Why is Croydon’s housing target so high?

September 2022

Recently I went to the latest six-monthly meeting between the representatives of the local resident associations and Croydon’s Planning Department.  We now have had a few Croydon Council Planning Committee meetings since our Mayor has been elected and the new Committee have been reversing some of the approval decisions by made by the Planning Department so overall we are seeing a reduction in approvals but it is still worth getting an insight into the Planning Department.

Even though Croydon is behind its target for the current ten year planning cycle which started in 2019 (albeit not by much),  many of the reps were complaining that the extra infrastructure needed to support the additional housing already built was not there. The planners told us it was their responsibility to consult with the  infrastructure providers. The ones mentioned repeatedly were  Thames Water, primary school providers, transport providers and the NHS.  However we were told the adequacy of infrastructure could not be a determining factor in making individual planning decisions.

This all seems reasonable enough for individual decisions but you would think that at some point someone would say ” we are already too stretched in that bit of the Borough, we better slow down over there”.  You would think the housing targets by ward would take this into account but the planners say the targets are discretionary and every application is judged on its own merits! Interestingly almost immediately after the meeting three West London Boroughs announced an indefinite  ban on all new approvals due to electricity shortages.  This will be pointed out at our next meeting!

So how do we get to a situation where infrastructure is not keeping up yet we are below target. Is it because our target is so high?

Croydon’s 10-year housing target is 20,790 units (2079 per year).  This is significantly higher than our outer London neighbours with Bromley’s target being 7,740 units (774 per year) and Sutton’s target 4,690 (469 per year).  Looking across London, four boroughs have similar targets.  These are Barnet, Brent, Ealing and Southwark.  Only three have higher targets.  These are Greenwich, Newham and Tower Hamlets. Of these seven boroughs only Barnet like Croydon is an outer London Borough.

So why have Barnet and Croydon been allocated such high targets?  Part of the answer for Croydon is simple. If you look at “The London Plan 2021” page 165, the only outer London area with the highest Public Transport Access Level (which is 6b) is Croydon Town Centre.  So it is planned for a significant majority of the new builds to be built in the centre of Croydon, as we can see happening.  As long as these flats are of sufficient quality to be a credit to Croydon in the future then to me this is good.  Interestingly there is no 6b equivalent for Barnet – a reader might know what they did to be allocated such a target.

However out of our 2,079 target,  640 is for Small Site developments. These are on sites of 1/4 hectare or less ( just over 1/2 an acre or less).  Here Croydon really sticks out.  We have the second highest SS target of 641 per annum – just behind  Hackney with 658.  Even unlucky Barnet does not even come close with 434.  Comparing with our neighbours, Bromley is 379 and Sutton is 268. Whilst the SS targets for Bromley and Sutton are closer to Croydon’s SS target as a percentage compared to the large and small sites target combined, you would initially think that Bromley’s should be higher than ours and Sutton’s smaller than ours based solely on size. I hope you are keeping up.

Here we have to go back again to the maps within the London Plan 2019.  One of the determinants of high SS development is being close to Public Transport Access Level 3-6 or within 800yards of a train tube or tram station or stop. Looking at page 169, all of Croydon above Croydon town centre (except Crystal Palace) is caught by this definition as is a lot of the south as it is along either the Brighton Line, the Caterham Line, the East Grinstead Line or the Tram up to New Addington. Shirley is not designated neither is the area around Sanderstead/Selsdon or the Old Coulsdon area.

Comparing to our neighbours, Sutton is half our size but has the same percentage of SS eligible areas so a target of about half of ours makes sense whereas almost all of Bromley below Bromley town centre is not eligible for high SS development so their target also seems reasonable if access to transport is the main criteria.

The only research I have done to write this article is to look at the London Plan 2019. I am sure there is more to this than meets the eye (Barnet again!) but our target looks reasonable given the criteria which again seems reasonable 

Also this does not answer the infrastructure issue and whether the recent SS development is within the 800m from transport but might explain one factor in the Planning Department recommending the recent development in The Gallop.  By my calculations  as  the crow flies parts of the Gallop are within 800m of Coombe Lane Tram Stop.

More implications of all this  to follow.

Jeremy Gill

Author: Jeremy Gill

Chair, CVRA