Surrey Street and the £1m questions Watson refuses to answer

The clique of  Progress councillors that control Croydon’s Labour-run Town Hall have really taken to this “post-truth” thing, to the point of issuing press releases, through the council’s propaganda department, which are fundamentally untrue.


This is what £500,000-worth of promotional budget buys you

The latest instance is over the sadly declining fortunes of Surrey Street Market.

Last week, the council promised a Christmas market in Surrey Street on Thursday evening, including mulled wine, roast chestnuts and carol singing. The full Bing Crosby.

The reality was desultory, with no chestnuts, no carols and most definitely no mulled wine, just half a dozen not-very-Christmassy “street food” stalls with very few customers and someone with a microphone doing some rap music to an audience of barely a dozen.

There was a bit of tinsel wrapped around a crowd barrier – though the barrier wasn’t really necessary, as there was no crowd.

But all this, according to Tony “Ho Ho Ho” Newman, is what passes for “Delivering for Croydon”, and “part of our £1 million investment to improve Surrey Street”.

Newman didn’t bother to show up in Surrey Street last Thursday himself. And no, he wasn’t there disguised as Father Christmas, either.

Because Councillor Newman had far more important things to attend – like the chance to appear on stage up the road at Boozepark with So Solid Crew, who had been booked presumably at huge expense by the council-subsidised bar and restaurant venue to turn on their Christmas lights.

“Tony’s getting a bit star struck,” was the view of one Town Hall colleague.

Tony Newman getting down with his new mates, So Solid Crew. Fortunately, they did not invite the council leader to play with his organ

Tony Newman getting down with his new mates, So Solid Crew. Fortunately, they did not invite the council leader to play with his organ

“Seriously, which genius at the council decided to put on a Surrey Street Christmas market head-to-head against another Boxpark stunt?” another, more annoyed, councillor said to Inside Croydon this week.

“The Advertiser ran a story last week about how local businesses have noticed that their trade is down since Boxpark opened thanks to a massive loan from the council. No shit Sherlock – you at Inside Croydon predicted as much a year ago. Maybe after running puffs for the place for a month, the Advertiser‘s only caught up with the downside now because Boxpark isn’t booking any adverts any longer.

“But to make matters worse, the council goes out of its way to provide a further example of the adverse impact on other businesses by staging this shambles of an event in Surrey Street on the same night. It was embarrassing.”

Perhaps Newman will decide to show his face in Surrey Street tomorrow night, when the council has another bash at trying to organise the proverbial piss-up just up the road from a former brewery.

Meanwhile, on Surrey Street, the crowds had flocked, not, to the council-promoted Christmas market

Meanwhile, on Surrey Street, the crowds had flocked, not, to the council-promoted Christmas market

The council-backed Surrey Street Christmas market again failed to involve the existing, long-standing fruit and veg traders who work the market, day-in, day-out, in all weathers. But then, the existing traders and shop-keepers were blocked from doing business in the council’s new Sunday market, so their exclusion from this latest poorly executed scheme should come as no surprise.

And nor should we be surprised that the council’s “scheme” to revive Surrey Street, as masterminded by one of Newman’s clique, Mark Watson, is falling flat on its arse.

From the 20 or so stalls when it the Sunday market had its shaky launch in September, the market has been whittled down to as few as nine lonely-looking stalls on one weekend this month. That’s unlikely to draw in the promised crowds of hipsters and artisan bread-eaters as Watson and his gentrifiers seem to want to do. In any case, its unlikely that they know the market is there, because Watson’s promise of improved signage for Surrey Street is – more than six months on – yet to materialise.

surrey-street-pollEven the council’s limp efforts to promote the Sunday market on its own website have managed to back-fire: a week ago we found a poll which asked the leading question “Will you be visiting Surrey Street Sundays to see what’s on offer leading up to Christmas?”.

The poll drew a meagre 17 responses, with 52 per cent of them – that is, an entire nine people – stating “No” (you have to worry about the 5 per cent who bothered to click on a button to say that they didn’t know, but hey…).

More costly for Council Tax-payers is that the council now wants to double the amount of public cash it is throwing at Surrey Street.

When Watson made his announcement of the revival plans for Surrey Street to a council meeting earlier this year, the amount of public money he intended to spend was £500,000. Now, according to boasts being made by Newman in emails sent to local Labour Party members, they’re to spend £1million, as they ratchet up the rhetoric about what is being done to salvage something for Surrey Street.

Watson has been saying that the money is to be spent on a “co-ordinated package of marketing”. That sounds like the council is about to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on a mountainous pile of PR bullshit.

But no one seems willing to explain where all this extra money is to come from, nor what it is going to be spent on, as Croydon’s public street market is effectively pitched into commercial competition against the council-subsidised Boozepark.

Tony Newman, together with Toni Letts (left) and his deputy leader, Alison Butler, appears to shows off just how much public money he’s loaned to Boxpark to give it a commercial advantage over existing Croydon businesses

Inside Croydon sought answers from Councillor Watson, who has in the past always been quick to send us notes and pictures whenever he’s wanted support for his latest charity jaunt or adventure.

We asked: Where is the additional cash coming from?

We asked Councillor Watson: By any standard, £1m of public money for marketing is a significant spend, whether “co-ordinated” or not. What form will this “co-ordinated package” take?

We also asked: Will the marketing contract be properly put out to tender, or will the council’s usual PRs benefit yet again?

We asked: Are you going to abandon the Sunday experiment, which excludes the market’s regular stall-holders?

Mark Watson: has excluded long-standing traders from Sunday Market

Mark Watson: has no answers on Surrey Street £1m spend

Further, we wanted to know: How much do you estimate to have been spent on the Sunday market?

We asked Watson: Might the “co-ordinated package of marketing” include the signs to the Sunday market which were promised to the traders when they were encouraged to take pitches?

And mindful that Croydon Council has loaned £3million to Boozepark, and is spending more than £160,000 a year of Council Tax-payers’ money at the venue, without having first ensured that the company is a London Living Wage employer, we asked Watson: What work under the Good Employer scheme is being done with Boxpark and the various businesses that trade there?

One week later, and the supposedly publicly accountable councillor and cabinet member Watson has failed to answer a single question.

Merry Christmas, Surrey Street. Ho bloody ho.

  • Croydon’s only independent news source, and based in the heart of the borough: 2.1 million page views 2014-2016
  • If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or a local event to publicise, please email us with full details at

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
This entry was posted in Alison Butler, Boxpark, Business, Mark Watson, Surrey Street, Tony Newman and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Surrey Street and the £1m questions Watson refuses to answer

  1. It is handy there are so many pubs around the top end of Surrey Street because it will be easier for Newman and his cronies to piss £1m up the wall. Now remind me, is it the Green Dragon or Spread Eagle which is our Tone’s favourite as he has been regularly spotted in both.

  2. Tom Young says:

    hiya, we’ve a similar scene up here sunny NW5: a street market, the oldest in Ldn in fact, by the name of Queen’s Crescent Market, not to be confused with Queen’s Market in the East End.

    Our market is bumping along the bottom. It operates 2 days a week. On Thursdays, it shows its best side, and sometimes there are as many as 26 stall….ooooh, I hear you say. On Saturdays, it’s sometimes in single figures.

    Our equivalent to your Cllr Newman is Cllr Blackwell. He likes the big time down in Kings Cross. We don’t mind that but do despair at his Executive’s incompetent handling of the street market, and larger failure to understand its role in defining the area, making it more than administrative fiefdom for officers and vote-scavenging adventurer pols.

    Anyway, here’s a link to our FB page

    You do not have to drink the kool-aid of either Labour Party faction to see Labour Council’s are a big force in London, but haven’t pulled together since 2010 and demonstrated their muscle.

    We understand the need to sell of parts of their ownership to fund maintenance and repairs. What’s culpably non-strategic is they never recognised how collectively they could impact the property scene in London, and shape the marketplace to their own, avowed progressive ends. Starting in 2010, they should have set out the terms for introducing a large block of public land onto the private market, terms that emphasised their own planning and housing policy.

    In other words, they should have gone to the market to get a market response to their terms. But they never set out their stall, and as a result never created the market place for the kinds of development which could have been the main component of a revolution in affordable housing provision.

    Instead, they danced with the most tedious, boring, destruction and dead-end kinds of developers. The tranche of public land they’ve sold off has not had the benefiical effect of summoning into existence new development bodies willing to agree to progressive terms. Obviously, housing associations have long since ceased to be progressive.

    The bad faith exhibited is of a piece with the mistrust of the ordinary or “foundational economy” that is expressed in street markets.

    Thanks so much for writing cogently and clearly about Croydon.


  3. Am I the only person in Croydon who has never visited Boxpark and has no interest in doing so?

  4. Had a look at Boxpark on Monday lunchtime. Hardly anybody eating there yet the traditional fast food outlets and cafes along George St looked busy. I am told that things pick up in the evenings. I quite liked the appearance and layout but am a sceptic about its profitability given the short payback period due to its temporary nature. I also walked around the rest of the town centre and it was busier and less run down than I anticipated. With a bit of imagination and “beer glasses” the ground floor of the former Allders could have been Allders.

    • I have passed though Boxpark a couple of times in the evenings out of curiosity, but numbers seemed a bit thin on the ground (not surprised can nsidering the food prices). Not sure how the Advertiser has today quoted tens of thousands since it opened. Must be lapping up the Boozepark propaganda.

      • Nick Davies says:

        Tens of thousands could easily be the same 500 people going twenty times. PR departments love to play that sort of game with numbers and even the most respected media outlets regurgitate it.

  5. croydonres says:

    I remain hopeful that the Council’s now £1million will be allocated (maybe 33% repayment from the Boxpark “Loan” ?) to improving the paving and lighting of the market. The work done to repave and plant trees in London Road West Croydon, and repave the South End restaurant area is all looking pretty good, so I hope that a similar hand will be able to make Surrey Street much more attractive.

    Your article mentions pubs and a brewery. I recently went into the Old Dogg and Bull in Surrey Street at around 6pm one mid week evening, and expected to find it crammed and full of tattooed market traders shouting “leave it aht” and offering me hands of cheap bananas, but sadly, it was rather empty and too quiet. Nice , traditional pub, but where are the punters?. Would a brew-pub entice the punters in?. I would certainly visit it.

    My impression of Croydon is heavily influenced by the quality of the experience of arrival in the town centre. Years ago, in the heady days when St George’s Walk was full of high quality shops, I used to drive in. The multi storey car parks, even then in those prosperous times, were bleak places. The Whitgift one had and still has one of the crummiest passageways from the car park into the Whitgift centre. Wandle Road then–and now– has a grim mini street between it and the back of the shops which is always full of litter.

    Why has no one invested money over this 30 year time into making the car parks more welcoming– green floor paint, nice walkways, good loos, and clean stairs etc- like a Gatwick airport car park? They are so grim and overpriced, is it any wonder that people are driving round the M25 to Lakeside to shop?

    Nowadays, I am more likely to come in by bus on my pensioner pass.

    The welcome mat to Croydon for me is is the bleak and boring stretch of road from the now improved South End restaurant zone, up to the flyover. The footways look grey and greasy, and not a tree in sight, other than in front of Leon House. As a welcome, it repels rather than attracts. It probably needs at least a £million to repave the footways and plant some trees. . But it would be worth it.

    PLEASE can the council divert attention to looking at these topics. If the main approaches to Croydon look run down, it’s hardly going to entice people to come into town.

    By the way, if Surrey Street had fruit and veg on Sunday, I for one would visit it. Street food, fine, but not for a whole market.

Leave a Reply