Less than a month since Mark Watson, the senior Labour councillor, heralded it as “a popular addition” to the town centre, his latest costly piece of whimsy in the High Street has now effectively been declared as a hazard and public danger – by Croydon Council.
It was on December 21 that the council’s propaganda department put out a press release which sang the praises of their installation, which had been put together by a “multidisciplinary design collective whose projects aim to reconnect the physical elements of a place with its social dimension”.
The council claimed that this latest Watson whim would “rejuvenate the newly formed space”. They described as a “new public seating structure”.
And former fraudster Watson gushed enthusiastically, “The creation of newly crafted seating through the transformation of street space is an exciting concept that will nicely complement the town centre’s evolving street scene. I’m sure the new seating in this area will prove to be a popular addition to the space when the warmer weather arrives.”
Watson and the council failed to advise how much public money had been squandered on this hideous piece of Ikea-like self-assembly furniture, which has been placed in the middle of the High Street, just opposite the Dice Bar. It was Watson’s idea to pedestrianise this stretch of the High Street, with barely any consultation with Transport for London or the public.
Last week, the council stuck a notice on the “newly crafted seating” to warn the public – and the Council Tax-payers who had paid for it – “Do not climb”. They used bold letters, and all underlined, so it must be really important.
The sign says: “Users of this parklet installation do so at their own risk.
“LB of Croydon accepts no responsibility for any accidents or injuries.”
But wait a moment…
Wasn’t it the “LB of Croydon” who plonked this thing down there in a public space in the first place?
Didn’t a leading councillor tell us that it would be a “popular addition”?
Has Croydon Council started plastering “at your own risk” warning signs on all seating in the borough, too?
Today, one social media commenter remarked on the structure, “I really don’t understand the point of this ‘parklet’ at all. Really odd and reflective of a certain type of ‘placemaking’ in Croydon.”
Another commented, “Our green spaces are suffering from chronic under-investment and being sold off for housing developments, but here’s a wooden stage with a few spot-lit plants in the middle of a closed road. Just don’t play on it.”
A Town Hall source has told Inside Croydon that Croydon Council has, belatedly, realised that its Ikea-like installation has proved a little too popular with clubbers, after a night out in the town centre, when, it is safe to assume, some drink has been taken.
And they are also aware that in neighbouring Sutton, when some council bright spark there decided to put a poorly designed piece of street furniture in the middle of Trinity Square, the tax-payer ended up picking up compensation bills amounting to almost £200,000 for claims from people who suffered accidents as a consequence.
In the end, one of Sutton LibDem leaders even accused the public of deliberately jumping off their ill-considered edifice in order to put in a claim through some less-than-scrupulous, ambulance-chasing lawyers.
The bad news for Croydon Council is that its “nuffink to do with us, guv” sign may not be an end to their problems with their structure.
In fact, legally, the sign may have made things worse.
We asked experienced lawyer, Ebenezer Grabbit, of the respected City firm of solicitors, Sue, Grabbit & Runne, whether just sticking a notice on to the structure is enough to absolve the council of its responsibilities.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said.
“Of course it doesn’t.
“If anything, the notice can be submitted in evidence by any claimants as proof that the council has realised that the structure is not entirely safe and that some injury might befall those who use it.”
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I had to find out where they got ‘parklet’ from…and it is indeed a thing. San Francisco started it, no surprises there. A little bit of California comes to Croydon. Hmm…
I don’t think I’ll now be able to resist a climb to the summit, whatever the risk!