Lloyd Park’s blot on the landscape, and no one’s responsible

Some of the mounting mess at Coombe Farm, in Lloyd Park, which the council has failed to act upon

Some of the mounting mess at Coombe Farm, in Lloyd Park, which the council has failed to act upon

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.

aahomes logoSlowly, 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.

  • Jean UreCroydon 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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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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2 Responses to Lloyd Park’s blot on the landscape, and no one’s responsible

  1. First, let me take issue with Jean about Lloyd Park being the only bright spot in an otherwise squalid borough. We have more public open space than any other London borough and most of it is delightful – from Grange Park in the north to my particular favourite, Happy Valley and Farthing Downs in the south.
    Unfortunately, we have had a succession of councils, Conservative and Labour, who have sold the people of Croydon short, spending eye-watering sums of tax-payers’ money on a series of totally ineffectual PR operations, the net result of which is the sneering ignorance of the man on Jean’s train.
    Like Jean, I am also particularly fond of Lloyd Park; in an area of such dense population it is remarkable to find such a large tract of open land. It says much for the foresight of those who battled to preserve it against short-term interests and much about the myopia of recent council administrations that it is not recognised as a jewel in the crown of south London’s quality of life.
    As for the builder who is despoiling it: here’s another example of enforcement being quietly shelved. I’m not by nature a conspiracy theorist but I am compelled to ask whether the builder is a friend of some councillor or a generous contributor to a political party?

  2. Lewis White says:

    Despoiling land in this way by private or public sector is unacceptable.

    I wonder if planning permission is necessary for change of use from a home to a hostel? I would suggest that the local residents ask for a site meeting with councillors and planning officers, and ask them what can be done and when.

    Enforcement action is possible – get on to the Environment Agency and get a written statement from them. Put your local public servants to work – but please don’t treat them like a public slave. Get your councillors and officers on side – these things take time but unless you do these things properly, you won’t succeed.

    Good luck, and yes, I agree with David Callam that the borough is full of very good parks, which Croydon has invested in, with new playgrounds. The real problem in my view of Croydon is the bleak, minimally landscaped centre, and areas in desperate need of sensitive urban renewal, such as the London Road and slopes of West Croydon.
    I cannot believe for example that the council allowed developers to build blocks of flats right next to the flyover, with no trees between the building and all that pollution (noise and exhaust gasses).

    Unless people get the green message, all we will get in Croydon is “Town Cramming” not proper town planning. Many people will continue to shun Croydon as a place to shop and live, unless the greening of Croydon is seriously taken up by the Council. Croydon’s urban design team are doing a lot of very good work in this area, greening the urban environment and improving the vitality of our town, but it will take a mindset change from developers as well as local government to shift the reality from windswept expanses of dereliction (eg St George’s Walk) to places that people want to visit and linger in. The Landscape Institute – the Chartered body representing landscape architects and their work to protect and improve the UK landscape – has issued a major report in the last two years about Green Infrastructure and Landscape of Housing – worth a good look, showing that good landscapes and profitable development are completely possible: Profitable Places: Why housebuilders invest in landscape (October 2014).

    Croydon can be a place of beauty. It is very sad that the wonderful landscape of chalk hill slopes and the crytalline River Wandle in the valley that existed before the Victorians covered much of Croydon with houses and factories, will never return, but we can take what we have and renew it with greener results. And that does not mean “Greenwash” – but good architecture, good landscape, good houses and flats. They should go together.

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