This post was first published on The Croydon Advertiser on 17/06/2016
A planning application to build a tower of up to 17 storeys on derelict land to the west of Purley Cross gyratory was submitted to Croydon Council on Monday.
The long-anticipated application is the final hurdle Purley Baptist Church must clear to develop land on the site at the junction of Russell Hill Road and Banstead Road, known as the “island site”.
The land, which is owned by the church, has been derelict since 2010 and the church has been attempting to redevelop it since 1999.
In 2006 Purley Baptist applied for planning permission to build a six-storey building on the island site, but in February last year the church announced the block would need to be at least 16 storeys to be financially viable.
Now documents submitted to the council outline plans for a new church building and a tower block of between three and 17 storeys on the island site.
James Collins, senior minister at Purley Baptist since Peter Nodding retired in March, said he is “delighted” that the plans have finally been submitted.
The church congregation has put £5 million towards the development and before retiring Mr Nodding said Purley Baptist would make “nothing” financially.
Dr Collins said: “Their [the congregation] amazing generosity is motivated by a deep desire to bring renewal to the heart of our community.”
The tower will include 114 flats, as well as church and community space and room for a shop or café. Developers hope the church’s entrance on Russell Hill Road will create a “plaza”.
On the other side of Banstead Road, the “south site”, the planning documents outline a development of between three and eight storeys made up of 106 residential units. Across the whole site, which is named Mosaic Place, there will be 18 per cent affordable housing.
If the plans are approved, Purley Baptist hopes work will start in January next year, to be completed within five years.
But Dr Collins acknowledged the height of the tower has been met with some opposition.
A survey by Croydon South MP Chris Philp, titled “Stop the Purley Skyscraper”, which was launched in March last year, has gathered 5,558 signatures, with 94.8 per cent opposing the scheme.
“Local public opinion is overwhelmingly against the development,” he said. “It is completely out of character, the next tallest building is much lower and it is not the place for developers to build skyscrapers.”
Saffron Square, the tallest building in Croydon town centre, is 43 stories, but Mr Philp said whether 17 stories constitute a skyscraper is “semantics”.
Purley Baptist and developers Thornsett have consulted residents and met with the council’s planning committee a number of times to discuss concerns.
Dr Collins said the height of the tower is necessary to comply with the council’s planning rules.
As well as providing 18 per cent affordable housing, the church and Thornsett also need to pay a community infrastructure levy, which stood at £2 million in February last year. But not everyone in Purley is against the plans.
Purley and Woodcote Residents Association (PWRA) has given the church its backing. Tarsem Flora, PWRA planning officer and architect, said although he is a little concerned about the height of both sides of the development, he thinks the design is good.
“We have always supported it because it has been going on for 15 years,” he said. “My personal view is that PWRA won’t submit an objection to the application.”
Purley Business Improvement District is also behind the development. Chairman Simon Cripps said: “On balance we still very much approve the development.
“Yes we obviously would not like it to be as high as 17 storeys, however we understand and accept the reasons behind this.
“At the end of the day this will bring life and regeneration to Purley, using space that has been derelict for many years.”