Dis-Connected Croydon, that multi-million-pound scheme which has already left a trail of uneven paving, narrowed or closed cycle lanes and park benches conveniently placed near to open-all-hours off licences around the borough, is about to find more ways of spending lots of money to achieve very little, this time in South Norwood.
In this case, there’s £1.65million about to be spent on some new kerbs and wonky pavements.
A public drop-in event about the proposed “South Norwood street improvements” (ha!) is being staged this Saturday, December 5.
The PR puffery for the meeting states: “We are significantly improving South Norwood.” Note that: significantly. Indeed.
“There are plans to improve the street scene of South Norwood in a series of phases, concentrating on areas that have been chosen by you,” they say. And then the reality: “The council has been drawing up proposals for areas in South Norwood based on the information gathered through consultation events that occurred earlier this year, where local people came together and told us what they would like to see in South Norwood…” Any one of the dozen bookmakers in Thornton Heath would offer you very short odds that the outcome of this con-consultation was very similar to what the council planned in the first place.
“… and which key areas to focus on for this £1.65 million project.”
Just think about that figure. What are they going to spend it on, gold-plated drain hole covers?
“A great emphasis has been placed on creating generous and high quality public spaces that have a real identity that relates to South Norwood.” Yeah. A real identity. Not like the bogus identity which South Norwood has been labouring under all these years till now.
And according to Alison Butler, Labour’s deputy leader on the council, it would appear to be a new identity, too. “I’m so pleased that residents and local business have really got behind this project and helped us shape the plans to transform their area.”
Help us. To transform. Their area. How utterly patronising does that sound?
Of course, this is all part of a scheme dreamt up under the previous, Conservative administration at the Town Hall, aided by millions from Transport for London under Tory Mayor Boris Johnson.
This must be the sort of “continuity” which council leader Tony Newman spoke about when he confirmed the appointment of Nathan Elvery as the council’s CEO, to enable him to continue to apply previous Tory policy.
South Norwood residents might wish to examine the experiences of business owners and residents in the previous areas where this scheme was rolled out, such as South End and along George Street in central Croydon.
They endured months of road diversions, a decline in footfall for traders and shop-keepers, lengthy over-runs in the scheduled works, drains blocked, access to utilities – gas and electric – cut-off forcing the roads and pavements to be dug up a second time… And an overall finish which would be unacceptable in a third world backwater.
For what? Cosmetic “improvements” which are unnoticed and, actually, non-transformational?
It also ought to be noted that, in South End, there was nearly twice the budget for work as is to be spent in South Norwood.
The South Norwood proposals focus on the junction of Portland Road and High Street, in Station Road and in Market Parade, Portland Road. The contractors getting the work will be, again, Kier.
“These much-needed public realm works will enhance the quality and character of a major junction in South Norwood, and are just the first stage of a series of improvements in areas chosen by local people,” Butler said. “Breathing new life into our district centres is a major part of our plans and these works are about helping to make that happen.”
The public event this Saturday runs from 10am to 2pm in the Lower Hall at Stanley Halls. Afterwards, the plans will be available to view in South Norwood Library and at the Stanley Halls café for one month.
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