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Developer hits out over 'slurs' in South Norwood garage row

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A DEVELOPER trying to build flats on the site of a South Norwood garage has spoken out after a 12-year planning battle.

James Groux, of Greathall, has hit back after what he called "derogatory" accusations by Richard Hough, owner of car repair business Autoclutch.

Mr Groux wants to build 11 flats and two retail units on the site he bought in 2002, and started demolition work two weeks ago.

But Mr Hough claimed the work was "unauthorised" and continues to operate out of his garage, which a judge ordered him to vacate by August 29.

Since the initial allegations of the unauthorised work – which Mr Hough also believes contravenes health and safety laws – Croydon Council's planning department has discharged all the conditions on Greathall's planning application.

Starting the development of the site before planning permission ran out on June 22 means Mr Groux will not have to reapply to the council to develop the site.

Mr Groux said: "The council were being very slow discharging these conditions and we were coming up to the expiry date, so when we went on site it was almost to shock them into action.

"It is very rare a developer will start on site after all the conditions have been discharged. The council worked with us over two days to get them discharged."

Mr Groux also accused Mr Hough of aligning himself with the then-ruling Conservative Party to help him win council planning committee decisions.

South Norwood resident Mr Hough will take his battle next to the Court of Appeal, after a judge at Croydon County Court accepted Greathall's piece of case law, citing a 55-year-old ruling.

Mr Groux is confident Greathall, which he says will only break even on the scheme after the expense of achieving planning permission, will have the development completed by late 2015.

He added that Mr Hough did not own the site and had gone back on his agreement to a six-month break clause.

"From the start Mr Hough has been aggressive and when I first saw him he was very abusive," Mr Groux said. "I offered him help to look for somewhere and even some money to leave early.

"I have not reacted before because I did not want to get into a war of words but I need to respond to this picture he has painted."

Mr Hough said: "Why he's brought politics into this, I have no idea.

"I had the Labour Party organiser in South Norwood for 2010, Bernard Brookes, who is still writing letters of objection and supporting me, and there were 600 letters of objection against his application."

Alison Butler, Labour cabinet member for homes and regeneration, said South Norwood was desperately in need of regeneration.

She added: "This has become a political football and everyone knows Mr Hough is a Conservative."

Developer hits out over 'slurs' in South Norwood garage row


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