James Brokenshire cited ‘poor design’ as he acted against planning inspector advice in refusing planning permission for the development either side of Banstead Road in Purley.
Developer Thornsett submitted a single application more than two years ago covering both the 114-home Mosaic Place scheme, designed by Proctor & Matthews, which includes the tower and a stepped three-to-seven storey building, as well as the South Site opposite, which was designed in detail by Capital following Proctor & Matthews’ initial masterplan and features 106 homes in a block up to eight levels high.
Croydon Council’s planning committee in December 2016 said it was minded to approve the application, in line with officer advice, but the scheme remained controversial, in part due to the height of the tower.
A petition organised by the Conservative MP for Croydon South, Chris Philp, attracted thousands of signatures and in April 2017 Sajid Javid called the scheme in during his stint as communities secretary.
Earlier this year planning inspector David Nicholson recommended approval of the development, saying ‘the principle of a building of roughly the height proposed … would not only accord with the development plan, but be led by it, and has been part of the emerging local plan for several years’.
Nicholson hailed the ‘substantial benefits’ of new homes, a new church, enhanced community facilities and extensive regeneration.
But Brokenshire has refused permission for the scheme, saying its benefits would be ‘insufficient’ to outweigh harm to the significance of Purley Library and surrounding conservation areas.
‘Having carefully considered the inspector’s reasoning, the secretary of state does not agree with him that, taken in the round, the proportions of the tower would be of a high standard of design,’ said a decision letter signed on Brokenshire’s behalf. ‘In particular, he has serious concerns about the height of the tower in this location.’
The letter added: ‘The secretary of state also has concerns about the quality of some of the elements of the design of the South Site proposals which fail to meet the high standards required of a scheme on the site and in proximity to adjoining neighbours with a significantly lower density. The built form, proportions, composition and use of materials of the frontage facing on Banstead Road is unsympathetic to the existing adjoining buildings and the north-west elevation is a featureless elevation that impacts on adjoining owners.’
A spokesperson for Proctor & Matthews said: ‘We are extremely disappointed and saddened by the secretary of state’s decision to refuse planning permission for Mosaic Place, and to overturn the planning inspector’s strong recommendation that permission should be granted.
‘Proctor & Matthews Architects remain very proud of our design for the former Purley Baptist Church site. We note that this element of the proposed Mosaic Place development commanded overwhelming support from the planning inspector, having already secured planning consent and the firm support of the wider design and local communities.
‘Together with our client, Thornsett Group, we are considering the implications of the secretary of state’s decision, which as it stands has halted a generous scheme that would have brought much-needed new homes, including 39 affordable homes, valuable community facilities and public realm improvements to Purley.’
A spokesman for Croydon Council said: ‘We are extremely disappointed with the secretary of state’s decision, which has taken more than 18 months. This refusal directly contradicts his own government planning inspector, who recommended this scheme be granted, as it would have provided much-needed homes in the borough and a replacement church and community facilities while incorporating the highest standards of architecture and materials.
‘The council backed the development of this vacant and underused site to help bring about much-needed regeneration and growth to Purley town centre.
‘We will review the secretary of state’s decision and consider the options available to us.’
Capital Architecture and Thornsett Group have been contacted for comment.