By Steven Downes, Editor, Inside Croydon
Grey Label, the PR agency of choice of Croydon Council, has banned Inside Croydon from attending the property speculators love-in that they are “organising” at the Fairfield Halls today.
This will be the sixth annual Develop Croydon Conference. Presumably no one will mention that it will be at least the 11th annual conference before they will be able to use a venue within the much-delayed Hammersfield supermall.
Nor would it be polite to mention that, with the enforced closure of the Fairfield Halls, Grey Label won’t be staging the seventh, eighth or maybe even ninth annual conferences in and around the foyer of the venerable old arts complex.
Today’s conference features all the usual suspects. Jo Negrini, the Croydon Council director who has loaned £3 million of public cash to Boozepark to lure them into the borough, will be there, doubtless cosying up to Develop Croydon’s chairman Richard Plant, the agent who oversees the management of the Whitgift Foundation’s multi-million-pound estate. And if Steve Yewman, the development director at Westfield, says “jump” during the proceedings, Croydon council leader Tony Newman will be asking, “How high?”
Unlike previous years, Boris Johnson, the Tory Mayor of London who has used his office to help various land-owners in Croydon get their way, won’t be there to add a little star dust today. Instead, it’s the third or maybe fourth banana from City Hall, dear old Eddie Lister, another Tory, to make the suitably encouraging “You’re all doing very well” opening speech.
For a mere £420 (including VAT), anyone can jog along as a delegate to discover what exciting plans the Whitgift Foundation (its chief executive, Martin Corney, is another speaker) and their “partners” have in mind for our borough, with special lunchtime “investor tours” , which are apparently “sponsored” by Stiles Harold Williams, the aforementioned Plant’s firm of estate agents.
Did we mention that it is all a little cosy?
And to round things off, there’s a two-hour drinks reception at the end, all paid for by Westfield and Hammerson. Hearts of gold, all of ‘em.
The delegate price tag ought to be enough to keep the riff-raff out – such as small traders who continue to struggle on in the borough without the lavish care and attention offered by the council hierarchy towards anyone waving a wad of cash and offering to build another tower block. Community groups, too, are deliberately priced out of attending an event to hear discussions between elected councillors and public officials about what’s coming to a street near them.
And there probably won’t be many ordinary Council Tax-paying residents attending, despite their interest in discovering what’s next in the great Croydon Carve-up.
If you require any further convincing that this is all a bit of a lash-up for the developers and speculators, take a look at this piece of jargon-laden bullshit from Grey Label’s most inept of copy-writers: “Join your peers…” yes, doesn’t that just drip with entitlement? “…on November 18 at Fairfield Halls, Croydon, itself a regeneration model…” Ha! “… to hear new insights from architects, place shapers, policy makers, practitioners, regeneration experts and developers on how to create successful places and the opportunities that presents.”
Ahhh. “… the opportunities that presents”. You can imagine the dollar signs spinning in the eyes of the wideboys now.
“Participate in the debates as well as the dedicated networking time in order to explore the investment opportunities being created as the capital’s biggest borough leads the way in outer London regeneration.” There’s a factual error in that last sentence, too, but hey…
In the interests of proper independent journalism, Inside Croydon applied for a press pass. The response we got from Grey Label was laughable: they do not recognise that we exist, because this website (the clue’s in the word) is not registered with the Newspaper Society (there’s a clue there, too).
Jonathan Swift would have struggled to better the inherent satire: a non-newspaper publication is not registered with the Newspaper Society, and therefore does not exist. No matter for Grey Label that the Newspaper Society no longer exists either.
In the interests of openness and transparency, we brought the matter to the attention of the council leader. Tony Newman never replied to our appeal.
Anyone would think that the people who run Grey Label don’t want us to be there – which would have nothing to do with the company’s founders having both previously worked for local newspapers, of course.
Or maybe they just don’t fancy a truly objective view of their event, in case someone portrays it as just another Glee Club rally staged for the benefit of vested interests.
Thing is, I started my own career in local papers with a ban from Millwall’s dirty Den (my paper got banned because my predecessor sports editor got a story which showed the club management in a bad light… It wasn’t difficult). That ban never stopped me getting into the ground at Cold Blow Lane to do my job then, and after a career including some award-winning journalism for, among others, Channel 4 News, Reuters and the Sunday Times, the attempts of a parochial PR agency to pretend that Inside Croydon does not exist in order to keep independent journalists away from the Fairfield Halls today will be just as ineffective.
Indeed: maybe I could meet up with Inside Croydon‘s loyal reader to discuss Tony Newman’s newly “open and transparent” council over a glass of lukewarm Hammersfield plonk after we gatecrash the Glee Club love-in…
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