Bridge to Nowhere: US expert asks why contracts not enforced

An artist’s impression of the East Croydon footbridge. It is another Croydon “vision” that is unlikely to ever be fully realised

A senior public architect in New York City has made a thinly veiled criticism of the handling of the £20 million “Bridge to Nowhere” at East Croydon station by local government funding bodies, including Croydon Council, suggesting that they made a fundamental mistake by failing to secure proper contractual demands of the developer of the Menta Tower.

The footbridge, being built by Network Rail with additional funding from Croydon and the Boris Johnson-run Transport for London, may even lack permission from the landowner on the eastern side of the railway tracks, Menta, to build there, thus failing to provide the planners’ hoped for “vital link” from the proposed 54-storey tower block and Addiscombe, to central Croydon.

As first revealed by Inside Croydon, at the start of the month the most senior councillors at the Town Hall were asked for an additional £2.7 million of public funding, to make up for a shortfall caused by Menta refusing to pay its agreed share of the bridge costs.

Undeterred by this set-back and the uncertainty over the future of the bridge – a key element of Croydon CEO Jon Rouse’s “East Croydon Masterplan” – our council submitted its scheme to the prestigious New London Architecture Awards. And won.

One of the award judges was David Burney, the commissioner at New York City’s Department of Design and Construction, and among the most senior architects working for the city.

Contacted by Inside Croydon, Burney outlined the planning system in the United States for similar public projects working with private sector developers: “There would typically be some form of contract that can be enforced in a court of law,” Burney said.

“And if a developer receives public funds, they are often in the form of tax abatements that can be withheld if there is a failure to perform.”

Of course, and as Burney well knows, a comparable system does exist in Britain. It would only fail to work in a similar manner if the local authority had not secured a watertight agreement with the developers before work commenced or planning permission was granted.

Network Rail’s building works at East Croydon station, for the Bridge to Nowhere

For his part, Burney denied that he and his fellow award judges were in any way embarrassed by handing the masterplan prize to a scheme which was so fundamentally flawed in its practical delivery.

“I’m afraid it was not within our purview as design jury to review the feasibility or the probability of the development being implemented,” Burney said.

“Obviously it can happen that design awards are given to projects that, for various reasons, turn out not to be feasible or are not realised for other reasons. On the basis of the information submitted to the jury, the design seemed a bold attempt by a local authority to provide a comprehensive plan and create successful public spaces.

“I’m sorry if it is not working out that way,” he said. He’s not the only one.

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3 Responses to Bridge to Nowhere: US expert asks why contracts not enforced

  1. I’m sorry but I just don’t understand how Croydon councillors keep their jobs. Cock up after cock up and no repercussions.

    If you or I messed up as often as they do, we’d be sacked for negligence or misconduct. Yet if you’re a councillor you can misrepresent figures, (lie in other words – see previous article on our libraries), or delay Freedom of Information because it doesn’t serve their purpose to be too forthcoming.

    Why do we, the people of Croydon, put up with all this ‘ducking and diving’ by our elected representatives? Isn’t it time we stood up and told councillors to get their houses in order? Stop taking all they can get for nothing.

    Wake up Croydon.

  2. You don’t need an expert from the US to tell you this.

    I made the point in my earlier reply that it is fundamental to secure the land or control over it before you start. There are several ways of doing this. If it has not been done then there has been a failure by the “professionals” and potentially significant costs/waste of public money.

  3. I note that wheeler-dealer (or so he thinks) Jon Rouse was involved in this Croydon initiative, which apparently failed to tie up the loose ends properly.

    But the extra cost to the public purse of this cock-up could pale into insignificance compared with the loss we will make on the deal that he and his would-be property developer chums have done in the town centre.

    Does anyone know exactly how much cash-strapped Croydon will receive for the valuable real estate, including the Taberner House site, that Messrs Fisher and Rouse have generously lobbed into the pot on our behalf?

    The fact that the dynamic duo have steadfastly refused to tell us suggests we will only find out once Mr Rouse has moved on to an even better paid job.

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