Plans to pedestrianise Croydon High Street can take a hike

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds to pedestrianise a short stretch of Croydon High Street really the answer to the town centre’s night time economy, as the council’s leadership  seems to think? LEWIS WHITE, pictured right, doesn’t think so

The main street through Croydon is revealed on the map as being a game of four quarters: London Road at the top end, from Broad Green, with its bustling street full of veg shops, multiple pawn shops and kebaberies, and West Croydon Station; then there’s North End down to George Street, flanked by the Whitgift Centre, Centrale and the old Allders store;  then there’s the High Street from George Street, under the Flyover, past Leon House, to the lights at Coombe Road; and finally there’s South End.

This is how Croydon High Street at the junction with Park Street, looks today

Some years back, North End was fully pedestrianised. Trees were planted, it was repaved, and all buses and cars excluded.

I hate to say it, but to me it feels very dead, a place to walk through but not linger in.

It has made me question the wisdom of full pedestrianisation for Croydon. I keep wondering if somehow, the council could have designed it to allow buses to pass along it, keeping public transport at the heart of the shopping area. Maybe in a few years, when all buses are electric-powered, we could reopen it to them keeping the current good air quality but adding back better accessibility and a bit of movement.

More recently, South End has received a similar street makeover, with new paving and lighting. I have to differ from Inside Croydon and several fellow loyal readers on this one, but I think that a good job has been done by the council design team on this area.

Lewis White believes this is an improvement to South End

And just finished a few months back, London Road has been landscaped, with trees, new paving, and improvements to the faces of buildings, including shop fronts and colourful paint schemes. Each time I pass along this street, I feel that the improvements have made it much more attractive and greener, and have taken away the former sad and run-down look of the street. I like it! I am also visiting it more, and buying things from the shops.

This leaves the High Street section looking very down at heel. The bit from George Street to Katharine Street is quite pleasant, but of course it is blighted by the adjoining semi-dead St George’s Walk precinct and blocks. From the corner of Katharine Street to the Flyover, it’s grimy and very greasy. Not a tree not a decent paving slab. It’s a grim and very unattractive gateway to Croydon.

Thinking about how one could make the High Street into an attractive street which would boost the prosperity of the shops here, I am not convinced that pedestrianisation of a small part of it will deliver a fraction of the desired vitality, or greening, which is desperately needed for the whole length. The High Street looks so crummy, it deserves major investment. It will then provide an attractive focus for existing and new shops, cafés, restaurants and businesses.

Having looked at the street many times, I feel that along the whole of the High Street, from George Street to the Katherine Street corner, the Flyover, and from there to South End, it should be possible to widen the footways on one or maybe both sides, and add small trees to create a “boulevard” effect, and to repave the footways and install new street lighting, all designed to deliver a much greener, livelier and more attractive High Street, that still allows for buses and necessary cars, but with more space for walking, and perhaps for pavement cafés.

The cost of all this would be substantial, and would need to be phased, but it would be worth the investment.

For the High Street, I would therefore like to see two things:

St George’s Walk. There’s widespread agreement: Something Must Be Done

First, from the council, full funding, and an overall streetscape masterplan for the High Street from George Street to the Flyover, and from the Flyover down to the lights at Coombe Road. At night, why not light the Flyover where it crosses the High Street, with coloured light, as has been done over many rail bridges in Southwark and at Waterloo?

Second, from the private sector, but encouraged by the council, a really good design for the redevelopment of St George’s Walk. The new, Chinese owners of the precinct appear to be focusing on the redevelopment into flats of the offices in what we still call the Nestlé Tower. But they are beginning to offer new leases on some of the vacant shop spaces in St George’s Walk, which, at least short-term, is bringing some life back into the place.

But longer term? Why not rip out the precinct to create instead a sheltered and sunny central new park. It could be called “St George’s Gardens”. It would perhaps be closed to the public after midnight, and opened at 7am, to prevent night-time access and the abuses that invariably accompany it. Yes, a private space, as the land is not in public ownership, but opened free to the public with around the inner perimeter, cafés, restaurants and retail shops could take the ground floor units.

The current appearance of the High Street as a whole is so drab, grey and dusty that it fails to provide an entirely welcoming gateway to Croydon town centre from the south. Now that London Road has been landscaped, the approach to Croydon from the North is much improved.

We now need to shift attention to the southern approach, and invest in streetscape revitalisation and greening.

  • Lewis White, who lives in Coulsdon, for many years worked as a landscape architect for local authorities in London
  • All articles on Inside Croydon offer an immediate right of reply through our moderated comments section
  • Croydon Commentaries are essays by Inside Croydon readers on matters that matter to them, often providing some aspect of professional expertise or insight. If you would like to offer a piece for Croydon Commentary, write to The Editor at inside.croydon@btinternet.com

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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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Business, Croydon Council, Environment, London Road Traders Association, Nestle Tower, Planning, Property, St George's Walk. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Plans to pedestrianise Croydon High Street can take a hike

  1. I remember when North End was first pedestrianised. Before it was Block paved, buses were still going along North End with all other vehicles banned. There were several near misses with pedestrians walking in front of buses. Shortly after that it was paved and all vehicles banned. Sorry, but large pedestrianised areas and buses areas don’t mix well. However, the decision to pedestrianise the short section in the High Street is bonkers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Er, have you actually BEEN to North End recently? The area between Whitgift and Centrale is perhaps the liveliest part of the entire borough. On weekends, families are out there shopping, ice cream and balloon vendors do a roaring business, there are sometimes even acrobats and other street performers. Yes, this is mostly footfall traveling between the two shopping centres, but so what? There’s nothing like it anywhere else in Croydon or even neighbouring boroughs.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Peter Rogers says:

    And what I’d like to see is the return of cycle lanes, that old fashioned concept that nearly every other borough has embraced. Widening pavements is super but to what end? No more people will walk down them.
    St Georges Walk is always going to be what it is – a 1960’s concrete carbuncle, it should be given over to social enterprises rent free and it might turn into somewhere ‘cool’ or it might just carry on being a 1960’s concrete carbuncle but if you don’t try you don’t know (and I do believe it’s in the artistic quarter or whatever they’re calling the closed down Fairfield Halls these days so automatically gets council purple boards)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You would like to see buses still !! What a bonkers thing to say. Now I know Georges Walk is no picture but the Grants side of the road is rather nice.
    I am all in favour of pedestrianizing the High Street. They could make the outdoor seating areas more generous, which is no bad thing. It will make the area a far more pleasant place to roam.
    Frankly people are moaning for the sake of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Rogers says:

      sorry but there are outside cafe’s all along the high street, all local businesses like Nero’s , Pret and Starbucks. Who’s going to fill these giant pavements? KFC? McDonalds? And what if the soon to arrive super Westfield don’t like wide pavements?
      I don’t want to sound like a one trick pony but why not cycle lanes like the ones we used to have?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Nothing like it anywhere else in Croydon or even neighbouring boroughs? Try Tooting, which is bustling, buzzy and fun……..and minimally pedestrianised.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. veeanne2015 says:

    If the plan at the Park Street/High Street junction is that all vehicles can only go east up the one-way system in Park Street, (the opposite direction to now), how will they get to this junction and the shops in this part of the road, in the first place ?
    The only way would appear to be that all cars, taxis, mini-cabs, delivery lorries etc. would have to come down George Street, in addition to those now, delayed by or delaying the trams, and what traffic congestion that could cause !

    If the plan for Park Street to move the 13 southbound bus routes at 2 stops near the High Street to the Park Lane end, nearly opposite the 9 northbound bus routes stop, with up to 22 buses trying to overtake others at bus stops that are still picking up passengers, ( buses normally seem to come in convoys) , doesn’t this risk serious traffic congestion also, especially at rush hour, and possible gridlock back to Park Lane itself ?

    Isn’t removing the pedestrian crossing between the two halves of St. George’s Walk, when there is planned to be so much more traffic there, a bad idea ?

    Liked by 1 person

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