Croydon is crowing about another “award” won by the council. This time it is the East Croydon Masterplan that won the prize from something called the New London Architecture awards.
A “prestigious” panel of judges including David Burney, the commissioner of New York City’s department of design and construction, has managed to hand a gong to a scheme that includes Croydon’s infamous £20 million “Bridge to Nowhere”, the railway station footbridge which may never be completed as intended.
According to our council’s favourite PR spinners, White Label, “The awards celebrate the best schemes in the capital, both built and on the drawing board – temporary and permanent…
“Croydon’s strategic vision for the area surrounding its main Network Rail station” was joint first alongside Olympic Legacy plans, White Label boasted in a press release issued under their Develop Croydon guise.
Yes, loyal reader. The East Croydon Masterplan. The one with the 54-storey Mental Tower that drew massive amounts of local opposition, and may never be built. The plan which includes the Ruskin Square “vision”, where after years of delay there’s been no move towards developing the old coal yard.
And yes, the same East Croydon Masterplan which includes spending £20million of public money on a footbridge at the railway station which cannot link to the Menta side of the tracks.
Given all of that, you would think that the spin doctors at Develop Croydon might at least have tried a bit harder to avoid saying: “The East Croydon Masterplan brings together a variety of developments, including Stanhope Schroder’s Ruskin Square and Menta’s Cherry Orchard Road…”
“Brings together”? Brings together?? With the Bridge to Nowhere? Are you serious?
Laughably, the judges even said that they “particularly admired the … bold way” that Croydon Council had “involved the landowners”. Bold indeed: starting to build a bridge without first getting permission from those landowners to allow them to build on one side of the railway tracks.
Inside Croydon today contacted the organisers of the awards, and they denied that Croydon Council’s status as “partners”, paying a yearly subscription to be part of the NLA organisation, nor the “keynote speech” delivered by Croydon CEO Jon Rouse on the eve of the awards, had any influence on their independent judges.
Peter Murray, the chairman of NLA’s judges panel, told us: “Our understanding is that this bridge is under construction, with full finance in place, and is well on course for completion next year.”
This indicates either the NLA judges failed to consider, or were never properly briefed, on the failings evident with the Bridge to Nowhere.
A week before the NLA awards ceremony, staged over a lush lunch at the Guildhall yesterday, an internal report from Croydon Council called for an additional £2.7 million because Menta has refused to fulfil its financial undertakings given on the scheme just a year ago.
There remains considerable doubt whether the developer will ever let the bridge be completed on its property.
All of which must have been known by Croydon’s CEO Jon Rouse long before the awards lunch and before he delivered his speech on Tuesday evening, in which he highlighted the footbridge’s importance to the masterplan’s vision.
“Our judges’ view was more that this was an excellent masterplan worthy of an award,” Murray said.
“The bridge is clearly an essential part of the plan and as professionals involved in planning areas of city in New York, Paris, Edinburgh and Stockholm, our assessors would understand the sorts of issues you describe which are not unusual in the complex job of stitching together areas in need of regeneration.”
In his speech, Rouse referred to the development paralysis in Croydon, and said it was because the council “had managed to miss three successive economic growth periods because it backed the wrong horses”. Three times.
Croydon will soon have to back another development “horse”, choosing between the early front-runner, Westfield, and its heavily promoted scheme for the Whitgift Centre, or go with Hammerson, who are pointedly promising “something tailored to Croydon, rather than ‘big boxes dumped into retail squares’.”
Let’s hope that “award-winning” Croydon Council can make sure that its decisions in this instance are, unlike the Bridge to Nowhere, all joined up.
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