As well as little proper consultation over the closure of a stretch of Croydon High Street, there doesn’t appear to have been much thought gone into what Mark Watson, the soon-to-be-ex councillor behind the scheme, and the council intend to do with this suddenly traffic-free stretch of the town centre.
The latest “Watson whim” has generated ridicule and bemusement in equal measure since it appeared on Croydon High Street.
The small construction appeared at the Katharine Street end of the closed road just before Christmas. Not big enough for a usefully sized stage, it seems too forbidding to be public seating.
It looks like something knocked together from a clearance sale of off-cuts from Ikea.
“What the fuck is it?” was typical of the responses on social media.
“Should have put a hot tub in it,” was someone else’s comment.
According to a press release from the Town Hall propaganda department, it is an “installation of a new, modern seating structure” which is “the first in a series of exciting works to get under way in the newly pedestrianised area of the town centre’s High Street”.
See that? “Exciting”. Get the bunting out.
The gushing press release continues: “Designed by The Decorators, a multidisciplinary design collective whose projects aim to reconnect the physical elements of a place with its social dimension, the new public seating structure aims to rejuvenate the newly formed space.”
Newly formed space? We thought the space was there all the time. Has anyone told Stephen Hawking?
And “a multidisciplinary design collective whose projects aim to reconnect the physical elements of a place with its social dimension”? Seriously?
Watson is the Addiscombe councillor who opted not to seek re-selection after he so antagonised fellow Labour members in his own ward over a one-way road scheme that favoured his own street, Lebanon Road, at the expense of residents on neighbouring streets.
His track record with other streets while in power hasn’t been altogether successful, either: it was the £1.2million Watson-backed scheme on Surrey Street which managed to drive away nearly half of the existing street stall traders, replacing them with lots of second- and third-rate artwork, or Watson whims.
In the council’s press statement on the “seating” on Croydon High Street, the quote attributed to Watson seems almost to admit that the road closure was done in such a rush that there was no real plan in mind as to how to use the newly pedestrianised area (which pedestrians are hardly using). Certainly, there’s no trace to be found of such “innovative” or prestigious seating to be found in the proposal document which the council’s consultants were hawking around less than six months ago.
“I’m sure the new seating in this area will prove to be a popular addition to the space when the warmer weather arrives,” said Watson, the man who clearly had no idea that it gets colder and darker in Croydon from October to December…
Of course, by May, Watson may have plenty of time to make use of the High Street bench.
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