Coulsdon and Purley show there is a future for the high street

All our yesterdays: Sanderstead as it used to look. And as it pretty much looks today, too

All our yesterdays: Sanderstead as it used to look. And as it pretty much looks today, too

CROYDON COMMENTARY: LEWIS WHITE joins the debate and comments on the future of the borough’s neighbourhood high streets – and whether they have a future at all

Wow! The three comments associated with last week’s article are very thoughtful –and, to my mind, together set out the key issues of today’s town centres, and their future.

I certainly agree with David Fell that the high street is far from dead.

Coulsdon is coming back to life, and has some very successful businesses, some of which are cafes, one of which is a brilliant Gallery with Cafe where you can take your latte in a beautifully crafted body of a red Mini car. There is an electric bicycle shop and of course Dobles, the Mecca for the south London/North Surrey motorcyclist, and a recent addition, a fantastic guitar shop full of beautiful, bargain real guitars.

We have a great butcher, a baker, hardware shop, a pub, two stationers, plus a high street Waitrose and Tesco, and the new town centre Aldi, and many other shops, including an array of hair establishments, some good small resturants, charity shops and take aways, and the Library. In all, a High Street that feels good to be in, particularly where the council has invested in new paving and trees.

Coulsdon High Street: much-improved, according to Lewis White

Coulsdon High Street: much-improved, according to Lewis White

Rod Davies has got it 100per cent right, too, in my view, when he says that the flats above shops are of increasing significance.

It is sad that the owner of Coulsdon’s Deja New antique shop died before he could see the positive transformation his redevelopment scheme has created at the junction of Lion Green Road and Brighton Road. A formerly grim, semi-derelict two-storey building has been transformed into an attractive modern four-storey block of flats, which make a positive architectural impact.

If only the other freeholders on this stretch of Brighton Road, and part of Chipstead Valley Road, would follow his lead – the number of flats created would be around 100.

In my observation, Croydon’s expenditure on improved local town centres is a real investment in the present and future of these places.

Lower Addiscombe shopping area not only looks very good, but now seems to be thriving. The part of Purley with new paving, a year or so later, seems to be much livelier – but the nearby Brighton Road has not yet been repaved, and in truth is a really sad area, dry,  dusty and greasy-looking. After dark it is deserted, and feels bleak in the extreme.

It would be simple to repave the ugly asphalt footways in traditional York stone – I hope that Croydon do this within the next few years. I bet it would bring back trade. People vote with their feet – good landscape does mean good footfall, and good business.

Good shopfronts, decent windows in upper floors – and repainting all make a massive difference too.

The evidence is that if the local authority decides to make a real effort in re-landscaping the town centres with high quality pavings and seating, and the right trees (Wallington is much improved in this way), then the private sector wakes up and does its bit. It takes a year for the public to get used to using the newly attractive area… rediscovering their high street.

Who wants to sit at home alone, when there is a nice coffee, in a sunny cafe in a bustling local high street, waiting to be enjoyed somewhere nearby in a Croydon local “village”?

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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
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