The £3m South Croydon facelift with no obvious effect

From Monday, July 21, parts of South End will be closed for “essential improvements”, according to Croydon Council. The disruption will last for at least six weeks.

This follows previous lengthy road closures to Aberdeen Road and Southbridge Road as part of the “improvements” work.

This is what the street looks like after some of the “improvements” have been completed:

South End improvements

You’ll notice that the pavement has been extended, and that on the other side of the side road – Spice’s Yard – a bay has been created for car parking.

This has had the effect of eliminating the previous (and often felt to be inadequate) cycle lane. The provision of additional parking bays is intriguing, since Spice’s Yard includes a public car park – though this is land which some might consider to be ripe for “development”.

We asked Croydon Council how they defined “essential”. Their “communications team” failed to respond. They would no doubt equally struggle with determining what constitutes “improvements” in the context of South End.

In total, £3 million-worth of public money is being spent on these “improvements” under this scheme, which was commissioned by the previous Tory administration at Croydon Town Hall. There may be some benefits to the owners of many of the properties along South End and Selsdon Road. The Whitgift Foundation is notable among these property owners.

Sure, the pavement has been re-laid and appears to be smoother and cleaner than what preceded it, at least for now. But the other “improvements” are, in the main, of questionable merit. The three-week closure of access to Southbridge Road was completed with the road widened at the junction by no more than 3in…

The provision of new bike racks? For an area where the previous bicycle lane has been obliterated (at least temporarily)? Is someone having a joke? Certainly, some local cyclists are less than impressed.

Most reasonable people, road-users, cyclists and pedestrians alike, would be sure to put up with some disruption if the end-result was significant and an identifiable improvement. The Croydon Facelift going on along South End has been on-going now for at least four months, and is set to continue at least until November. To what end?


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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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12 Responses to The £3m South Croydon facelift with no obvious effect

  1. davidcallam says:

    Before we spend any more money we don’t have tarting up South End, we need to know what plans, if any, Boris Johnson has to smooth the access and egress to and from Hammersfield.

    South End is a primary route, as is Southbridge Road. It is not inconceivable that there will be a substantial one-way system installed south of Croydon town centre to ease the flow of the anticipated additional traffic attracted by the £1 billion retail investment.

  2. KristianCyc says:

    The only thing remarkable about this scheme is how unremarkable it is.

    If they felt the design of the street was so good so as to rebuild it almost exactly as it was then you’d think the money could better have been spent elsewhere in the borough

  3. Peter Rogers says:

    I notice at the Croydon end they’ve put up a big yellow sign saying something like ‘narrow lanes, don’t overtake cyclists’. As a cyclist I can attest to the fact that big signs do not make motorists more considerate and it certainly doesn’t make me feel any safer as we all try to get into a smaller space than before. It also increases my journey time and, like many others, the amount of weaving in and out of traffic I do which is far from ideal.
    And as for taking away the cycle lane but providing a bike rack I’m sure the council approached that decision using the success that settlers had offering Native Americans beads and blankets as a business model

  4. Jonathan Law says:

    Sometimes I do wish that this blog would put forward some ideas of how things could be improved rather than just tearing into every single little thing without suggesting a better way forward. It’s not that I don’t share the same feelings but I just end up feeling disheartened rather than having a sense that things could be improved. I know that journalism is to just report the facts as the author sees them, but I feel putting forth some ideas as well may lead to where we might push good ideas around rather than just plan escaping a sinking town.

    • Oh dear… Can’t handle the harsh realities? Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. In our view, what with the establishment local paper and the Glee Club, reinforcing the notion of Croydon as some sort of Shangri-la of south London, we are providing some much more grounded balance.

      Maybe you should read Anne Giles?

      The fundamental point is that, with this scheme as with so many others, while a “public consultation” was staged and “positive”, or alternative, ideas put forward, they were all dutifully ignored and the council carried on spending public money with a scheme which appears predicated on delivering more on-street parking to facilitate the development of a nearby car park. At the expense of all else.

      By the way, you should check with Jonny Rose on the correct use of the term “blog”.

      • Jonathan Law says:

        No Steve, I don’t mean the need for a Pollyanna approach, nor resorting to the drivel that Anne Giles spouts. I harbour no delusions about the borough , the asset stripping and selfish mismanagement, and riding roughshod across the interests of the residents and independent traders.
        I merely think that some write off the very important voice that Inside Croydon provides because they see it as an unrelenting stream of criticism , no matter the party in question or subject in hand. I merely suggested that in order to rally some of Croydon’s residents to very important issues it may sometimes help if they felt that collectively they could make a damned bit of difference rather than it all being outside of anyone’s remit.

        As far as the South End scheme goes my biggest bugbear is that youse so few workers busy at any one time it is no wonder that it is taking so damned long. If they doubled the workforce or went at it from sun up till sunset the job could have been finished by now and traders actually start making a sensible business again. It has been a stupidly long time with no buses stopping in this section and it looks set to continue for a good while longer which is hard for residents and traders alike.

    • KristianCyc says:

      Just to add to insidecroydon’s comments…

      This is about a scheme that was given the go ahead by the former administration. There is of course now little point suggesting different ways of doing things to an administration no longer in power.

      Besides, it is of little point making suggestions for improving things for walking, public spaces, cycling, shopping, or public transport when that simply isn’t the priority of the council (or Transport for London). The priority has been the private motor car for years, despite all the good reasons for prioritising other things.

      The Croydon Cycling Campaign proposed 23 schemes before the election to improve things for cycling. The Conservative candidates declined to agree to as little as a feasibility study on any of them.

      Unless there is a set of common priorities for the controlling administration and the readers of Inside Croydon, there can be no constructive engagement between the two. Developing ideas around street design and presenting them takes a lot of effort, far too much effort to do when the councillors won’t even look at it.

      We need Labour to send a strong message that they are prepared to challenge the status quo before we can go back to idea development and presentation.

      • davidcallam says:

        Kristian: May I suggest you put your proposals into a commentary for Inside Croydon, so the rest of us – and the new council – can consider them? Heaven knows the perennial concentration on the motor car isn’t working, so we should consider new ideas.

        • KristianCyc says:

          Are you looking for high level strategy or some detailed proposals?

          Strategy is straightforward enough but I think people quite often like to see concrete examples of how that will manifest itself, and who will be the winners and losers.

          At the moment we are chasing the money. City Hall has made funding available for the so-called “quietway 77″ cycle route (roughly follows old LCN 5 route and will take in Norbury Avenue, The Crescent, Sydenham Road). I could write something about our suggestions for making that into a route that everyone will find attractive to ride.


          Of course, this only creates a small part of what’s needed to create an attractive cycle network that takes everyone who wants to use it where they need to go. One of the more popular journeys is going to be in to the Hammersfield development, and there are so many unknowns about how that is going to manifest itself we can’t possibly make proposals.

          One thing we do know is that London Road will still be a popular destination in its own right and a popular access route to Hammersfield. Yet the previous administration prioritised car parking and access on London Road above conditions for walking, cycling and the smooth flow of the many buses that use that road, at the behest of local traders. I’ve asked our new cabinet member for transport, Kathy Bee, to call in the plans for London Road and change the priorities before we have another South End scheme on our hands, re-doing London Road exactly as it is at present.

          I guess we’ll find out soon if that happens and if it does we’ll draw up some ideas of our own and post them here.

  5. Nick Davies says:

    There’s not much else they could have done if they both wanted to widen the pavements to make it more attractive for pedestrians and still permit the full panoply of motor vehicles and provide on-street parking. You run out of road space to make meaningful provision for bikes.

    However you could quite easily close the road north of the Treehouse to all but buses and taxis, and restrict delivery vehicles appropriately. There are perfectly good alternative ways round.

    With the vast bulk of the traffic out of the way there’s little danger for cyclists bar pedestrians wandering in the middle of the road looking at their phones.

    But I know very well that the moment anything like that is suggested there’ll be howls of anguish from business owners who are convinced their footfall will be devastated if customers can’t park outside the door. My guess is that the consultation, such that there was, couldn’t help but bow to the business lobby and that’s why we’ve got what we’ve got.

    • KristianCyc says:

      This is absolutely how it works. Traders demand the car parking in spite of mounting evidence that replacing car parking with good cycling facilities leads to rises in revenue. More needs to be done to make this economic case and get the traders on board with the switch to sustainable transport.

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