How about architecture?
Inside Croydon received a plea recently to provide an “article more balanced than the original” after the new golden facade of part of Whitehorse Manor schools in Thornton Heath got a bit of a beasting in the ever-declining Croydon Sadvertiser.
“It’s an absolute abomination and a disgrace.”
That was the opinion of one person, but that was enough for the local rag to run a story. It must have been a slow news week. Again.
According to Jolyon Roberts, the “joint executive head” of the Pegasus Academy Trust which operates Whitehorse Manor infant and junior schools and Ecclesbourne Primary (the three schools have two “executive headteachers”, plus a “head of school”), neither he nor his colleagues were contacted by the snoozepaper for their comment on the development work going on at the Whitehorse Road site. The work is due for completion before the end of the year.
The piece of opinion that gave the article its impetus came from Richard “Nasty” Hough. The article failed to mention that Hough is a busy activist for the local Conservative party and a failed candidate in local council elections in wards in the north of the borough.
Hough has become notorious as a bit of a rent-a-quote who knows only too well how to get himself into the local papers: a quick phone call to the news desk on the right day, a couple of suitably outraged and often ill-informed comments that can be stuck inside quote marks, and 300 words and an excruciatingly posed picture later, there’s a guaranteed lead story for Page 94…
It is not difficult.
In fact, in these days of much-reduced staffing, local papers will often publish any load of old bollocks just to fill space.
Hough has used this facility for manipulating the local media agenda for more than a decade, as he has fought a single-issue campaign in his own interests, to prevent his shabby-looking garage, Autoclutch, close by Norwood Junction, being demolished to make way for a development of much-needed new homes.
Hough has nagged, protested and lobbied for 12 years, delaying the development while the buildings around his business have been emptied and left derelict. Offers of alternative premises have been ignored and refused, all for the local Conservative party member to stand in the way of progress.
This week, Hough received notice to vacate the area outside his garage to allow the owners of the neighbouring properties to secure them. Hey presto, Hough’s back in the papers.
Hough is pictured in the latest edition of the Croydon Guardian outside his Autoclutch garage building. Nice, it isn’t. An eyesore in the opinion of many.
An absolute abomination and a disgrace, some might suggest.
Anyway, back to the aesthetics of the school buildings.
Jolyon Roberts was very concerned that the coverage in the Sadvertiser was overwhelmingly negative.”It was quite disheartening,” he said.
“We believe that there is no more lazy a stereotype than ‘all modern architecture is rubbish’.
“The inconvenient truth is that there was plenty of opportunity to register a complaint about the design during the planning phases and nobody did so. This project was scrutinised by the planning committee at Croydon Council, the urban design team, as well as officers of the education department.” Does this tell us an inconvenient truth about how the planning process is handled by Croydon Council?
According to Roberts, the Sadvertiser failed to attend the formal opening of the new building. Too long a journey from the editorial offices in Dorking, perhaps?
The £5 million development will help to provide a new nursery and seven new classrooms – all double glazed, acoustically designed and eco-friendly; there are also seven refurbished classrooms and an expanded hall.
There is also an admin block at the centre of the school; facilities for special educational needs pupils, including a lift; wi-fi (whatever that is) throughout the site; and new cooking and serving facilities for school dinners.
All of which seems to be good. It is also worth noting that the facade has replaced a 1950s concrete hall and kitchens built in 1981. But the golden spaceship appears to have landed right next to the original, locally listed school buildings, which date back 120 years.
“It is a tribute to the architect and the design team that they have managed to build so much additional space without significantly enlarging the ‘footprint’ of the schools,” Roberts said in a notice to parents.
Thing is, though, and this is not often heard said in Inside Croydon Towers, “Nasty” Hough and the Sadvertiser may actually have a point. The new building is utterly unsympathetic to its surroundings. Doubtless, the good people of Thornton Heath may grow accustomed to it in time. But will they ever truly like it?
So, to offer Roberts and his hard-working team at the school the “balance” that they crave, we’re offering Inside Croydon’s loyal reader the chance to express their view…
Coming to Croydon
- The Railway Children: Oct 30-Nov 2
- Behind the Candelabra: Nov 4
- Frankenstein’s Travelling Freakshow: Nov 5-8
- Poppy Cafe, Coulsdon, re-opening: Nov 9
- The Kings of Summer: Nov 11
- St Giles School open morning: Nov 13
- Secret Love at the Ashcroft Theatre: Nov 14
- Summer in February: Nov 18
- Much Ado About Nothing: Nov 25
- Future Tech City: Nov 30
- Comedy in Music show: Dec 1
- Steve Knightly at Stanley Halls: Feb 5
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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