Vandalism in Town Hall, all to “protect” Councillor Fisher

Further confirmation, as if any were needed, of our opinion that the Philistines have truly taken over the asylum.

The photograph above was taken this week in the previously splendidly grand entrance hall to the 115-year-old Grade II-listed Croydon Town Hall.

It shows that the original Victorian marble tiling on the floor, which had lasted more than a century, surviving two world wars, including the Blitz, and even the avaricious ambitions of talentless 1960s architects, has been drilled into and damaged irrevocably.

Had such an act been done on Katharine Street outside the Town Hall or along North End to a similarly cherished piece of what remains of original Croydon architecture, the cry would have gone up, surely, of “Vandals!”

Yet this blatant vandalism was not the work of the “feral youth”. Oh no. This was done on the orders of Croydon Council‘s own leadership.

And all because a visitor managed to walk into the Town Hall and enter the office of Mike Fisher, the leader of the ruling Tory group on the council. At the time of this intrusion, Fisher was not actually present. It is understood that no one was hurt, nor was there even the suggestion of a threat to the well-being of anyone.

Yet the public is in future to be denied access to the Town Hall, with its ornate staircases, pillars and mosaic flooring. Fisher has instructed officers to put up ugly glass and steel barriers at the main entrance. Could he not simply have used a key in the lock to his office door, and saved the Council Tax-payers the obvious expense, as well as avoid damage to a piece of our dwindling local heritage?

When a similar scheme was put up for planning permission in 2008, it was abruptly turned down.

Then, the planning committee ruled: “The proposed security gate system would, by reason of its design, appearance, layout and materials, fail to preserve the special architectural and historic interest of the Grade II Listed Building. As such the proposal would be contrary to Policy UC6 of the Croydon Replacement Unitary Development Plan (the Croydon Plan).” We added the italics for emphasis. It is hard to see how, three years later, similar 21st century gates have managed to overcome planning committee reservations, unless they were acting under strict orders.

Croydon's historic Town Hall: can we expect Colditz-style searchlights, barbed wire and attack dogs to keep Mike Fisher safe in future?

In 2008, Croydon Council was already under Conservative control. The 2011 planning committee comprises a built-in 6-5 Tory majority, the members who are apparently so concerned for The Brave Leader’s security at the expense of the borough’s heritage being chairman David Osland, Jason Perry, Justin Cromie, Clare Hilley, Sue Winborn and Chris Wright. And they call themselves “Conservatives”.

In the past, the entrance hall to Croydon’s Town Hall has been graced by the likes of the then Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, who together with the Princess of Wales opened the building in May 1896. Since then, others who have enjoyed the grand entrance to Croydon have included Queen Elizabeth II, and any other leading figure who has ever visited the borough. Even the hero of Poland’s Solidarnosc movement and Polish President Lech Walesa has visited Croydon Town Hall. More recent visitors have included Boris Johnson and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

In future, any international statesmen or royalty, or even David Cameron’s college drinking buddy or political lick spittle will need to negotiate a security barrier, all for the sake of Mike Fisher’s peace of mind. Whatever next? Colditz-style searchlights, barbed wire and attack dogs patrolling the Clock Tower?

The Town Hall, designed by local architect Charles Henman, was saved from demolition in the 1960s by the campaigning work of Councillor Bob Coatman.

No such rearguard action this time. One local Councillor told Inside Croydon that “apparently, men just turned up and started drilling away at the floor. Staff were just astonished by the desecration”.

Labour councillors have been outraged by the latest piece of self-centred whimsy by Fisher. Labour’s lead on planning, Councillor Paul Scott, said, “I do not understand why Councillor Fisher feels the need to barricade himself into the Town Hall.

“These barriers, that were forced through the planning committee, will only serve to isolate further the Conservative Council from the people they are supposed to serve.”

Of course, anyone responsible for this decision, or who thinks it “A Good Idea”, are always welcome to post their own comments below.

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About insidecroydon

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
This entry was posted in Chris Wright, Clare Hilley, David Osland, History, Jason Perry, Justin Cromie, Mike Fisher, Planning, Sue Winborn and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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