Croydon’s “only a Championship location” says planning chief

As Gavin Barwell once said, Croydon has an image problem.

Busy, busy, busy: White Label's Croydon stand at MIPIM this morning

Busy, busy: White Label’s Croydon stand at MIPIM yesterday morning

Our photograph, taken in Cannes yesterday morning, of the White Label-managed stand at the MIPIM  commercial property trade exhibition, shows that our south London borough is proving less of a hot ticket than the organisers hoped.

Having the borough’s own head of planning suggesting that Croydon is basically only second division when it comes to locations for office space has clearly been a remark well beyond White Label’s limited capabilities as PR spin doctors.

In an interview with a local paper, Mike Kiely, the senior Croydon Council officer attending Marché International des Professionnels d’Immobilier, the week-long property developers’ piss-up in the south of France, actually said something which displayed that he has a grasp on reality.

“We are not in the Premiership. We are not on a par with the Canary Wharfs of this world.

“We are in the Championship so we have to work very hard to create a quality product,” Kiely told the Croydon Guardian. So more Crystal Palace than Manchester United then?

The comments represent a refreshing departure from all the council’s Ministry of Truth bollocks about Croydon being some sort of “new Manhattan”. Remember, Kiely works for an organisation that until about 12 months ago was squandering public money on a futile bid to get city status for Croydon, rather than dealing with the real issues confronting an outer London borough.

In his interview with the local paper, Kiely made much of how attending the MIPIM conference is an essential expense to promote Croydon as a location for business – possibly more so than ever, now that leading employers Nestle, Bank of America and Allders have all departed or closed.

Mike Kiely, Croydon's head of planning: a new realist?

Mike Kiely, Croydon’s head of planning: a new realist?

Kiely says that he and his colleagues flew to the south of France by a low-cost airline and were staying in a modest B&B – Croydon Council has been very sensitive to charges of attending the extravagant, champagne-swilling bun-fight since getting turned over for spending £165,000 to send a delegation to the same conference three years ago.

By 2011, the council’s bill for attending the week-long conference was down to £12,500. There remains, however, a sneaking suspicion that the reason the bulk of the operation is now run by Develop Croydon – managed by the ubiquitous and deeply unimpressive White Label PR agency – is so that it is impossible to discover by Freedom of Information the exact amount of public money being spent on this jolly (Develop Croydon’s own website shows that Croydon Council and CCURV – 50 per cent owned by our council – are among its exhibition sponsors).

“If you are not here then you are not in with a chance,” was Kiely’s rationale for attending MIPIM, one that is at least honest in its assessment of how these things work.

“Property in the UK is not about London,” he said with unusual frankness for a senior Croydon Council executive.

“It is about Zone One.

“It is about the West End and the City. Somewhere like Croydon, which has a fantastic offer, has to work hard,” Kiely said.

Maybe, just maybe, in Croydon’s post-Rouse era, a chink of the light of honesty can be seen.

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1 Response to Croydon’s “only a Championship location” says planning chief

  1. Property developers avoid Croydon like the plague: that’s not news; it’s the sad reality that local authority apparatchiks are finally beginning to acknowledge.

    To extend the football analogy, Croydon Town may reach the championship at some point, if it works hard. At the moment it’s applying for re-election to the Evo-Stick Southern League or something equally lowly.

    Mike Kiely is being wildly optimistic in his assertion that Croydon is only one step down from the Premiership. He seems to have forgotten the pictures of the town in flames that flashed around the world less than two years ago.

    Croydon has become a byword for self-inflicted injury – far more than Tottenham, or Peckham, or anywhere outside Greater London.

    For all Gavin Barwell’s babble, neither he, nor the borough’s other two MPs, nor Croydon Council has done anything to neutralise that shocking image.

    It will be a lengthy process, gradually winning hearts and minds across the borough, the region and the country; so the sooner we start the better. Until we succeed it will be an uphill struggle to sell Croydon to anyone, let alone those hard-nosed property developers.

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