Homes worth living in need to provide space to breathe

CROYDON COMMENTARY: If the thousands of new homes planned for the town centre lack meaningful green space, we risk creating the favelas of the future, warns LEWIS WHITE

It is worth thinking about who actually buys flats. I am basically a traditional suburbanite who lives in a house of two storeys — whether terraced, semi or detached — with a garden.

No1 Lansdowne, with its record number of storeys for a residential block, will have 397 "luxury apartments"

No1 Lansdowne, with its record number of storeys for a residential block, will have 397 “luxury apartments”

Inside Croydon‘s other loyal reader might live in flats – maybe a high-rise, but numerically speaking, they are more likely to live in a converted Victorian House, or a low-rise block of four or five storeys in landscaped grounds, the sort which replaced many Victorian houses in Addiscombe, Purley and the Park Hill area of East Croydon.

The big difference between these living spaces and the modern flats being put on offer in Croydon is the much more urban nature of the new town centre “luxury apartments”, many of which might not even have a balcony. Around the base of these urban blocks and tower there might be no on-site landscape at all. They stand on the street.

This is very much like flats in European cities, such as Copenhagen, Madrid and Paris.

I, for one, would not be able to adapt to living in these environments, with zero or minimal green space to come down to and relax in or garden in. I’d go mad after a week. I need trees to look at and grass to walk on.

Yes, I am very lucky to have this. Many don’t.

However, clearly there are millions of urban Europeans and South Americans who live this dense urban lifestyle in flats. There might be thousands of Brits willing to do so, too, perhaps for all their lives, or maybe for part. However, I can’t help thinking that without meaningful green space built-in to the new inner Croydon, the new residents will be deprived of access to green. This is why, in my view, it is so wrong to have tiny, sunless “green” spaces in the shadow of tall buildings. For goodness sake, people need sunlight and air. We need it where we live, not miles away.

Hence our planners and politicians need to be given urban and landscape design training — in the form of visits to good and bad developments– so that they can avoid giving planning permission to places in which no one in their right minds would want to live, and certainly where people should not be forced to live.

I would hazard a guess that green developments with good buildings will always be desirable places to live, and will maintain their resale value. How many of the high towers which have gone up in Croydon in recent years and now being planned will be able to do this?

How many will become the vertical favelas of the future?

Younger readers of Inside Croydon will be around to find out, in 30 years’ time. One hopes that Croydon Corporation of 2045 (if not privatised out of existence) will not be allowing council tenants to live in failed blocks.

I hope that we can prick the nascent property bubble now, and re-set the machine on to a sensible, non-self-destructive course, with sustainable mixed development — yes, development with “green” infrastructure, new parks and squares, and the schools and living spaces for elderly people and the starter flats and houses for young people and single people that we also need.

  • Lewis White is a chartered landscape architect from Coulsdon
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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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2 Responses to Homes worth living in need to provide space to breathe

  1. arnorab says:

    Lewis White is 100% right but his hope for a proper, community centred, sustainable mixed development plan for Croydon will, sadly, never come to pass. Each square centimetre of green land or community property represents a loss of profit to the commercial enterprises who dictate the future of our town and dominate all those, elected and non-elected. who are responsible for planning that future.

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