Controversy over proposal for ‘monolithic’ residential block in Crystal Palace Conservation Area

On 31st July 2008, Croydon’s Planning Committee was undecided on an application for one of the largest residential development applications made for the Upper Norwood/Crystal Palace Triangle conservation area. Public objectors, jubilant that the application had been refused, were outraged when controversial further voting resulted in a ‘hung’ decision referring the application for future consideration.

An artist's impression of the proposed development
An artist's impression of how the proposed development will front onto Westow Street

Incrementally larger applications

This further application is the third submitted by St Aidans Developments. The first was for a modest 3-storey building, with a shop fronting onto Westow Street and two 3-bedroom flats above. Croydon approved this application in 2005. The developers did not to proceed with this design but submitted a second application in 2006 for a 4-storey building with retail frontage and a mix of 29 flats. Croydon’s Conservation Area Advisory Panel objected to this second application but it was approved by the planning committee. St Aidans have submitted a third application, increasing further the number of flats by 25% to 36, the majority being 1-bedroom units.

Applicant claims support

The Conservation Area Panel objected to this third proposal calling it “monolithic”, whilst St Aidans spokesman, Mr Bateman, claimed to the planning committee that the “previous scheme was supported by the independent conservation report and the committee liked the scheme”.

Mr Bateman confirmed the Victory Place scheme was the “driver for the Portland Road enterprise”, a development of residential, retail and business centre planned for Portland Road, South Norwood and that “they both work hand-in-hand”. The two schemes are worked up together so that affordable housing requirement is passed to the Portland Road site. Cllr Paul Scott declared a “personal prejudicial interest” in the Portland Road application and withdrew. Although the developer made clear that the two schemes are linked, inexplicably Cllr Scott did not declare similar interest in the Victory Place application and later proposed and voted that the application should be approved.

Westow Street, Crystal Palace
Westow Street, Crystal Palace
Westow Street - towards the development and the Way Ahead salon it would border

Committee split

Committee members raised concerns over the bulk and massing, pedestrian safety, amenity space, traffic movements and lack of family accommodation. Chairman, Cllr Chris Wright, although supporting the application, said, “I do hope that the [drawing of the] fascia is not completely accurate”. Cllr Perry said, “I really dislike this scheme … where the applicants got it so right in Portland Road, they’ve got it so wrong in Victory Place. This one dominates the host site” and that it was, “…something you would find on a university campus not in a Conservation Area”. Local Cllr George Filbey expressed concern at the increase in the number of flats and considered it “over-development” for the area. Cllr Hopley supported these concerns and added “we do have a need in the borough for 3-bedroom accommodation for families”. Cllr Cakebread said, “I don’t like the residential mix – I think it’s far too many 1-bedroom flats”.

Despite the lack of lifts for the disabled and elderly, Cllr Maggie Mansell supported the scheme saying it was, “better for couples, for single people, for maybe elderly people” and that, “it was not a good area for children”.

Cllr Scott questioned the massing of the scheme compared with the previous application. Warren Pierson, Principal Planning Officer said, “massing is similar, certain elements set back. Nothing to warrant any concern”. Mr Pierson also confirmed that, “it will be one of the larger buildings in Westow Street”.

English Heritage

Chair Cllr Wright asked for qualification from Simon Albrecht, Head of the Central Planning Team, if he could “make any comments regarding English Heritage”. Mr Albrecht confirmed that it was, “a development in a Conservation Area” and that, “they are not normally referred to English Heritage”.

The Triangle, a designated Conservation Area, contains historic buildings and any proposals that involve demolition and development must be referred to English Heritage, who have confirmed to the CPCA that they have not been consulted on any of the three Victory Place applications.

Local councillor speaks out

Speaking from the floor, local councillor (Upper Norwood Ward) and former Mayor, Pat Ryan, said: “This development does nothing to enhance the Conservation Area but will positively detract from it. NCCAAP committee have been totally ignored and the development will add to parking and traffic difficulties in the Triangle. If this was Chelsea, Canterbury or Richmond it certainly would not be allowed”.

Hung Vote

A motion proposed by Cllr Scott and seconded by the Chair to ‘approve’ the application was rejected 5 votes to 4 with 1 abstention. However, a second motion to ‘refuse’ the application was divided four votes to four with two abstentions. The Chair used his casting vote, ensuring the motion to refuse the application was lost. This led to confusion amongst the committee and the Chair had to seek advice from the legal officer who made clear that a second vote could not be conducted. It was agreed that the application should be deferred to a later committee meeting. Cllr Scott, who voted in favour of the application, was anxious that “to be fair to the developer...” the application was, “..brought back as soon as possible”.

Committee urged to visit site

Planning applications should be judged individually on their merits, however, councillors in favour of the latest Victory Place application repeatedly referred to the previously approved applications.

A spokesman for the Crystal Palace Community Association stated that appropriate new retail and other development opportunities in the Triangle were welcome but this application failed to empathise in any way with its location and would not benefit the Conservation Area nor provide a balanced mix of housing.

The CPCA and local councillors, George Filbey and Pat Ryan, urged the planning committee to conduct a site visit to see for themselves the detrimental impact that such a development would have on the Triangle.

Don Bianco, CPCA Chair of planning said, “The machinations of the Planning Committee in their consideration of this application was farcical and beyond comprehension. We saw how the process could be managed, to drive through a scheme of low-quality, low-investment volume housebuilding that has little merit in the historic village context of Crystal Palace and little support from the community. Clearly we have members of the Committee who are not aligned with the people they are supposed to represent”.

Note: Victory Place Planning Application No. 08/01755/P

North Croydon Conservation Area Advisory  Panel - looking to strengthen its team

As part of the CPCA Planning subcommittee’s work, we sit on a number of Conservation Area Advisory Panels which broadens our field outside of Crystal Palace / Upper Norwood and helps build up interest, knowledge and experience.

Interested in becoming involved in the work of the NCCAAP in scrutinising planning applications? If you would like to know more about the Panel and its work or are interested in joining, please get in touch or Click Here for more about this voluntary role.

Don Bianco, CPCA Planning subcommitee

Why and how to get a building listed

The idea of listed buildings came about during WWII as a way of determining which buildings should be rebuilt if they were damaged by bombing. The Town & Country Planning Act 1947 led to the compilation of lists of buildings of special architectural or historic interest, registers identifying the best of our heritage buildings encompassing a wide variety of types from castles and cathedrals to milestones and water pumps.

Not all are what we might conventionally think of as beautiful or attractive - some are included purely for their historical value. Under the Planning (Listed Buildings & Conservation Areas) Act 1990, the Secretary of State for National Heritage has a statutory duty to compile such lists of buildings, the purpose of which is simply to mark certain buildings to ensure that their special interest is fully taken into account in decisions affecting their future. Most, but not all, buildings have been selected in the course of the national resurvey of listed buildings - every town in England was visited by fieldworkers from the Department of the Environment and the best buildings selected against a set of national criteria.


From 1 April 2005, in a wide-ranging reform of the system for protecting and managing England’s historic environment, administration of the listing system was transferred from the Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) to English Heritage. So now, anyone, including local residents, amenity groups etc apply directly to English Heritage to place a building on the statutory list, who will make an assessment of the building against set criteria and make a recommendation to list, de-list or amend the grade. The Secretary of State will still make the final decision.

Write to: English Heritage, Heritage Protection Operations, 1 Waterhouse Square, 138-142 Holborn, London EC1N 2ST. Your letter should include:

• reasons for wanting to add the building to the list. Summarise your research on the building and explain why, in your opinion, it is of listable quality. This is important
• a location plan eg OS map extract, showing, where possible, the position of any other listed buildings nearby
• clear up-to-date photos of the main elevations and interiors of the building showing the building at its best
• any background information about the building, for example, the date/s of its construction; any specialised function it may have performed; any historical associations; the name of the architect (if known); its group value in the street scene; and details of any interior features of interest

Local or national groups with an interest in buildings may be able to help you fill in the gaps in your knowledge. A letter of support from them could very much increase your chances of getting the building listed. But don’t worry too much if the information is scant.

Locally listed but nationally listable?
Locally listed but nationally listable?
Listed Grade II
Listed Grade II

For listing to be meaningful, buildings must be not just of some interest, but of “special architectural or historic interest”. Judgement is based on a set of national standards including:

• the importance to the nation for the interest of their architectural design, decoration and craftsmanship, including particular building types, techniques and plan forms
• important aspects of the nation’s historical interest eg social, economic, cultural or military history
• association with well known characters or events
• group value, especially where buildings comprise an important architectural or historical unity or fine example of planning eg squares, terraces, model villages
• if a building has had its interior taken out with loss of architectural features and plan form, this incompleteness will diminish its intrinsic value

Age and rarity are important considerations, particularly when proposed on the strength of their historic interest. The older and the fewer examples surviving the more likely will be the historical importance. Thus before 1700 all buildings surviving in anything like their original condition will be listed; between 1700-1840 most buildings though some selection is necessary; between 1840–1914 only buildings of definite quality and character, including the best examples of particular building types; after 1914 only selected buildings; between 30 and 10 years old only buildings which are of outstanding quality and under threat; and buildings less than 10 years old are not listed at all.

Other factors such as the cost of maintaining the building, unsuitability to modern needs and their current state of repair, are not considered (unless this has harmed the architectural interest). All these things can be considered if an owner wishes to demolish or alter the building.

The extent of listing is important and any object or structure fixed to the building and any object or structure within the curtilage of the building if it has formed part of the land since before 1 July 1948 is treated as being part of the building.

Owners will be notified where applications for listing is made by third parties, though in exceptional circumstances this may be withheld eg if there is an imminent threat of alteration or demolition. The implications about what the listing of properties means to owners is clearer, more informative and includes an appeals procedure.

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Why and how to get a
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