Labour-run Croydon Council, struggling to make ends meet as the Tory Government continues to cut its annual grant, yesterday announced that it is to spend £50,000 to fund an art installation under a railway bridge in South Norwood.
The scheme is to be backed by the self-proclaimed community group, People for Portland Road.
The announcement of this extravagant expenditure on artwashing was made two weeks to the day before the local elections on May 3.
The railway bridge happens to be in the Woodside ward in which one of the councillors is Tony Newman, the leader of Croydon Council. Newman’s fellow Woodside ward councillor is Paul Scott. Scott is the chair of the council’s planning committee.
Scott, an architect by profession, is also the founder and (only) chair of People for Portland Road.
The announcement of a competition to “win” the £50,000 task of adorning the walkway alongside Portland Road was made in the Architects’ Journal.
The report on the website of the must-read magazine of the architecture profession stated, “The team chosen for the commission will transform the ‘dark, damp and unwelcoming’ railway bridge underpass into a ‘much brighter and more inviting place’ by creating an artwork which incorporates an existing 1980s mural.
“The project, backed by local pressure group People for Portland Road, is part of wider plans to regenerate the historic suburb, which has suffered a prolonged period of economic decline. Proposals for the 26m-long underpass must improve the pedestrian experience while also allowing maintenance inspections of the bridge and being simple and affordable to run and maintain.
“In its brief, the council says it wants the commission ‘to transform the experience for pedestrians passing under the railway bridge. Currently the underside of the bridge is dark and unwelcoming and just a space to hurry through as quickly as possible.
“‘Through a combination of architectural lighting and other design elements, we are looking to create a space that feels welcoming, and safe and engaging to pass through – a physical and social “connector” rather than a barrier. We would welcome proposals that highlight the architecture and shapes of the underside of the bridge, and that reflect or acknowledge the rich heritage and local character of the area’.”
There is a suggestion that there may be a fair amount of “slack” in the budget for this project. Previous murals painted on underpasses in Croydon have cost less than £12,000.
But consider this:
- £50,000 could cover the cost of around 10,000 hot meals delivered by a Meals on Wheels service to the borough’s elderly or infirm.
- £50,000 would help towards the cost of fixing nearly 1,000 pot holes in Croydon’s pock-marked roads.
- Or £50,000 could be used towards the cost of hiring an additional social worker in the council’s under-pressure children’s services department.
Politics, eh? It’s all about choices.
The question here is: who made this one?
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