CROYDON COMMENTARY: What do you call a public consultation exercise that offers no real, hard information? A Croydon public consultation exercise.
ARNO RABINOWITZ went along to the latest box-ticking stunt staged in the town centre by Westfield and Hammerson over the weekend, and found it a complete waste of time
I went to the Croydon Partners exhibition of the latest proposals for the £1.4 billion supermall in the Whitgift Centre, and wish I hadn’t bothered.
It was uninformative and unhelpful.
“Are these the final plans?” was my opening gambit. “No, not as such,” I was told. What does that even mean? So what was the point in putting these plans on public display for four days?
“Has John Lewis agreed to take space?” I tried, sounding hopeful.
“We are still in touch with them.” That, I think, means no.
“How will the roadworks and construction of the Fairfield Halls be co-ordinated with the Hammersfield shopping centre work?” I asked.
“Don’t know, nothing to do with us,” came the reply. I think I had managed to find the true level of helpfulness and insight this expensive PR exercise had to offer.
But there was some elaboration. “It’s either TfL or Croydon Council you should be asking,” they told me, cheerily unhelpful.
“Will the parking be at all subsidised?” I tried. I know. There was a touch of desperation creeping into my questioning now.
“No idea,” they responded. “Unlikely.”
“Will there be more than one entrance and exit to the parking?” I asked.
“Sounds a good idea,” they said, and then must have noticed the look of excitement in my reaction to such positivity, and so they added, quickly, “But unlikely.”
Developers of such schemes are encouraged to conduct public consultations and present some data of the attendees when it comes round to applying for planning permissions – how many, what age groups, what ethnic backgrounds, that sort of thing. It’s supposed to demonstrate engagement with the public, it is used to imply public approval. They don’t have to provide any honest evaluation on the quality of the information provided at those public consultations.
Four years on from when the redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre and Centrale were first suggested, and with Westfield and Hammerson apparently now expressing their keenness to get to work starting in 2017 – the year we were told originally that the whole thing would be completed – and judged on the evidence I saw last weekend, we are really none the wiser of what is about to be imposed upon our town centre.
Woe is on the way, mark my words.
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Well at least Gav said it will all be completed “hopefully” by 2020. If the Public Sector had run and managed a scheme such as this it would be rightfully be pilloried non-stop. The speculator clowns who can only see uncertainty and not an easy buck escape such censure. It’s all going marvellously badly.
Strange – I was told that John Lewis WAS definitely coming to Croydon, sited in the centre section of Westfield.
I also understood the following :
The northern car park entrance/exit has been moved from Poplar Walk to where the entrance is now in Wellesley Road. This obviously would mean yet ANOTHER set of traffic lights to allow cars from the north to cross into the car park, and cause even longer hold-ups there in Wellesley Road for buses etc. having to wait for cars (and presumably delivery vehicles) BOTH from the south and the north having to amalgamate in a queue to go into the new car park.
This is in addition to having to stop at the southern car park entrance/exit just north of the underpass, the pedestrian crossing opposite Lansdowne Road, and Poplar Walk itself for the buses coming out, as well as bus stops !
The Green Park House on the eastern corner of Poplar Walk is to be replaced by another high-rise, height unknown, shown in white on the illustration of the two high rises in Poplar Walk and Station Road on GLA Planning Report D&P/3420a/02 on St Michael’s Square, Page 10 item 11 (PDU case Report). Add to that 50+ storeys of the Saffron building opposite (not shown), and the church looks like a miniature model dwarfed and dominated by its surroundings.
The pedestrian entrance in George Street is planned to be at the height of the tram stop platform, with the pavement sloping down to the Alms Houses. Quite how pedestrians cross the road from this higher section, I can’t imagine.
Arno is quite right about ‘tick-box’ consultations. Until such a time as major proposals have consultations with sections for ‘pro’, ‘con’ with reasons given why, and suggestions for altering or improving the ‘cons’, then considerable amounts of time and money will be spent on impractical or ill-thought out schemes.