Croydon Council has today written to the High Court supporting a developer’s application for a Judicial Review of the Secretary of State’s decision to refuse a Purley housing scheme.

Croydon Council had resolved to grant planning permission to Thornsett Group to build 220 homes, including 39 affordable, along with a new home for Purley Baptist Church with community facilities including a sports hall and community and exhibition spaces. This was supported by the Mayor of London.

This decision by the council and Greater London Authority (GLA) was overturned by James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government following a Public Inquiry last year. This was contrary to the advice of his planning inspector, who had recommended that the council and GLA’s decision be upheld.

The council’s submission to the High Court outlines how the Secretary of State’s planning inspector, concluded there was ‘overwhelming evidence’ the scheme would comply with the requirements of Croydon’s Local Plan. It also highlights a lack of explanation and justification regarding the Secretary of State’s decision.

The principle of a tower on the site was properly considered as part of the Croydon Local Plan and planning application process and an Independent Design Review had supported such an approach. Although the proposed 17-storey tower was one storey higher than the Local Plan, there was no reason to refuse.

“I was shocked when I heard the Secretary of State had overruled his own highly experienced and professional planning inspector and refused planning permission for the redevelopment of Purley Baptist Church. Just two days ago at the Building London Summit, he was praising Croydon for going the extra mile to build more homes.

“The principle of a tall landmark building on this site has previously had cross-party support in our borough, with the idea for a 14-storey building first proposed and adopted in 2013.

“This scheme, on a derelict site that has been in a sorry state for decades, proposed 220 homes, 39 of which were to be affordable. A church was to be built, along with community facilities for all to use and enjoy. It goes without saying the development would have provided a boost to Purley town centre. The local Business Improvement District organisation and the local Residents Association supported it for this reason.

“These proposals were also subject to extensive scrutiny not only during the planning process, but also before the application was formally submitted and, following its approval from both Croydon Council and the GLA, with the decision to call-in by the Secretary of State. At every hurdle it passed, most recently with Mr Brokenshire’s own planning inspector saying the scheme ‘should be approved without delay’.

“As an authority responsible for regenerating the borough along with ambitions for sustainable housing, of which this scheme demonstrated both, the delays have been frustrating – I can only imagine how much more frustrating it has been for the developer.

“The Purley Baptist Church, which works hard to support its local community has also invested a lot of time and energy in this process for an excellent landmark building, and this decision must have been incredibly disappointing for them too.

“I hope the High Court over turns the Secretary of State’s decision and that this scheme can commence without any further delay.”

Councillor Paul Scott, cabinet lead for regeneration and planning