QUEENS HOTEL PLANS SET TO GET GO-AHEAD: MARKET RESEARCHERS TARGET TRIANGLE SHOPS AS OTHER TRADERS SIGN PROTEST LETTER

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The above letter has been handed to traders in the Croydon part of the Triangle by market researchers to sign and send to Croydon council’s planning department in support of plans for the Queen’s hotel, Church Road, Crystal Palace which are being considered by a Croydon council planning committee meeting tonight (Thursday) 

The officers report to tonight’s meeting says there have been 354 individual responses. Objecting: 302; Supporting: 70 (“including a large number of pro-forma letters”). Whether the letter pictured above is the pro-forma letter referred to is not yet known.

One resident told News From Crystal Palace today: “We have reason to believe the pro forma letters of support may well outweigh all of our objections, but at the end of the day these numbers are not a reason to approve the scheme.”

……AND THE LETTER FROM 39 TRADERS ON THE TRIANGLE WHO DON’T WANT THE EXPANSION PLANS APPROVED

I am writing to you as a Crystal Palace retailer and on behalf of other local businesses in the vicinity of the hotel as we cannot offer our support to these redevelopment plans as they currently stand. We have recently sent letters to register our objections; please see the list below of the 39 local businesses who have registered their objections over the last few days alone.

While we would like to make it clear to the planning committee that we do welcome investment in the local area – in which many of us live as well as work – we have no confidence that the proposal, in its current incarnation, will contribute significantly or positively to the community in which it is located.

We would draw your attention in particular to this issue : over the last two weeks the hotel and their marketing company have sent representatives around local businesses, including mine, with a pro forma letter supporting the scheme.  We have been asked to sign this letter. Alongside their ‘hard-sell’ techniques the letter included unsubstantiated claims, such as ‘these proposals will provide a welcome boost to the local economy’, and that it ‘has the potential to increase footfall to shops in Crystal Palace, and to increase spending by guests in the area’s businesses to an estimated £2.3m per year’.

When asked during their visit where this figure came from, no study was given as evidence to back it up. We would like to see the evidence/data sources used to support this estimate of an increase in spending by guests in the area’s businesses to £2.3 million per year. We are not aware of any recent survey of London businesses that addresses this issue. The recent GLA ‘Skills Strategy for Londoners: Evidence Base’ (June 2018) is using the most recent reliable dataset available for London employers, from the 2014 London Business Survey, a survey of 10,000 London businesses, designed by the ONS. Even if a recent survey had been conducted and a question on expected future business turnover asked, the data would not be available at such a localised level. Due to the small sample size, employer survey data is only generally available at a borough or sub-regional level, as demonstrated in the recent London Councils ‘London Business 1000 Survey’ (September 2017).

We also know that asking employers about their expected business turnover is highly problematic due to the uncertainty and sensitivity involved. We note that the recent Small Business Commission’s report for LB of Croydon (September, 2017) does not attempt to address the issue of business turnover.

If a separate survey has been conducted independently in the local area we would like to see the sample size, the questionnaire and analysis of responses to assess its validity. We would request that planning members do the same before taking a decision on this application.

As local businesses, we are hugely concerned about the potentially distorting effect of such a large development upon the existing townscape and infrastructure of the area. The majority of its current guests are international students and tradesmen, who spend most of their days in London or at work and not in the shops on the Triangle. There is no reason to believe that any expansion will change the nature of the guests or their spending in the majority of local businesses, especially those who operate only during daytime trading hours.

These unsubstantiated claims and projections, with no given data source, represent some of the very few areas of support for this proposal identified by the case officer in his report, yet cannot be considered as material planning considerations.

In addition to this, it is also worth noting that neither the hotel nor their marketing company felt it necessary to notify these same local businesses of the public exhibition for their plans either last year or earlier this year. The vast majority of the Triangle businesses, me included, had no idea this was happening, and would have appreciated the opportunity to have been engaged by them and to see their proposals during the pre-application stage. A list of business contacted as part of the ‘public consultation’ was requested, but to date has not been provided.

We are also concerned that the inevitable further increase in traffic to an already congested region has not been sufficiently addressed, and that during the three years of disruptive excavation and construction on Church Road, potential customers (hotel users as well as non-hotel users from neighbouring areas) will actually be discouraged from coming to the shops/businesses in Crystal Palace. Three years is a long time for businesses to rally against adverse conditions. It is highly likely that footfall would decrease during this period.

The proposed plans show a hotel simply too large for this location – if you know Crystal Palace you will understand why it should be not considered a district town centre – and we believe that inadequate attention has been paid to the negative impact it would have on the local infrastructure. We strongly urge you to refuse this application.

Best wishes

(Editor’s note: Signatories include five traders who have a business on the Triangle but not in the Croydon part and 10 signatories whose location is not known to News From Crystal Palace. The first two of the three paragraphs in the above letter placed in bold type by NFCP, the third is in bold type in the original traders’ letter).

A Croydon council spokesman said: “In line with usual practice ward councillor and London Assembly comments are only highlighted in the report if they have formally referred the application for planning committee consideration. All other comments are summarised collectively.”

In this case it wasn’t Steve O’Connell who referred the application so his objections are included in the collected summary.

With regards to your other query about the pro-forma letters we’ve received hundreds, some supporting and some against the application. The only contact we have is with whoever sent each letter in so we cannot confirm if they were drafted by anyone else.

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