The question is prompted by today’s announcement that Emma Peters, Croydon’s executive director of planning, regeneration and conservation – estimated salary £140,000 per year – is to leave the council to join the specialist consultancy that offers “professional regeneration services”.
Peters is the second executive director to quit Croydon in recent times, following the departure last July of Dave Hill, who had been executive director of children, young people and learners for barely two years.
Peters and Hill were two of five senior officers in chief executive Jon Rouse’s carefully recruited “top team”.
The timing of Peters’ departure, with so many development schemes in Croydon yet to get underway, seems curious. The official council press release issued today was also unusual in that it lacked any comment and commendation from any leading councillors who will have worked with Peters since she joined the council in 2008. Did none of them have a good way to say for her work?
Prior to Croydon, Peters, a LSE graduate and town planner by profession, had worked at Lewisham and Tower Hamlets, two London boroughs who are already on the client list for RegenFirst, the consultancy she will be joining in May.
Since 2008, Peters had headed up the borough’s department which developed the “masterplans” for central Croydon. One report described her as the “brains” behind the schemes.
“Emma has given Croydon a sharp regeneration focus and has left the town well-positioned to take advantage of the post-recession recovery,” Jon Rouse said in the council’s official statement. Anyone care to suggest what the empty rhetoric “sharp regeneration focus” might mean?
Rouse continued: “Croydon has benefited from her particular expertise and although we are disappointed to be losing her, we fully recognise that she wants to continue specialising in this distinct and rewarding area of work. We wish her well in her new role.”
As an exercise in reading between the lines, the comment attributed to Peters is particularly amusing. According to the council, she found Croydon “a tremendously challenging experience”. No understatement there, we suspect.
Apparently, she also said: “I’m hugely proud of what we’ve achieved in a short time, aligning delivery of regeneration projects with a long term strategy. Croydon has a genuinely exciting future as a result of that work.”
It might be worth noting what was said at the time that Peters’ appointment was announced, when she spoke of “Mayor of London Boris Johnson has earmarked Croydon as a location for towering developments”, and “the £3.5 billion of investment in the pipeline speaks for itself”.
Of course, that £3.5 billion has not quite managed to make it out of the “pipeline” during Peters’ time in office, while just as in Tower Hamlets, megabucks “towering developments” for the benefit of developers, with little note being made of local residents’ needs or views, have been at the top of Croydon’s agenda.