A church’s 16 year battle to build a larger place of worship in Purley is at the centre of a fight over proposals to build a 16 storey tower in the town.

Purley Baptist Church (PBC) has been trying to redevelop its site on the island between Russell Hill Parade and Banstead Road since 1999 and has worked with several developers in that time.

It wants a larger church than its current one in Brighton Road, with facilities including an auditorium, which can also be used to host community events and business conferences.

Thornsett is the latest developer responsible for trying to make the project happen and will be building housing and shops at the back of the site to make it commercially viable.

But since it took on the scheme in 2011 the council has changed from being controlled by the Conservatives to Labour.

And Pastor Peter Nodding said the council’s policy of making all developments have 30 per cent social housing has affected the scheme.

He said: “We are having a building built for us because we are providing the land.

“It’s a building that will have space for the community, it will be a good size building in that sense.

“The council has always wanted housing and retail [in the development] and more lately because of council policy there has to be more housing as part of that.

“Affordable housing is required.

“It has become a larger development [because of that].”

The developer will also reportedly have to pay £2m to Croydon Council, by way of a community infrastructure levy (CIL), with the money used to fund community projects.

Leading the campaign against the tower is the Conservative party’s Croydon South parliamentary candidate Chris Philp.

He said the site does need developing but said 16 storeys is too high for Purley.

Mr Philp said: “The council is saying it wants the levy and the housing and the £2m and all of these things are a drain on the project.

“If you drop the social housing then you would require fewer private housing units.”

And he said another way of making the building smaller would be asking the council if the £2m CIL could be used as part of the build cost to develop the smaller aspects of the site, instead of being given to the council to use in other projects.

He added: “You could then have a much smaller building and still be viable.

“We are putting pressure on the developer to look again at their plans.

“It’s going to go back to the planning committee for them to look again at the end of April and we urge them to think again.”

He has set up a petition against the tower at surveymonkey.com/r/StopPurleySkyscraper But Croydon Council’s planning committee chairman Councillor Paul Scott said Mr Philp’s suggestions are not an option.

He said there has been no planning application submitted yet but when it comes through it must conform to the council’s policies.

He said: “We appreciate the desire for the church to build the accommodation that they want to serve the church and the wider community but they need to provide affordable housing as part of the scheme.

“The CIL would go to pay for things like the extra doctor surgery provision and road infrastructure, all these things that would be needed to support the housing on the site.”

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