatwick and saying, “Let’s go and stay at South Norwood?” Far superior (and frequently less expensive) accommodation is readily available in central Croydon, together with far better transport links and many more attractions such as cinemas, theatres and restaurants, rather than the takeaways of South Norwood.

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Norwood Junction Station — not exactly a major destination for business travellers. Photo © Ewan Munro, used under a Creative Commons licence.

It seems clear that, far from providing quality accommodation for business travellers attending conferences, this will inevitably end up as a hostel, probably for those awaiting more permanent accommodation. Indeed, even a cursory glance at the application suggests that the building has been designed for this purpose from the start.

The plans include none of the facilities that a hotel would normally provide for guests, such as a lounge, restaurant, or breakfast room. The rooms are tiny — 146 square feet for a single, which comprises the majority of the accommodation. The plans show the mattress widths on the single beds to be 31 inches (2 foot 6), barely enough for an adult to have a comfortable night. Each room has a hob and what appears to be a small oven; aside from this, residents are expected to use local food outlets. No space is provided for staff engaged in room service, bed making and cleaning. The correct term for such an establishment is a hostel.

The Norwood Society has objected to both the original and amended proposals, as has The North Croydon Conservation Area Advisory Panel. Mr Gavin Barwell, M.P., and Steve O’Connell, Deputy Leader of Croydon Council and GLA Member, have both objected to the proposals. Nearly 100 letters of objection have been submitted by local residents and other interested parties.

Having been turned down by Croydon Council planning committee twice, the appellant has now appealed to the Secretary of State’s Planning Inspectorate for permission to build the hotel. Local residents have raised an online petition requesting the Planning Inspectorate to turn down the appeal, which will be delivered to the Secretary of State in early November; signatures must be in by Thursday 31st October.

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SE25 postal district sign. Photo © Ewan Munro, used under a Creative Commons licence.
John Hickman

John Hickman

John Hickman, who has a science background, is an independent researcher. He regularly gives talks on the history of South Norwood, an area where he is presently undertaking an historical demographic study.

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  • Anne Giles

    Sounds very suspicious to me.