CROYDON COMMENTARY: According to senior sources at the Town Hall, the scheme to convert the Grade II-listed Segas House into a primary school, the brainchild during the previous Tory council of Tim Pollard, has been abandoned because the building would cost too much to convert.
DAVID CALLAM puts forward another idea for what he suggests is no more than “a useless carbuncle”
Segas House stands on the corner of Park Lane and Katharine Street in central Croydon. Is it an architectural gem, an outstanding example of the Art Deco movement? Or is it a useless carbuncle?
Any suggestion that it might not be one of Croydon’s treasures will immediately raise hackles among those who want to preserve any structure, no matter how unprepossessing, that pre-dates the 1950s town centre building boom.
I understand and agree with the affection in which the Town Hall is held, or the Whitgift Almshouses, even the North End frontage of Allders: all three are assets to the town, as are many – but definitely not all – the building frontages in North End.
I believe Westfield’s plan to replace the bad ones, like pulling diseased teeth, will improve the streetscape substantially.
Segas House is unremarkable to look at. I understand it excites architects because its steel frame, built in 1939-1941, is of the type used to build New York skyscrapers. Call me a Philistine, but I think that’s a pretty flimsy reason for letting it stand, empty and decaying, on a prime town centre site.
Not that I’m championing many of the later buildings in the town centre. Stand with your back to Segas House and look around: the Fairfield is box-like and boring compared with a traditional theatre, indeed, a stranger might not recognise it as a place of entertainment at all; Croydon College, even with its new space-pod frontage, is another example of municipal also-ran; while Norfolk and Suffolk Houses are distinctly dull and long overdue for demolition.
Apparently the free school proposal for Segas House has been booted, with Jonny Wilkinson accuracy, well down the field and into touch. The idea of a playground on the roof seemed a bit desperate, to say nothing of the potential traffic chaos to be caused by doting parents clogging up Park Lane with their Kensington tractors twice a day as they deposit or collect their over-indulged offspring.
So, what can we do with it?
Maybe we could offer it to Roehampton University for its Croydon campus. The council has been trying to persuade the university to rent space in Bernard Weatherill House, its £220 million white elephant headquarters in Mint Walk, to help defray running costs.
The university, I am told, has been blowing hot and cold on that idea (perhaps a negotiating technique), but could they be persuaded instead to move into a stand-alone, inter-war pile in a convenient location, just a short walk from East Croydon station? That assumes Segas House doesn’t suffer from the same problem that blights so many of Croydon’s commercial buildings: that there is not enough room between the floors to run the bundles of cables now required to feed the banks of electronic equipment that are such an essential part of any modern enterprise.
The more I think about it, the less able I am to come up with a useful purpose for this mediocre hangover from a bygone age. Personally, I think the Segas House site would be better occupied by a modern building.
As a vacant site, with planning permission for a tall tower of offices or flats, Croydon Council could sell it to one of its property-developer chums for a good price that might help to defray the huge debts run up by Mike Fisher and his spiv Tory friends in Croydon’s previous spendthrift administration.
Coming to Croydon
- David Lean Cinema: Grand Central, Oct 14
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- David Lean Cinema: Finding Vivian Maier, Oct 16
- 21st annual Croydon and Sutton Beer Festival, Oct 16-18
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Oct 18
- South Croydon business breakfast, Oct 18
- Purley War Memorial Hospital health fair, Oct 18
- Maya Angelou tribute concert, Fairfield Halls, Oct 18
- St John’s, Shirley, charity concert, Oct 19
- David Lean Cinema: Mood Indigo, Oct 23
- This Was The World and I Was King, Spread Eagle, Oct 23-25
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, 2.30pm, Oct 25
- David Lean Cinema: Ilo Ilo, Oct 28
- CODA’s Wind In The Willows, Charles Cryer, Carshalton, Oct 29-Nov 1
- David Lean Cinema: Belle, Oct 30
- NHS free health fair, Central Parade, New Addington, Oct 31
- MOPAC policing meeting, Surrey Street, Nov 4
- St Giles School opening morning, Nov 5
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- Coulsdon Yulefest, Dec 6-7
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
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