Here is the text of the letter that I sent 3rd February to Ruth Kelly, laying out my objections to the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) of the Gateway site:
"Dear Ms Kelly,
Subject Compulsory Purchase of the Gateway Site Croydon Served 16 January 2007
I wish to formally object to Croydon Council’s proposed Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) of the Gateway development near East Croydon Station.
Please note that I am a long term resident of Croydon, and have no commercial interest or links with the proposed development or rival developers.
I have for the last three years been running www.croydoniscrap.com which highlights the ongoing decay and squalor that is eroding the heart of Croydon, in the hope of shaming those responsible to address the problem.
Dingwall Road in Croydon is without a doubt one of the most shameful areas within Croydon’s town centre. It is one of the main thoroughfares leading to East Croydon station and is used by commuters, visitors and residents on their way to and from the station.
However, instead of being a thriving and bustling thoroughfare of commerce, industry and residential properties; its “piss poor” derelict appearance has more similarity to the devastation following a nuclear attack, rather than the main thoroughfare of what is meant to be one of London's more prestigious outer boroughs.
There have been plans for the redevelopment of this site (known as the Gateway) for many years now. Unfortunately the two competing developers (Arrowcroft and Stanhope Schroders) have two rival plans. Arrowcroft want to include in their development an arena, this is the plan currently favoured by both the previous Labour council and the new Tory administration. Stanhope Schroders do not have plans for an arena, but do actually own a large part of the land on which the Gateway project would be constructed.
As such there is now a protracted legal battle (see Legal Battle) between the council and Arrowcroft on one side, and Stanhope Schroders on the other.
Needless to say the long suffering residents of Croydon, who have to endure the squalor and danger of walking down this scrofulous tumour on Croydon’s backside, have to wait whilst the legal teams fight it out.
In October 2006 Croydon Council’s Cabinet member for Finance and Regeneration, Tim Pollard, published a Cabinet Member’s Bulletin, which summarised a visit that he made to Hamburg to see an arena exactly the same as that proposed by Arrowcroft for the Gateway Site.
On the face of it the report shows that Pollard is enthusiastic about the arena. However, read the report closely and you will see that all is not well:
· The arena in Hamburg is not in the city centre, as such the large influx of people who attend sporting events and pop concerts do not disrupt the daily lives of the residents or commercial activities of Hamburg. Croydon’s arena would cause disruption.
· The Hamburg arena, as per Pollard, has an “uninspiring exterior”, ie it is ugly. He notes that it would have to look a lot better, if it were to be placed in a city centre such as Croydon.
· Most of the visitors to the Hamburg arena come by car. Yet those coming to the Croydon arena would be expected to endure the misery of public transport, thus displacing and inconveniencing those who currently live, commute and shop in Croydon.
· In another part of Pollard's report he notes:
“It has long been recognised that East Croydon Station needs to be redeveloped as it is reaching capacity at peak times. This is likely to be exacerbated by the new developments which are about to start in the town centre. Network Rail expects to release a development brief shortly and is keen to work jointly with Croydon Council to procure a development partner.”
In other words, East Croydon station will not be able to cope with the increase in numbers brought about by the arena. To trust Network Rail and the council to find an, as yet, undiscovered solution to this problem is taking far too great a leap of faith.
· The location of the Hamburg arena (outside the city and away from bars), and the fact that visitors come by car meant that those using the facilities were sober and well behaved. Given the fact that there are a large number of bars and clubs in Croydon, and the fact that visitors would not be driving it is reasonable to assume that those coming to the Croydon arena would be considerably less well behaved.
I detect, from the tone of the report, a sense of doubt about the project creeping into Pollard's mind. There are too many “ifs” for my liking.
I would note that Croydon Council own none of the land, but the previous administration signed with Arrowcroft and committed to the scheme some years ago. Councillor Pollard notes that the Council have a legally binding contract with Arrowcroft (source
This more than lilkely means that if the deal with Arrowcroft fails, there may be penalties imposed on Croydon. I note the following:
· Croydon is effectively bankrupt
· Croydon cannot afford the penalties, if they arise
· The current administration quite clearly do not like the arena project. However, the decision to go ahead is most likely being based on the fear of penalties rather than the benefits (of which there are none) of having an arena.
Clearly the decision to impose a CPO is flawed, and has been taken for the wrong reasons.
William Hill, Head of Property at Schroders said:
“I do not know whether to laugh or cry. This must be a first. A CPO brought by a Council to stop the immediate regeneration of derelict land by a willing, able and fully funded developer with construction scheduled to start in a matter of weeks.”
David Camp, chief executive of Stanhope, said:
“As baffling as this all may seem, the benefit of the CPO starting is at long last the Arrowcroft arena proposals will be subject to some impartial and proper scrutiny.”
“Over five years on from the submission of the arena scheme for planning we still do not know who the arena operator is, where the funding for the scheme is coming from and the basis of the viability assessment carried out.”
I would also remind you that the Secretary of State granted permission to Stanhope and Schroders’s scheme in the high court. I draw your attention to the minutes of the Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions (1 November 2004). Where it was made very clear that the committee believed that the then Labour administration had a conflict of interest.
The minutes also note that the then Labour administration made the dispute between themselves and Stanhope personal. Sir Paul Beresford is quoted as saying:
“I just happen to have been given the Croydon Gateway report that you gave to your Labour group. It is quite abusive, it is personally abusive. I find it quite extraordinary...
It is the report that went to the Labour group on 5 February this year and it says: "These so-called blue-chip developers have acted like irritable children when their toy has been snatched from them, whining and screaming to the press and anyone else who will listen." Then it goes on to name a number of individuals, including Sir Stuart, but naming him with a rather abusive phrase, which I will not use, and others that have resisted or not agreed with you also get abusive names applied to them?..
Calling one of the individuals, that I have not named, ‘Mr Slime’ and another one ‘Mr Dud’..
You are in a position where, certainly by the paper, you have got some personal difficulties with individuals, you want an Arena on the schemes and really you want Arrowcroft to do the development, so that, in essence, anyone else putting in an application, including the people that own the land, is wasting their time?..”
It is clear that the then Labour administration had no intention of viewing any other scheme impartially. Therefore the scheme, and related CPO, is flawed and should be blocked.
My recommendations are as follows:
· The residents of Croydon do not want or need an arena. Therefore the arena should be ditched.
· The residents of Croydon want Dingwall Road to be developed as speedily and as decently as possible. Go for the plan that can be started as quickly as possible.
· The council must stop wasting time on legal battles with Stanhope Schroder, simply because their development does not have an arena.
Get the site redeveloped now!
Abandon the CPO and the flawed Arrowcroft proposal.
We, the residents of Croydon, are fed up with the ongoing delays and empty promises of the council.
I would also note that Andrew Pelling MP (Croydon Central) has written to me, with his support.
To read Councillor Pollard’s report visit this link:
Take a virtual walk down Dingwall Road via this link:
Please feel free to contact me if you need further details.
Ken Frost MA FCA FIPFM"