A war of words has erupted as Croydon campaigners accused council leader Tony Newman of showing them “complete contempt” by sleeping on the job.

The Save Shirley campaign, dedicated to fighting residential building plans in Shirley, clashed with the Croydon Council leader after he left during a meeting on Monday, December 5.

This followed accusations in January during the council’s previous meeting with the campaign that Tony Newman was caught sleeping.

When faced with these accusations, Cllr Newman called them “wholly incorrect” and said the campaign was a “Tory front”.

Dave Greenwood, Save Shirley campaign spokesperson, said: “He fell asleep during the first debate and left during the phase where the public spoke during the last meeting “It is a double smack in the mouth for us. It shows complete contempt for the people who live in Shirley.”

Cllr Newman said: “The Save Shirley campaign statements are 100 per cent factually incorrect. I am not asleep, my eyes were only shut for a few seconds."

In response to the second accusation, Cllr Newman said: “I had to go to the loo for a break and missed one out of eight speeches. In a four and a half hour meeting sometimes you have to go.”

The controversial residential development was part of the Croydon Local Plan, an ambitious 20 year scheme to provide extra housing in the area, improve infrastructure and strengthening local communities.

The plans were agreed upon by the council at the meeting despite the Save Shirley campaign members filling the public gallery to oppose the plans.

The campaigners took issue with the plans specifically for Shirley and took 4,000 signatures to the council opposing the development.

Mr Greenwood said: “We felt Shirley would bear the brunt of the most housing development in the area. They wanted to pull down some homes and build flats which don’t fit the area.”

“We have not been listened to. They said they did enough by the letter of the law to let people know but we don’t feel that is the case at all. They don’t care and they haven’t really demonstrated anything to suggest otherwise.”

Cllr Newman maintained his stance that the campaign was simply a front for Conservatives to get back into power in the council.

Cllr Newman said: “It’s regrettable that the Save Shirley campaign is a Tory front. It’s very sad when on a day that we made a historical decision for Croydon they resorted to petty personal attacks on me that are wholly incorrect.

“But that comes with the job. They let their own campaign down.”

Councillor Alison Butler, deputy leader and cabinet member for homes, regeneration and planning, said: “This is an incredibly exciting time for Croydon as it goes through unprecedented growth. We must ensure that this growth is sustainable and that the whole borough benefits from it.

“I am delighted that so many residents got involved during the consultation period and expressed their views on the proposed submission.

“All comments were considered and have helped us to shape the borough’s future so our neighbourhoods continue to thrive and grow.”