What’s going on at 1 Lansdowne Road?

By - Tuesday 4th October, 2016

Sean Creighton takes a closer look at the planning arrangements for some of Croydon’s shiniest potential developments

The problems that local trader Bobski’s faced as discussed by Tom Black were with Guildhouse Rosepride, the owners of the Pumphouse and Exchange Square.

The company is involved with its parent company Guildhouse in the controversial 1 Lansdowne Road scheme with the China Building Technique Group Co, which was rejected by the council’s planning committee in June. In July, London Mayor Sadiq Khan decided not to intervene and to leave the matter to the council.

Guildhouse Rosepride sent a letter to the members of the council’s planning committee arguing that refusal would “be harmful to the overall regeneration of Croydon”, as it would “send a very negative message to the investment community”, would “lead to the withdrawal of” its funders.

If Guildhouse is to carry out its threat, it will need to ensure that it has satisfied the council on the many conditions

“We would have no option but to implement our existing planning consent”, they said, referring to an earlier proposal which was not only generally regarded as inferior, but would make a much smaller contribution to housing in the centre of Croydon and has a very significantly better affordable housing arrangement (from the developer’s point of view) compared with what is now being offered.

That consent for the original application was given in March 2012, and has to be started within five years, which will be up in March 2017. If Guildhouse is to carry out its threat, it will need to ensure that it has satisfied the council on the many conditions requiring submission of details before the start of works.

It seems to have ruled out an appeal because of the time it would take with no guarantee of success. So instead it has submitted an application (25th August) for a non-material amendment to change the wording of conditions mainly from “prior to the commencement of development” to “prior to the completion of the ground floor slab”.

Who really runs planning in Croydon and for whose benefit?

These changes relate to such matters as roof plans showing details of green roof areas, full details of both hard and soft landscape works, details of aviation warning lights, details of the lay-bys on Lansdowne Road, the design of cycle storage areas, lifts, doors and corridors within the building to accommodate cycle parking, details of a cleaning and maintenance strategy for the building and associated public realm, the design and appearance of the external plant, the layout of the public realm on Wellesley Road and Lansdowne Road and the public piazza on the north side. Finally, there’s the amount, location and design of photovoltaic panels.

These matters do not have to go to the planning committee, and it looks like the planners will agree because the approach was discussed at a meeting on 10th August. The application covering letter states:

“That meeting agreed that the alternative triggers set out would continue to afford the council the same level of control over the development, as details would still be required to be submitted and approved prior to appropriate phases of the development taking place. The conditions discussed are currently worded as seeking approval of details on or before ‘commencement of development’. The council has suggested that changes to the trigger points in respect of these conditions are ‘non-material’.”

The whole affair once again raises a question – who really runs planning in Croydon and for whose benefit? And therefore is the proposed Local Plan – being consulted upon before submission to public inquiry – worth the paper it is written on?

Both Guildhouses are also involved in the controversy over the future of Arcadia House at 5 Cairo New Road. Back in June, the planning committee councillors expressed concern about plans for a 14 storey tower block for a block of 123 flats and a small shop in Croydon Old Town on the site of Arcadia House at 5 Cairo New Road.

In December Arcadia’s occupant New Life Croydon objected to those plans and submitted its own pre-planning application, another glass monstrosity including a 16-storey tower. The Committee chose to support the 14 story block proposed by the new owners Guildhouse and Guildhouse Rosepride.

The grape-vine says that the future of the site may be subject to a judicial review.

Sean Creighton

Sean Creighton

A former employee of and freelance project worker with community and voluntary organisations, Sean is active with Croydon Assembly and with the Planning and Transport Committee of the Love Norbury group of residents associations. He is Chair of the Norbury Community Land Trust. He is a historian of Croydon and South-West London, British black society, social action and the labour movement. He coordinates the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History networks. He runs blog sites covering Croydon, Norbury and history events, issues and news. He runs a small scale publishing imprint called History & Social Action Publications. He gives talks on a range of history topics and leads history walks.

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  • Cathy de Veras

    What about the one room apartments? Have they amended the plans to bring it into the 20th century, or even the 21st? As for Arcadia House plans I thought the local MP and Planning chair wanted a GP surgery on the site?