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Croydon is challenging Pickles on planning policy

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Our vision is for Croydon to become a modern European city.

We are a new Labour administration that is already delivering quality new homes including 30% affordable housing, and committing our borough to paying the London living wage.

One of the challenges we face is the government’s potentially disastrous permitted development rights, a policy which uniquely in Croydon is opposed on a cross-party basis.

The government’s policy, if allowed to continue, could damage both our plans and ambition to deliver high-quality homes and offices. It is also a policy that flies in the face of the current devolution agenda.

Croydon is on the cusp of massive multi-billion regeneration on a scale comparable with the Olympic Park, including Westfield-Hammerson’s £1bn redevelopment of our retail centre, which will make it one of the largest in Europe. Part of this ambition is to reinstate Croydon as a premier office location.

We already have just under eight million square feet of office space, which is the largest in the capital outside central London and we’re experiencing a really strong demand for office floor space, at 25% above average levels for the town centre.

We also have plans to provide more than 7,000 homes in central Croydon, which will be a mixture of new build and office conversions.

However, all these ambitious plans are being jeopardised by the government’s introduction of permitted development rights, which is why we are requesting an exemption from the policy. At the expense of important office space, the policy has resulted in a flood of conversions to substandard residential accommodation.

However, many of the permitted conversions are not being implemented, which we understand is due to concerns that funders have with the quality of these developments.

Since permitted development rights were introduced in May last year, 1,074 out of 1,236 units in Croydon approved under the right did not meet basic space standards. They have also resulted in land values for office stock being driven up, making office redevelopments next to impossible.

This is proving to be detrimental to the supply of high-quality offices in Croydon, which has in turn affected our ability to attract new businesses and create jobs.

This is not about a preference for office space over homes. It’s about incentivising high-quality office developments in a key area of the town centre, in and around East Croydon station.

We know we need to build more homes, but these need to be quality homes, not just any homes. The type of homes we have seen as a result of this policy are very small with in many cases limited natural light. The confidence of the development community to build housing in Croydon has also been affected.

Developers are concerned that if they invest in a high-quality development they may get a substandard permitted development conversion next door, which seriously undermines their investment.

We are finding it very difficult that a blunt instrument such as permitted development rights has resulted in development being frustrated and possible damage to our regeneration plans.

This is why I have written to secretary of state Eric Pickles requesting that Croydon be exempt from the permitted development rights for the area contained within the Croydon opportunity area. We believe that the council, not Whitehall, is best placed to decide whether our vacant offices are used to create new jobs or homes.

Cllr Tony Newman (Lab), leader, Croydon LBC




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