Croydon Council could end up spending yet more money on the Fairfield Halls refurbishment

By Tara O’Connor, local democracy reporter

Croydon Council could need to shell out more money on “remedial works” for the Fairfield Halls project.

The refurbishment of the arts centre as well as a car park and public domain works cost £69 million which was originally set to be covered by the building of 400 homes on land next to the venue.

In February, Croydon Council decided not to transfer this land, known as the College Green site, over to Brick by Brick, the council-owned developer.

And this month, the council made the decision to move £69.2 million, loaned to Brick by Brick for the development, to capital expenditure – essentially wiping out the loan.

At a scrutiny meeting last night (Thursday, May 27), the council’s director of finance, Chris Buss, said that work is currently underway to find out whether more work needs to be carried out on Fairfield Halls.

It reopened in September 2019 after being closed for refurbishment for two years.

The council has appointed specialist surveyors to see whether any additional works need to be carried out on the building.

Mr Buss said: “The council’s operator has said that there are areas they are still not happy with.

“We have consultants who are experts in this arena, and are getting a full survey to make sure that if there are items that haven’t been done, we have contractors that can do this.”

When asked by councillor Robert Ward where money for potential “remedial works” would come from Mr Buss said the council would pay.

On May 17 as well as moving the £69m from loan to expenditure, the cabinet agreed to loan Brick by Brick another £10 million if it is needed as it continues to build on plans set to be completed by October – this is on top of 9.99 million agreed by cabinet in February.

It also approved buying 104 homes from Brick by Brick using the council’s Housing Revenue Account (HRA) to be used for social housing.

These decisions were called in by the council’s Conservative opposition to be debated.

Cllr Ward said: “The council got into unprecedented difficulties and Brick by Brick was a significant factor. The public is angry and they want to know what happened and who will be held accountable.

“Commitments to openness have not been matched by action.”

He added that he is concerned that if Brick by Brick is sold off questions about what went on with the company will remain unanswered.

It is thought that Manchester-based company Urban Splash could buy the development company including its assets and development pipeline.

Croydon – South London News