Doubts remain over the viability of the Mental Tower beside East Croydon station, proposed as Britain’s tallest residential block at 55 storeys, but casting a shadow for more than half a mile over the existing low-rise homes of Addiscombe, while described by its supporters as “a once in a lifetime opportunity”.
Scepticism has run deep about the real intentions of Menta, the developers, even since before Croydon Council’s planning committee somewhat supinely rubber-stamped the development’s application. The developers do not appear to have any serious financial backing for the scheme from major bankers.
Local MP, Gavin Barwell, lodged an objection and even suggested that the developers might sell on the site at a significant profit once it had planning permission.
Those doubts have increased since the developers failed to pony up the £2 million contribution that they agreed to provide towards the building of a link bridge across the railway lines to central Croydon and a second entrance for the station. Building of the “Bridge to Nowhere” continues, but it will not be completed on the site of Menta’s “prestige” development, “effectively making its intended use from Cherry Orchard Road defunct”, according to one senior figure at the Town Hall.
Rather than enforce any Section 106 agreement, under which Menta was supposed to deliver a modest (in the overall scheme of things) cash contribution to the cost of the bridge building, Croydon Council and Transport for London have stumped up the missing dosh themselves – public money, of course – to allow the work to continue.
If you check out the developers’ own website, you will see that the pedestrian bridge features prominently throughout, in pictures, in text and even in a video. It is an essential piece of public realm development from which the private developers benefit massively.
Boldly, the developers’ PR spinners speak about the “strategically important development” … “set to anchor the East Croydon Masterplan… as well as major transport and infrastructure improvements”.
But it is telling that the developers’ website says nothing of their own intended contribution in delivering the bridge: “The development will integrate with a new station entrance funded by Network Rail and the Borough at an estimated investment of £20m and due for completion in 2014.”
The bridge has always been an essential part of the overall scheme. In 2010 the development’s architects, Make, said, “Our approach to the landscaping has been fundamental to the design, with 35 per cent of the area given over to the public realm. Significant improvements include the creation of Cherry Orchard Square, a new public space that connects Cherry Orchard Road with a new station entrance and a pedestrian bridge across the rail tracks.”
Inside Croydon sought an update from Make on their plans, specifically the development of Cherry Orchard Square with its publicly funded pedestrian bridge linking to the other side of the railway tracks. What has changed? How were they integrating the public space into the scheme? And what of the bridge’s entrance?
Eventually, after three reminders, we were informed that the scheme was now called “Morello London” – Cherry Orchard Road, geddit? – and provided with the following statement:
“The development team is currently working towards the scheme’s delivery. When implemented the proposals will lead to the lasting regeneration of the East Croydon area, creating new homes and new employment opportunities and a regional destination. We believe it will be one of the finest examples of high-rise living in the UK providing an internationally recognised symbol of place and purpose.”
None of our questions were addressed. Are you any the wiser? Nor us.
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