Fears new Croydon homes on busy road will end up being a 'Poundland version' of designs

CGI of 111-113 Brighton Road
-Credit: (Image: Cambria Property Investments Ltd)

Croydon Council has approved the plans for a three to four storey development of 24 new flats opposite Whitgift School. This development, which will occupy the site of a former car dealership, will give the borough four new affordable homes.

According to developers, the development will bring “sustainable and energy efficient homes” to the busy Brighton Road. They added that the “quality architectural design will significantly improve the street scene,” which has been occupied by hoardings for a number of years.

The development of the brownfield Croydon site has been in the planning pipeline for nearly four years. However, during that time, issues around the adequate provision of affordable housing became a particular sticking point.

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The site at 111-113 Brighton Road was previously occupied by a car dealership until 2018
The site at 111-113 Brighton Road was previously occupied by a car dealership until 2018 -Credit:Google Maps

Back in 2020, Cambria Property Investments Ltd (the developers) submitted initial plans for 32 flats with no affordable housing provision. The subsequent approval of the four new affordable flats on the ground floor of the development was therefore welcomed and formed part of the reason for its approval.

However, during the planning committee on May 16 a number of councillors across the house criticised the plans. Labour’s Clive Fraser was particularly scathing of the council’s approval of the scheme, which he saw as inadequate for a borough with a clear housing need.

Speaking to the committee, Cllr Fraser said: “Insufficient number of affordable housing and I find that very, very difficult to accept. He went on to say: “We could have done better here by getting our act together and making sure that when a scheme like this comes forward there is proper corporate discussion between housing and planning and not just relying on evidence provided by the developer who has an interest in disproving that affordable housing is viable on this and other sites.”

This was a sentiment shared by his fellow Labour councillor Leila Ben-Hassel, who reminded her fellow councillors that the borough currently had 7,000 people on a housing waiting list. She added that this deal was only “better than nothing” and urged the committee to strive to secure greater affordable housing provision from any future developments.

The hoardings currently outside 111-113 Brighton Road
Councillors said the current plans were 'only better than nothing' -Credit:Google Maps

The developers insisted that four was the most they could provide in terms of affordable housing in the development and that any more would “not be financially viable” for them. While the London design plan stipulates that 30 per cent of dwellings in new developments must be affordable, the 15 per cent offered by the developer was accepted as it was the most they could provide while remaining profitable.

Councillor Danielle Denton, who represented the objecting residents of South Croydon, warned the chamber: “Just think about the ramifications of not providing enough affordable accommodation to our young people and low to mid-income earners right now and in the future.”

The plans for the development will also include “public realm developments” in the form of increased greenery around the site, as well as the promise of two new pavements around Brighton and Hailing Roads. The mood in the chamber was largely supportive of the plans and appreciated that the three to four-storey height of the building did not allow for the potential overlook of neighbouring properties.

However, Tory councillor Denton argued that the plans paid “no regard for the Victorian-style housing blocks in the immediate vicinity.” She also claimed that the gables and pitched roof of the previous unit suited the road's aesthetic more than the current design.

Across the chamber, Norbury and Pollards Hill councillor Ben-Hassel said plans like these often “look good on CGI but when you release it, it just looks like a Poundland version”.

Councillor Leila Ben Hassel
Councillor Leila Ben Hassel said plans like these 'look good on CGI but when you release it it just looks like a Poundland version' -Credit:Croydon Council

Resident parking, or lack thereof, was another sticking point for councillors. The plans offer no resident parking, with only one disabled bay and another car club bay.

The plans also offer no loading bay for delivery vehicles. While the developers stated these have been accepted by TfL and adhere to the Mayor’s London plan, councillors raised concerns that this will only increase traffic on the already busy thoroughfare.

According to Cllr Denton, parking provision in the local area is currently at 85 per cent capacity in afternoon, with it sometimes reaching full capacity in the evenings. She added: “Developments like this can facilitate controlled parking zones (CPZ) in quiet residential roads vastly affecting the once previously enjoyed parking provision for the residents who are disproportionately affected by this development.”

Residents in the local area had previously voted against proposals to introduce a CPZ in the local area, but councillors warned that new developments like this could lead to an “increased likelihood of adopting parking zones by stealth.” The developers insisted this wasn’t the case and that the plans did not propose a new CPZ.

Additional concerns were raised over the impact the building will have on air quality in the area. Councillor Ellily Ponnuthurai suggested that the 10 new trees promised by the developer would not do enough to improve air quality on the busy road, while local resident Nicholas Caprianu said the development would bring more dust and airborne particles to the area. Following the heated debate, the plans were approved by five votes to four. A start date for construction will follow.

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