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Brokenshire ‘accepts errors were made’ in rejecting Proctor & Matthews’ Purley scheme

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Housing secretary James Brokenshire has backtracked on his decision to reject a Proctor & Matthews tower in south London

Croydon Council said a judicial review hearing into the minister’s refusal of the 17-storey scheme proposed for the site of Purley Baptist Church had been scrapped and the decision had been quashed.

The council, the mayor of London and the planning inspector had all approved the contentious project. But they were overruled by Brokenshire late last year.

The secretary of state’s latest move means the 220-home application – which includes detailed plans by Capital Architecture – will go back to him for a new examination process.

Croydon councillor Paul Scott said: ‘It’s pleasing the secretary of state has accepted errors were made in justifying his refusal of planning permission for this important brownfield development, which was fully endorsed not only by the council’s planning committee but also the mayor of London.

‘The proposed development was also supported by the secretary of state’s planning inspector – and it would provide much-needed homes in the borough, with a replacement church and community facilities while incorporating the highest standards of architecture and materials.

‘All planning applications we receive are subject to a stringent planning process – and this development was deemed to be both sustainable and appropriate on a site allocated in the Croydon Local Plan. Development on the site remains long overdue.’

Croydon Council’s planning committee approved developer Thornsett’s application for the three buildings either side of Banstead Road in 2016, despite opposition from local residents over the project’s scale. 

But 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 housing secretary.

Following a public inquiry, planning inspector David Nicholson recommended approval of the development, arguing the principle of a building of about 17 storeys had been part of Croydon’s emerging local plan for several years.

In his recommendation in May 2018, Nicholson said the application should be ‘approved without delay’.

But last December, Brokenshire decided to deny the scheme planning permission citing ‘poor design’. He particularly disliked the South Site proposals, which he said failed to ‘meet the high standards required of a scheme on the site’.

Brokenshire added at the time: ‘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.’

Announcing a decision to challenge Brokenshire’s ruling, Thornsett’s executive chairman Gerard Cunningham said earlier this year: ‘Given that proposals for Mosaic Place have received approval from all necessary statutory planning bodies, including most recently the planning inspector, we are disappointed that the secretary of state has decided to reject these plans.

‘The discrepancy between the recommendation of the planning inspector and the secretary of state’s decision is a cause of deep concern, particularly given that Purley may now be deprived of 220 new homes, significant community facilities and the catalyst for much-needed regeneration.’

Proctor & Matthews co-founder Andrew Matthews said in January that the practice ‘fully supported’ Thornsett’s decision to appeal, adding he hoped Brokenshire would ‘revisit his decision’.

A government spokesperson this week said: ‘The secretary of state will now be redetermining the case, and his decision about whether or not to reopen the inquiry as part of that process will be announced in due course.’

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