It has not been in position for two months yet, but Councillor Mark Watson’s whimsy on the newly pedestrianised bit of the High Street has now got a second sign.
The art-installation seating, which looks as if it was made from some off-cuts from Ikea, was plonked just outside town centre bars and night clubs just before Christmas.
It wasn’t long before the council felt the need to put a sign on the seat/bench/”parklet”, declaring it a danger to mankind and that users sat on it at their own risk.
It was suggested that a legal genius at the nearby Town Hall had suggested that by attaching such a sign, the council could waive all responsibility and avoid the possibility of Council Tax-payers having to foot the bill for any injury or damages suffered by members of the public falling off the eyesore.
But that sign has now been removed, to be replaced by a new message, intended, perhaps, to be more welcoming. The move is what is often known as “a reverse ferret”.
“Please enjoy me to sit on and relax!”, states the new sign, in bold white type on an eye-catching red background. It adds in slightly smaller text – probably also on advice from the council’s legal department – “Please use with care”. Croydon: a kinder, gentler kind of council.
As one passer-by, familiar with the previous warning sign, said this morning, “I wish they’d make their minds up.
“At least now it’s a bench or a seat, and not a ‘parklet’, whatever that was supposed to be.”
The council has yet to respond to enquiries as to the costs of the design and construction of the “parklet”/bench/seat.
There has already been some on-going maintenance costs incurred, after some of the plants inserted in pots around the edges of Watson’s whimsy were turfed out, unceremoniously, on what must have been a particularly rowdy night down at the Dog and Duck.
Watson is a key member of council leader Tony Newman’s Gang of Four who rule the Town Hall Labour group with a steely grip.
When his specially commissioned bench/seat/”parklet” was first revealed, he gushed that, “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.”
That was in December.
Since when, Watson has been moved from his council cabinet position responsible for local business, so losing the £43,000 per year allowances that went with it. The move has been softened, somewhat, by Watson being given a deputy cabinet role, though this is only for three months.
Watson has chosen not to seek selection by the Labour Party to stand for re-election to the council in May.
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A seat that needs a sign to say you can sit on it . . . that should tell you something.
Cllr Watson says of his parklet: “it is an exciting concept that will nicely complement the town centre’s evolving street scene”. Croydon’s evolving street scene? What street scene? What planet is the esteemed, for a short while yet to come only, councillor living on?
Croydon’s so called street scene is notable for three things only: vandalism, vaping and vomit!
I know it doesn’t begin with “V” but the most noticeable one “litter” needs to be added to the list.
Bit of a shame that there was no open competition to dream up a brief and design a design for an exciting public feature for this spot.
The London Bridge Business Improvement District staged (sorry, pun intended) one for the “street mini park” in Tooley Street near the Greater London Assembly building, near Tower Bridge. The judging was by a panel of various design experts and others, and the awards were in public.
Croydon could have gone one better, and had a schools and public competition.
Maybe it is not too late for a suitable competition for the permanent future pedestrianisation, or a series of pop up projects over say 2 years.
With regard to the current parklet, which is really a platform, could we not have some buskers to perform there– it could be good.
I still think that the open sides of the stage are outstandingly naff, and should be replaced with a series of steps on which people could relax. It needs to be a gentler transition , with generously wide steps, rather than a sheer drop.
Funnily enough, when it has come to spending tens of thousands of pounds of public money on buying “street art” over the past couple of years, Councillor Watson has never staged any such public competition, but handed the budget over to a mate who has a gallery. Which is nice.
I have never seen anybody sitting, standing,dancing or lying on this “thing” dreamed up by the strange mind of Councillor. “Tatty” Watson