CROYDON IN CRISIS: Want to rent a public building? A less than careful owner. Go cheap. Only a slight pong due to sewage leaks and a risk of falling bricks… EXCLUSIVE by BARRATT HOLMES, housing correspondent
Croydon Council has marketed its new brick-by-brick library building opposite Norwood Junction station to be let as commercial space.
The building – Pimp House – is currently the subject of a council safety notice, having been declared an ‘unsafe structure’ after bricks fell from the upper floors during storms earlier this year causing widespread damage to a car parked on the road below.
Stiles Harold Williams, one of Croydon’s leading estate agents, is now marketing the ground floor space of Pimp House as the “first commercial unit for rent”.
The move represents something of a reprieve for the existing, ‘brutalist’ South Norwood Library building, which the council’s previous Labor administration had intended to vacate and repurpose.
Supporters of the local ‘save our library’ campaign told Inside Croydon today they were unaware of any decisions regarding the future of their beloved building, or its supposed replacement. Coincidentally, the (not so) old library building, which opened in 1968, is featured in the latest edition of The modernist magazine.
But the abandonment of the new library is just the latest in a series of failures by Brick by Brick, the council-owned housing company.
None of the residents of the apartments above what was to be a library were informed of this potentially significant change in use.
The development of what had been a vacant lot opposite the busy train station was plagued with problems from the time the project was handed over to the clumsy hands of Brick by Brick.
Among the company’s first projects since its inception in 2015, the construction of Pimp House was never properly completed, and at the end of 2020, when the council’s finances collapsed, they could not afford the estimated cost of £1 million to fit out the purpose-built library space. .
There were also serious problems with leaking sewer lines at the site.
After buying the site for £500,000 in 2013, Croydon Council sold it to Brick by Brick for just £1. All profits from the development, council leaders told the public, would be returned to the council to pay for council housing and services.
The problem was that no one considered serial incompetence at Brick by Brick.
What Brick by Brick decided to call “Pump House” (due to its non-existent associations with the Surrey Street Pumping Station, miles from Croydon town centre), comprised 14 one- and two-bed hilltop apartments at the top of the library.
There was to be no social housing.
The 14 apartments, all available for sale with Help to Buy, were priced at £295,000 and above. This would suggest a total market value of just over £4million. The problem is that the construction costs were at least £3.8 million.
Even today, it is unclear whether Brick by Brick managed to sell all 14 apartments, despite significant government subsidies to buyers.
And now any “development benefit” from the project, to provide a new public service in the form of a library, has been abandoned.
The building’s fate as a library was actually sealed at the end of 2020 when the council went bankrupt, although it took town hall officials 18 months to move in to offload the surplus into the needs building .
Details on the estate agents’ website state: ‘Pump House is part of a new development of 14 energy efficient one and two bedroom apartments and ground floor retail/leisure.
“The energy-efficient building features green roofs, photovoltaic panels and double-glazed windows to maintain its efficiency.
“The unit is in perfect condition, ready to be furnished by the tenants. There is water, drainage and three-phase electricity connected.
The space is described as 2,658 square feet, for which the owners – who will be Croydon Council – are asking £60,000 in rent a year.
There’s a major snag in finding potential takers for the retail space, as SHW’s blurb reveals: “Next to Aldi…”. This could exclude any other supermarket chain from taking an interest in the site, and thus restrict the number of potential tenants.
This could, indeed, turn into a hard sell. Estate agents fail to mention the dangerous condition of the masonry of the building above…
Read more: Croydon v Croydon: Brick-by-brick building declared a ‘danger’
Read more: Library built by BxB that never opened should now be closed
Read more: Brick by Brick will be pimping for Croydon at the MIPIM junket
Read more: Council sells public green space to Brick by Brick for just £1
Read more: Council set to take £100million hit as it comes to an end brick by brick
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