Croydon’s Grand Design
I understand that the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, has earmarked Croydon as being the epicentre for his plans to create 17,000 plus new homes over the next few years.
We, the residents of Croydon, will be treated to the site of thrusting skyscrapers some 15-20 storeys high (one is expected to 40 storeys high); penetrating the skyline by the year 2015.
Well, in principle, if the buildings were; well designed, thoughtfully located and in harmony with the rest of the environment that would be a noble idea. It would ease the housing shortage in the Southeast, and add value to the local economy.
However, I am a tad cynical about this brave new vision for Croydon. The reasons for my cynicism can be summarised as follows:
· Mayor Ken is shortly to be standing for re-election this year, as Mayor of London. He needs a few headlines to launch his re-election campaign; mega skyscrapers in Croydon provide such a headline.
· Those of you with long memories may recall an exhibition held near the Fairfield Hall in the early 1990’s. This was to showcase proposed designs for a “brave, new Croydon”. We were treated to stunning models and drawings showing; glass walkways, communal gardens and elegant office/residential tower blocks.
It is now 2004. Have any of these bold plans come to fruition, NO!
· In 200/2001 the Allders shopping mall had an exhibition showing another “brave, new Croydon”. This came complete with scale plastic models, video displays, glossy brochures and attractive “hostesses”; all designed to show the long suffering residents of the borough what the future had in store for them.
However, no one could ever answer the simple question: “When will these buildings be erected?” Have these plans come to fruition, NO! The exhibition has been quietly removed, as though it never existed.
· As my “Named and Shamed” section shows, there are many areas of Croydon that have been neglected for some years; without the hint of action being taken to rectify the decay and squalor. If the Council are incapable of cleaning up the current mess, are they really capable of handling major construction work envisaged by Mayor Ken?
· Croydon has been called a mini Manhattan, this is a sad misnomer. Manhattan has strict planning and building laws that ensure that architects’ and politicians’ egos do not blight the landscape. By way of example, “new builds” in Manhattan are required to allocate a percentage of ground space for public use by providing; seating, gardens and water features…do any of the office blocks in Croydon do that?
· How much will this cost, who will be paying for it and will the infrastructure of Croydon cope? East Croydon station seems to have a hard enough time at the moment coping with the daily commute; I doubt that it is up to coping with the proposed population increase.
In short, I do not believe that the politicians are capable of managing a long-term project of this scale. The plans will change, the costs will overrun and the residents of Croydon will be left to endure the mess left behind.