Following a second inquiry, the Secretary of State has granted planning permission for a 17 storey tower and associated development, comprising 220 residential units, a new church, community facilities and a retail unit, on a site in Purley, South London.
The scheme has a long history, with the Purley Baptist Church having for nearly 20 years sought to secure a replacement church on its current site and on adjacent land (a brownfield site in the Purely District Centre that had laid empty and an eyesore for more than 30 years). The present scheme was supported by the local planning authority (the London Borough of Croydon), but the Secretary of State directed in 2017 that it should be referred to him for determination. The Secretary of State initially refused the scheme, against the recommendation of the Inspector determined to hear the first inquiry. When that decision was quashed by the High Court, a second inquiry took place at which a new Inspector also recommended that planning permission be granted.
In concluding their submissions at the second inquiry the Applicants sought to draw together the compelling arguments in favour of a grant of permission, which ultimately succeeded, when saying this:
“Applying the presumption in favour of sustainable development in the NPPF the application “should be approved without delay” (OR 15.57). The urgency is all the greater now. The applicants cannot emphasise strongly enough that the application scheme truly is a once in a generation opportunity for the church to realise its aspirations, to the benefit of the community at large; it would be a travesty to shun this opportunity. That consent, should it finally now be forthcoming, would benefit not just the Purley Baptist Church and its congregation, but also those who would benefit from the Church’s greatly enhanced community facilities, those who would come to live in the new market and affordable housing that would be provided, and those who work in and visit the district centre, which would receive a worthwhile boost by the long overdue regeneration of this eyesore site. It is rare in planning to have the opportunity to make a decision that would bring so much benefit to so many people – to the local community at large. This wonderful opportunity for so much good to be done should be seized rather than shunned.”
Both the second Inspector and the Secretary of State accepted the submissions made by both the Applicants and the local planning authority that the proposed development complies with and is indeed led by the development plan, which supported a new tower in the Purley District Centre.
At both inquiries, and also in the successful challenge to the initial refusal of the application by the previous Secretary of State, Christopher Katkowski QC and Andrew Byass acted for the Applicants, and Stephen Morgan acted for the London Borough of Croydon.