The following were in attendance for this item:
Councillor Alison Butler, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Homes, Regeneration and Planning
Stephen Tate, Director, District Centres & Regeneration (Place Department)
Cllr Buttinger outlined the grounds for the call-in, as outlined in the pro-forma in Appendix B of agenda item 5. She expressed concerns that some residents had been consulted on developments proposed under the Brick by Brick initiative, and some not, and called for the full list of proposed sites to be published.
The Cabinet Member for Homes, Regeneration and Planning was invited to respond. She set out the background to the inception of the Brick by Brick initiative. She reminded Members of the housing shortage and very high rental and purchase prices in the borough and Greater London as a whole. She highlighted the fact that the council had a responsibility towards people presenting to the council as homeless, including private tenants who could not cope with significant rent rises. Members heard that the Brick by Brick initiative aimed to deliver affordable housing and sustainable communities, enhancing local areas and providing affordable housing for Croydonians.
The Cabinet member stated that guidance had been provided by the previous Mayor of London recommending the use of public land to increase housing supply. She explained that the Brick by Brick initiative has identified 41 such sites in the borough although she acknowledged that some of these sites were not currently ready for redevelopment. She also emphasised that proposed developments on each site would be subject to planning permission in line with national and local policies.
The Cabinet Member expressed her surprise at the fact that no questions had been asked about the Cabinet report at the 20 June Cabinet meeting, and her disappointment at the lack of compassion evident in some of the feedback received so far, considering the local housing shortage.
The Cabinet Member reminded members of the elements of the consultation process. She explained that letters had been sent out so far to residents in 29 sites in three batches. A web page had been set up and a web form published for people to provide feedback on particular sites. Many responses had been received and there had been hundreds of hits on the website.
Members were advised that the firm "Newman and Francis" was leading on the consultation process. They had delivered letters to residents inviting them to consultation events. 15 such events had been held so far with more to come. Three further batches of letters were due to go out.
The Cabinet Member emphasised the importance of involving local residents and highlighted the risks inherent in publishing proposed sites in the media without informing affected residents first.
Officers upheld the rationale of this initiative, enabling the council to make good use of local assets while keeping a certain amount of control over them. They explained that the report which was presented at the 20 June Cabinet meeting focused on the mechanistic process of transferring land to the Council's own company subject to satisfactory terms and conditions and not on any proposed building plans.
The Chair invited a resident from Coulsdon East ward, Nicola Glover, to provide feedback on the consultation process. She stated that she and neighbours had not been given enough notice of forthcoming consultation events, and that the times of these events had been inappropriate for working people.
Another resident from the Purley ward, Tony Campbell, complained that there had been no consultation on the proposed site near his home, and that he was very concerned about the pressure which a development in the area would exert on places at the local school, which he stated was full up. He explained that he had complained to Newman Francis about the fact that building would do away with the green adjoining his property and that Newman Francis had had no details of the proposals for the area, or of the destruction of the green.
Officers thanked residents for their feedback and undertook to feed it back to Newman Francis and to resolve the problems reported on the consultation process.
The Scrutiny and Strategic Overview Committee
RESOLVED that no further action was necessary in respect of Scrutiny Agenda Item 5 in relation to Brick by Brick Croydon Limited - Property and Financial, and that the decision made at Cabinet on 20 June 2016 in respect of this matter may now be implemented.
The Committee also RESOLVED to make the following recommendations:
The council should make a commitment to address any concerns expressed by a councillor or councillors regarding the quality and fairness of a consultation exercise and hold additional consultation, either in writing and/or through meetings or drop-ins as appropriate, to remedy these concerns
The council should ensure that any consultation exercise it undertakes or commissions a company to undertake, should provide adequate notice. i.e. 10 working days as a minimum unless implementation is urgent, to enable the majority of individuals concerned to take part
The Council or relevant contractors should offer local councillors briefings or feedback regarding the responses to consultation exercises the Council or relevant contractors have conducted
The Streets, Environment and Homes Scrutiny Sub-Committee should review the effectiveness of the consultation conducted on the Brick by Brick initiative in autumn 2016