Croydon's Future

Taking stock: Croydon now

These are certainly “interesting times” for Croydon:
    -  Stanhope Schroders is seeking “flexibility” on its Ruskin Square project.
    -  Menta’s revised planning application - for a 54 storey residential tower - is imminent.
    -  High rise residential towers are being built at Saffron Square and IYLO.
    -  Bargain hunting investors have bought Centrale and Lunar/Apollo Houses for remarkably cheap prices.
    -  Press scrutiny of the financial arrangements underlying the new Council offices.
    -  The intensifying squeeze on the Council’s budget.
    -  Public sector job losses – notably the Border Agency (c760 jobs) and Council (c310 jobs).
    - The hope that government departments may be enticed to relocate from central London to Croydon.
    - The departure of Croydon’s Head of Planning & Regeneration.

It appears that some trends are beginning to emerge in Croydon.  “Gazing into the crystal ball” is also helped by a recent study of Croydon’s economic situation by the Centre for Cities.  This note attempts to take stock of where Croydon is now.  A separate note will attempt to predict where Croydon is likely to be in 5 years time - given current trends.

East Croydon footbridge - £20m well spent?

The £20m East Croydon footbridge
East Croydon footbridge
These are hard time for Croydon.  Many of the cuts impose a lot of pain for very modest savings.  Given this austerity, the £20m East Croydon footbridge expenditure to support two developers is surprising.  Despite this £20m of support, the response of the developers has been disappointing.

Croydon’s recent cost cutting includes many valued services that will produce very modest savings.  The closure of 6 libraries would have saved just £0.7m.  The £1.4m of youth services savings will force the closure of many youth clubs.  A total of 41 Croydon charities have lost their entire funding for a saving of just £1.2m.  The closure of the Clocktower and scrapping the Summer Festival will save just £1.5m.  The abolition of the Neighbourhood Partnerships saves a paltry £60k.

The Clocktower and Summer Festival decisions are especially regrettable.  Croydon’s poor image is a real bar to inward investment.  Part of this poor image derives from Croydon’s external perception as a “cultural desert”.  A major theme in marketing Croydon at MIPIM (a property industry conference held in the south of France each year) in 2010 was its cultural provision.  Unfortunately, the recent cuts do great damage to Croydon’s cultural scene.

Given these swinging cuts, it is surprising that £20m is being spent on a rail bridge at East Croydon station linking the Stanhope Schroders and Menta development sites.  Our Council is funding £6m of the cost.  The balance of £14m is provided by Network Rail - a publicly owned company.  The footbridge provides easy access to the station from the two development sites.  The Council therefore argues that this £20m spend makes it more attractive for the two sites to be developed. Despite the uneasiness on this expenditure - as evidenced by it being "called in" for a Scrutiny Committee review, the project was approved on 2 February.