So what have you been reading on Inside Croydon in 2014? Unlike certain Dorking-based publications, we’re not so self-obsessed as to suggest that this is in any way indicative of the BIG (note the unnecessary use of capitals) stories of the year.
But after a year in which nearly 750,000 pages were viewed on this site, it does provide an interesting perspective on what happened in the last 12 months
1, The floods
We were able to publish official, internal memos from Croydon Council as the month-long disaster unfolded across Whyteleafe, Kenley and Purley, with this report on February 6 marking the civic officialdom waking up to what some residents – who had kept records of water levels for the Caterham Bourne for decades – had been warning about for weeks.
And the head teacher at a local primary decided to complain because we had the audacity to refer to the school by the name which it is best known, rather than how her academy would have it branded. Priorities, eh?
Our report stated:
According to official emails, ‘We are now in an official multi-agency gold command situation and the borough emergency control centre (BECC) has been activated.’
The authorities have again considered evacuating children from Roke Primary because of the flooding, while water treatment plants at Kenley and at Purley Oaks are at serious risk to flooding.
Around 25,000 residents served by these facilities in Kenley may have to depend on bottled water and water tankers for several days to come if those works become flooded.
2, The night the police gave up control. Again
Mid-June, and the forces of law and order were again exposed with a failure of intelligence, numbers and equipment. The rave in the ill-secured old Royal Mail building at East Croydon had tragic consequences, with the death of 15-year-old Rio Andrew, whose drink was spiked with ketamine.
Our report focused on the self-righteous commentary offered by the local MP. Who wasn’t actually there.
“For the second time in less than three years, last night the Metropolitan Police was forced to abandon a part of central Croydon to an unruly mob, with officers ordered to withdraw from an area that was unsafe for them as a public order situation got out of control…
According to local MP Gavin Barwell, the police – mostly equipped with nothing more than standard issue stab vests and a truncheon – abandoned any pretence of being able to control the situation when confronted by a crowd of an estimated one thousand rave-goers.
As with the Croydon Riots of August 2011 – when Barwell bravely wrote of how he drove away from central Croydon, anxiously watching the smoke and flames in his rear-view mirror – the MP was not actually at East Croydon last night, but he expressed his gratitude for the updates provided to him by the Met’s under-manned and under-resourced front-line officers.
3, Pride in the past
Stick the word “Spitfire” in a headline, and it’s a surefire hit with the search engines.
That’s been our experience whenever Kenley airfield has had a fly-past, and that was the case in August when plans for two Lancaster bombers and the iconic (yes, it warrants that usage) fighter plane were due to visit. Sadly, the best-laid plans were undone by unhelpful English weather.
4, What we’re not being told about Whitgift
This is a report, first posted on April 8, which continued to draw significant numbers of readers throughout the year. Possibly out of disbelief at the degree of misinformation propagated about the £1 billion Hammersfield redevelopment of the town centre by the powers-that-be.
This is a story which is likely to be front-and-centre of our attention in February, when the legal process over the compulsory purchase of large chunks of the current Whitgift Centre – paid for out of public money on behalf of the Whitgift Foundation’s developers’ interests – will get under way.
The Croydon Council cabinet meeting last night delivered the foregone conclusion of approval of using possibly millions of pounds of public money in compulsory purchase orders, or CPOs, to buy up properties to facilitate the development. The three-year closure of the shopping centre first emerged then.
No one bothered tacking on to the three-year prognosis the words ‘at least’. But it is the nature of these large-scale projects that they over-run, in terms of time as well as costs.
5, Photo-journalism, the Croydon way
Sometimes, the most mundane of observations can reveal a telling point.
This sign was spotted outside a discount clearance shop on St George’s Walk this morning.
Fairfield, in which this shop making this offer is to be found, is the Croydon ward where childhood obesity levels are worst in the borough (according to 2012 figures), where 43 per cent of Year 6 pupils are obese or overweight.
Fairfield also happens to have the greatest density of fast food outlets in Croydon.
In 2010 – four years ago – Croydon Joint Strategic Needs Assessment published a report in which one of its key recommendations was that the council should “… make use of existing planning mechanisms to regulate the numbers of fast food outlets in key locations, such as close to schools”.
Although the report was instigated with the agreement of the Conservative-controlled council cabinet in 2009, Croydon Council has done little, if anything, to implement that recommendation of the report.
6, The cost of state education
This story shows how important leads and information from Inside Croydon’s loyal reader can be. And quite how wicked some of the policies of the Tory-led government can be.
Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, has refused to intervene to prevent Tory-run Croydon Council from charging the parents of children in the borough thousands of pounds per year for what they are entitled to receive free-of-charge under the law: to be taught to read and write.
As Inside Croydon revealed last week, Croydon Council, as the local education authority, has been charging primary school-aged children for their remedial literacy lessons provided at the borough’s specialist centre based alongside Purley Oaks School.
Some parents in the borough are being told they have to pay more than £3,500 a year to the council for their children’s vitally important lessons. Croydon Council says that the charges are compulsory. If the fees are not paid, then the child does not get the lessons they need in the basics of reading and writing.
7, Water, water, everywhere
Flood stories were prominent among the best-read of 2014. This entry also shows the power of submitted material, with a picture special submitted from our loyal reader’s smart phones to illustrate the destruction and chaos caused by the deluge.
Re-visit the article now (by clicking on its headline above) for possibly a timely reminder of how badly the residents and businesses along the Godstone Road were affected.
8, “National disgrace” of sport centre’s neglect
We’ve bent the rules slightly, since this report actually appeared on December 29, 2013.But the exposure of the neglect and disinvestment in the sports facilities at the National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace would presage another important and developing story throughout 2014.
This time last year, we reported:
Barely 18 months after the warm glow of the Olympic flame was cast across the capital, and south London’s athletes arrived at the indoor training centre at Crystal Palace sports centre to find it under two inches of water, and dangerously unusable.
“This is our ‘National Sports Centre’ at Crystal Palace this morning,” one leading coach based at Crystal Palace, John Powell, said yesterday as he forwarded to Inside Croydon the pictures shown here.
“‘National Disgrace’ is nearer the mark.”
Donovan Reid, the Croydon-based coach who in 1984 raced in the Olympic 100 metres final after a winter spent training at the Palace’s indoor area and in its gym and track, said, “It’s a shame this picture doesn’t give you the smell that came with it.”
The flooded training area, with water lapping dangerously around the arena’s electrical power supplies, saw the venue closed to athletes and coaches eager to get back into training after the Christmas break.
9, Lord Olympics and secretive scheme for public park
Perhaps the facilities at Crystal Palace, as reported above, have been deliberately neglected by the authorities?
That was one suggestion 10 months later when Inside Croydon reported exclusively that the former chairman of London’s 2012 Olympics organising committee had a commercial interest in the company which was running a consultation for London Mayor Boris Johnson suggesting that the athletics stadium at Crystal Palace should be demolished.
Our important story was picked up widely, by regional television, national newspapers, and Private Eye.
Further reports on this story showed a link between the “options” for the National Sports Centre and the ZhongRong Group’s scheme, much-favoured by Boris Johnson, to build a replica glass palace on a neighbouring part of the public park.
A key story in 2014, there’s still more to emerge. Much more…
10, The night when everything changed. Not
Gratifyingly, not least because it represented an overnight stint at the keyboard monitoring a range of information feeds, Inside Croydon’s election night coverage was one of the most-read stories on the site in 2014. Tip: read from the bottom to recreate how events unfolded – this live coverage had the latest material added at the top of the article.
Eventually – as the very slow count was poorly staffed and organised – by 9am on the Friday morning, still with several ward results to declare, we packed up confident that our own result declaration, made within minutes of the closing of the polls, was correct.
Labour took control of Croydon Town Hall for the first time since 2006 with a 40 council seats to 30 majority over Mike Fisher’s demoralised Tories.
And what changed…? That’ll be a story we’ll continue to report on in 2015.
We’d like to thank our loyal reader for their massive support over the last 12 months.
Our loyal reader, and we suspect Gavin Barwell, have between them viewed this website nearly three-quarters of a million times since January.
That’s 40 per cent up on site traffic from 2013. Thank you for all the reads, but also for the comments, and especially the emails, articles, commentaries, tip-offs and documents that you have sent through to us which have all contributed to making this a vibrant, much-read and much-noticed website.
Please keep the emails, direct messages and Tweets (@InsideCroydon) coming.
We’ll be back by the weekend with more tales of life from living on the fringes of London.
Here’s wishing you all a healthy and prosperous 2015
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 407,847 page views (Jan-Jun 2014) If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org