Croydon Council biased against churches, claims developer
A DEVELOPER has accused Croydon Council's planning team of bias against churches, after its bid to open a religious centre on an industrial estate was refused.
Osi Ibrahim, of D and P Gateway Ltd, says Croydon Council's refusal to permit House of Judah (Praise) Ministries to use a site on the Ullswater Estate smacks of "inequality", after permission was previously granted for a training centre to use the next-door building.
The decision clears the way for supermarket giant Waitrose to pursue its interest in the Coulsdon site, where it is looking to build a warehouse – potentially creating 400 jobs.
But Mr Ibrahim said: "D1 (change of use) was granted to the education sector but refused to the church.
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"There is an inequality about this. That is not equal opportunity. I think personally that churches are not being favoured.
"The council does not support churches. They just do not think churches have a place within Croydon any more."
Mr Ibrahim's application for House of Judah, which hoped to add to its branch in West Croydon, said the church would run a range of community workshops alongside its prayer services for congregations of up to 200.
Its activities would have included education classes for young and elderly people, counselling and employment workshops, while creating ten jobs and 67 volunteer roles.
Mr Ibrahim added it would be "egg on the face" of the building's landlord and the council if interest in the site expressed by Waitrose, for its online shopping centre, failed to materialise.
As well as the "loss of employment land within a designated employment area", planning officer Billy Tipping said the church failed to demonstrate that its noise would not annoy neighbouring houses.
A different officer, Laura Field, granted planning permission in March to Logic4Training to use the much smaller next-door unit of the Ullswater Estate.
Charles King, chairman of the East Coulsdon Residents' Association, which lobbied the council to protect space for employment on the estate, said its decision on the church was "sensible".
Waitrose spokesman Jess Hughes said Monday she had "no further information" about if the firm wanted the site.
Representatives Indigo Planning revealed the supermarket's interest at a council meeting in March, but said a site in Crawley was also in the running.
A council spokesman said: "We determine all applications on their individual merits.
"As to the council not looking favourably on church applications because we do not see them as important, this is not the case.
"We have also approved a number of applications for places of worship in recent years."