Best-selling author and Lloyd Park dog-walker JEAN URE on how Croydon doesn’t help itself over its shabby reputation
So I’m on a crowded train approaching East Croydon when a lippy young girl with a Croydon facelift falls foul of an older man with strangulated vowels and a pin-stripe suit. Dunno what it’s all about but she’s giving him quite a mouthful. We reach destination and girl exits train. Pin stripe can’t resist: “I might have known you’d be headed for Croydon!”
The sneer is unmistakable. I exit the train myself, feeling indelibly marked as a denizen.
There is no doubt about it, Croydon – or Croynge, as we denizens sometimes refer to it – has a bad reputation. Seedy, soulless, a monument to Mammon. Is it deserved? Well, yes, reluctantly I have to concede that for the most part it is.
No two ways about it, Croynge is not a place of beauty. It does, however, have one very bright jewel in its crown, and that is Lloyd Park, an open space beloved of walkers, runners and dog owners for generations.
Within Lloyd Park we have Coombe Farm, parts of which date back to the 16th century. The large and magnificent house stands in its own grounds, which up until about 10 years ago, when the Farm was in use as a home for residents with cerebral palsy, were always maintained in excellent condition. The property was then sold to a Dr Anwar Ansari, whose company, AA Homes, now uses it as a hostel for homeless people often from other London boroughs.
Slowly, over the past few years the grounds have been allowed to become derelict, until currently they are nothing but a mound of noxious squalor comprising builders’ rubble, old containers and rusting cars. Try ringing AA Homes and politely inquiring if they have any intention of clearing the site and you are fobbed off with the excuse that, “We are renovating.”
Ring again a month later to inquire as to progress and to complain that the squalor is increasing and that users of Lloyd Park are becoming not only concerned at the health hazards but also extremely angry at the destruction of a once pleasant environment, and a patronising woman, as if speaking to someone suffering mental derangement, says, “I can hear you’re very emotional about it.” You’d better believe it! They have now haphazardly slung sheets of blue plastic about the place in an effort to hide the squalor.
And what of Croydon Council? Well, we all know that trying to reach them by phone is a nightmare, and that emails often tend not to be answered, but in this case I have to say that initially the council did respond, did seem concerned, did inspect the site, did take photographs, and did assure us that an enforcement order was being applied for. That was months ago. Since then – nothing.
We are merely thanked for our forbearance, and there now seems to be serious doubt, since Coombe Farm is private property, albeit within the confines of Lloyd Park, that anything can be done to solve this hideous problem unless fly-tipping can be proved.
But hang about! There would appear to be a contradiction here. If it is fly-tipping, it is fly-tipping on private property; and since the owners of said private property obviously have no intention of doing anything about it, and for all we know might even be profiting by it, where does this leave us?
Croydon may talk the talk – Don’t mess with Croydon! – but when it comes to actually taking any action they are obviously quite useless. It seems that AA Homes can mess with one of Croydon’s brightest jewels as much as they like and get away with it.
- Croydon resident Jean Ure wrote her first book when she was still at school, and she has since had more than 170 books published, many of them for teenagers, making her among the country’s best-known writers along with Jacqueline Wilson and JK Rowling
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