During the recent parking debates, we were struck by how council officials referred to the “the City House problems”. In brief, a large commercial housing development is given planning permission by the council, with little thought or provision for parking or other amenities in the area.
Our understanding is that under the planning conditions, City House residents are not allowed to apply for on-street parking permits. The development includes some underground parking spaces which residents can reserve, at a cool £1,000 or so per year. Surprise, surprise, most don’t, preferring to take their chances with their cars on the neighbouring streets.
Thus the “City House problems” in parking have been entirely created by a failure of Croydon Council’s own planning department.
But it will be long-standing local businesses and residents who carry the consequences if unwanted, unnecessary 8am to midnight, seven-night-a-week restrictions are imposed.
Yet this could be just the start. Remember, this council is committed to further major developments of high-density flats and apartments in and around central Croydon.
At the “Mid Croydon” development “consultation” staged before Christmas, our “spatial planners” were laying out their lovingly crafted designs.
There is no question that parts of the area are overdue for an overhaul: St George’s Walk has been the subject of “developer blight” once commercial development plans for another Whitgift/Centrale Centre collapsed.
So: Something Must Be Done. And here were the council’s best, considered thoughts on the subject, including a load of family homes in the centre of Croydon, where St George’s Walk is now.
“How many?” we asked one of the planners there overseeing the pretty maps, diagrams and drawings of various designs of bollards and paving stones.
“We don’t know yet.”
“OK. What sort of homes? Two-, three-bedrooms?” we asked.
“We haven’t decided yet.”
“Oh,” we look towards some of the outline schemes pinned to boards in the exhibition. “But it says up there they will be ‘family homes’.”
Nervous laughter. “Oh yes, so it does.”
We look outside the exhibition and towards the licensed bars and clubs, some opposite the St George’s Walk site. We think of the noise and disturbance long into the nights on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, of the congealed pools of vomit on the streets in the mornings, or the men who piss in the doorways in the early hours.
“So what sort of families would want to live there then?” we ask.
We are talking to someone who appears to be a recent architecture or planning graduate. They are in their early 20s, from their accent possibly German, maybe in their first job. A triumph of idealism over reality.
The council planner expressed his employers’ view that this particular development was something that was sure to appeal to lots of families, because they would be close to North End shops, Fairfield Hall and East Croydon station.
“But what about schools? Or Parks? Or Doctors?”
“Aaaah…” a smile and a blank expression accompanied a shrug.
“Would they be private flats, or would it be used for social housing?” we ask, the implication being: high-priced two-bed Yuppie flats, or would they become a council housing dumping ground, homes offered to those who had no choice?
“We don’t know that yet.” As blank canvases go, this consultation was proving blanker than might have been expected.
We looked at the mock-up picture from the Brunswick Centre, the residential flats in central London, showing a pedestrianised area, leafy trees, people sitting on a bench reading a book. The intention of the Croydon designers was clearly to suggest that this ridiculously idealised vision could be brought south of the river, ignoring the reality of the Brunswick, which on most dark, wet winter evenings, is a pedestrian no-go zone, strewn with litter and dog mess.
We get back to the specifics of the plans for Croydon and these new homes on St George’s Walk. “And what car parking provision will there be?”
Now came the killer answer: “Oh, none at all.
“The people living here won’t need cars because they can walk to the shops…”
And these are the people are drawing up nice schemes and maps for the future of Croydon, and Croydon people. Good luck everyone.