Get your hard hat on: central Croydon is about to be closed

Road closedCentral Croydon looks like it is going to be a ghost town for a couple of years, as its two flagship attractions, the Whitgift Centre and Fairfield Halls, are both closed for redevelopment at the same time.

The temporary closure of the Fairfield Halls was announced late last night by Croydon’s Labour-run Council, as it revealed its “ambitious” (yawn) plans for College Green and the surrounding area.

Tellingly, the council omitted to provide any timescales for the redevelopment process or the price tag. The Tory opposition on the council was quick to suggest that this will be a cut-price scheme, with much less than the £34 million earmarked last year for the long-delayed and much-overdue Fairfield Halls redevelopment to be spent.

In the absence of any firm detail, the council leader, Tony Newman, resorted to his usual hackneyed cliche: “These visionary plans will put the borough well and truly on the cultural map,” the council press office had him saying, although if the Town Hall’s sketch map (possibly drawn in the lunch break by a Year 6 pupil) is all that we have to go on, then it really ain’t much of a map at all.

Cultural Quarter drawing

The “map” provided by the council with its last paper on the redevelopment of the “Cultural Quarter”. Details are getting sketchier by the day

Typically, from a Town Hall where council officials make all the key decisions, the press release was issued before the majority of our elected councilors in the ruling Labour group had been briefed.

“The first phase of the plans would see the construction of a start[sic]-of-the-art college, bringing new facilities for all of Croydon College’s faculties including for the renowned school of art, on the Barclay Road Annex site,” the council press release states.

Fairfield Halls: will the council need a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to meet the redevelopment costs?

Fairfield Halls: will the council need a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to meet the redevelopment costs?

“Complementing this, the neighbouring Fairfield Halls will be transformed into a modern concert and events venue, designed to attract world-class acts and become the focal point for Croydon’s creative and cultural scene.

“The venue’s 1,800-seat Concert Hall will retain its acoustic integrity, but will be fully refurbished to include new seating and modernised backstage and servicing areas. The rest of the 1962 building, including the 755-seat Ashcroft Theatre, will be refurbished to contain flexible performance and arts spaces.”

And while all this happens, it seems that anyone in central Croydon will need to don a hard hard and wear a hi-viz vest.

Given the plans for the Whitgift Centre, just across Croydon’s six-lane urban motorway, is to be closed for at least three years once Westfield and Hammerson begin their £1 billion supermall work next year, what is surprising is that the council has opted to have the Fairfield Halls closed at the same time.

“To allow this transformation to take place, Fairfield Halls will be closed for the duration of the redevelopment,” the council press release states, unhelpfully failing to offer a start date or likely duration.

Redevelopment of the Fairfield Halls has been promised – but never delivered – by the then Conservative-run council since 2006. The venue, which used to rival most in the south of England, has suffered from disinvestment and become tired and run-down, its performance offer looking as out-dated as Tony Newman’s cliches.

The new-look plans for the Fairfield will clearly borrow much from the successful recent re-configuration of the Festival Hall on the South Bank.

The intention is to break down the Halls’ almost isolated status, on an island surrounded by busy roads, and make it far more a part of its surroundings, linking through Croydon College to East Croydon Station and the rest of the town centre. “A new mezzanine-level restaurant is also planned, alongside bar and seating areas on the ground floor leading to outside areas on the transformed College Green public square,” we are promised.

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Timothy Godfrey: “breathe new life”

Significantly, “The project team includes Rick Mather Architects, a practice known for its work on the Royal Festival Hall in central London and the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith”.

Timothy Godfrey, Labour’s cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, is supposed to have said: “This will bring about a cultural renaissance in Croydon, breathe new life into Fairfield Halls and transform College Green into a thriving quarter where people want to go out in their free time.” Godfrey has also been a long-time Fairfield Halls trustee.

The council’s plans for the area were first announced just over a year ago. Thirteen months on, the sketch map details have not been fleshed out any further in last night’s announcement, nor has the council revealed how – at a time of massive cuts in local authority grant – they might be paid for. While the council’s head of planning, Jo Negrini, has been able to outline her “vision” in various estate agent-like speeches, it seems no one has yet identified who’s to pick up the bills.

Having failed to flog-off parts of the vastly over-priced Fisher’s Folly council offices to Roehampton University, Croydon Council may be pinning its hopes that development of  College Green will underpin the overall viability of the project.

The council release states: “The wider plans for College Green will see the construction of hundreds of new homes…” note the studied imprecision over figures once more… “of a mix of tenures and new shops and restaurants.” The council’s statement fails to mention that across the road from all this is to be the £1billion Hammersfield supermall, full of… new shops and restaurants.

“As well as providing state-of-the-art facilities for our staff and students, we hope that this would provide an incentive for other higher education institutions to open in the area to further complement our offer,” said the ever-hopeful Frances Wadsworth, the College’s chief exec.

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
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2 Responses to Get your hard hat on: central Croydon is about to be closed

  1. sed30 says:

    Reblogged this on sed30's Blog and commented:
    It’s a ghost town already in some parts

  2. veeanne2015 says:

    Wellesley Road will also be half-closed thanks to Westfield and Tram Loop plans.

    New/altered traffic lights and sequences –
    Removal of traffic lights at U-turn just north of Bedford Park.
    New/altered traffic lights/sequence in Poplar Walk for 2-way traffic.
    Altered traffic light sequences in Wellesley Road (east side) to let vehicles cross into Poplar Walk.
    New traffic lights for pedestrian crossing replacing subway at Poplar Walk/Bedford Park.
    New traffic lights for pedestrian crossing replacing subway at Lansdowne Road/Westfield.
    Altered traffic lights at Lansdowne Road for removal of east-bound lane.
    New traffic lights in Wellesley Road just north of underpass exit, stopping both surface and underpass traffic, to let vehicles in/out of Westfield.
    New traffic lights stopping surface vehicles on east side of Wellesley Road to let Westfield vehicles cross and go into underpass.
    New traffic lights at George Street/Dingwall Road junction to let tram cross pedestrian crossing and pavement to turn into Dingwall Road.
    Altered traffic lights sequence in George Street to stop vehicles turning into Dingwall Road at the same time.

    All the roadworks associated with the above, and all the other road alterations that will partially close Wellesley Road, Lansdowne Road, Dingwall Road and George Street (east).

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