Fairfield and College Green
25/02/2017 10:30:00.......Posted by Helen Pollard
Went to the Planning Committee meeting where the plan for College Green and Fairfield Halls was recommended for approval.
I question the wisdom of putting the Fairfield application into the same planning meeting as a number of other local developments. Far more time was needed to consider an application this big. There was an 86-page report prepared about this application and it was hard to give proper consideration to the many aspects of the development given the lack of time. Anyone looking for more details on the Council's website would have found around 300 pdf documents (most labelled with a code, rather than description) so it was very difficult to work out what was going on. I wonder whether all this was a deliberate ploy to 'bury' the details so that close scrutiny was made as difficult as possible.
Whilst I am supportive of the redevelopment of the area and Fairfield Halls I have major concerns about the direction the development is taking. The housing is very dense and corners seem to have been cut in order to maximise revenue. Here is a copy of my speech.
I am speaking as a ward councillor for Fairfield Ward and also the Shadow Cabinet Member for Culture Leisure and Sport.
I would like to start by saying that I am pleased we finally have a planning application for the first phase of the Fairfield redevelopment even though it is seven months after the closure of Fairfield Halls. I have great concerns about the redevelopment of Fairfield Halls given that this application his being submitted so late in the day. I hope it is still able to open in 2018 so that residents can once again enjoy top quality events in this world class venue. I also hope that the acoustics of the Concert Hall are not adversely affected and that community groups who want to use Fairfield Halls won't be priced out by a commercial operator who only wants to make a profit.
I'll now move on to the detail of the application.
I accept that there is a need to build homes in Croydon, particularly in this area which is so close to good transport links, however I think a high price is being paid to squeeze in so many homes. By which I mean that, in places this development is so dense it will materially affect the daily lives of residents.
In a throwaway comment at 3.3 the report says that despite daylight and sunlight conditions being below the recommended standards the overall level of amenity for future occupiers would be acceptable.
But is it acceptable that 36% of habitable rooms will have less than the recommended amount of daylight?
Is it acceptable that instead of half the amenity area for phase 1A receiving 2 hours of sunlight on the benchmark day of 21st March, only 14% will get two hours sunlight?
Is it acceptable that the courtyards for blocks 4 and 5 will receive no sunlight on 21st March and in block 6, only 36% of the area will get the minimum of 2 hours? Below the recommended 50%? It is hard to imagine any plants surviving in these courtyards, so they could potentially become concrete no-go areas.
I worry that the flats on lower levels and the communal areas will be dark and gloomy which is not a great outlook for residents. Their experience of living in these flats will be adversely affected by the poor design and density of development.
Other things that concern me about this development are:
· Firstly: The lack of family housing. 6% rather than the recommended 20%. This will really affect the feel of the place, with fewer children. It could become a dormitory for city workers, rather than a vibrant community.
· Secondly: Separation distance between blocks B and D are only 15-16 metres. Once again, a dark and gloomy prospect for residents
· Third: The lack of onsite play space for children. Ignoring recommended levels
· Fourth: The excessive use of concrete in the design. Croydon has a reputation for being a concrete jungle because of the prevalence of 60s brutalist architecture and the use of bare concrete. We should be making every effort to steer clear of this approach, especially as the applicant is actually the council. The proposed design will date and look tatty very quickly.
· Fifth: The loss of 37 of the 50 trees on the site. I hope these are replaced
· Sixth: A two thirds reduction in the number of parking spaces. This will have far reaching implications for people who used to use the car park and also for residents.
· Seventh: The fact that the council is ignoring GLA advice about the bridge link.
· Eighth: The lack of comment from the Police’s ‘designing out crime’ officer
Finally, I would like to mention the local parks. The report refers to the fact that residents can use local parks at Park Hill and Queen's Gardens. There has been no investment in Park Hill Park despite money being set aside for doing this. Will there be some s106 / CIL money from this development to upgrade the facilities at Park Hill Park and Queen's Gardens to cope with this increased usage?
Notwithstanding the comments, I am happy to see that something is finally happening to move this development forward. I support the overall idea of this application, but I have some major misgivings about the impact of this dense development on future residents.
Note: the photo shows the new college building (two blocks connected by a bridge) attached to the back of Fairfield Halls, which is to the right of the picture. On the left is one of the residential blocks.