KEN LEE, our Town Hall reporter, digs up another embarrassing piece of public money wasted by the council
The council’s ability for not quite thinking things through was highlighted again last week, as the pneumatic drills and JCB diggers were out on the High Street in the town centre, digging trenches for various utilities.
It has left a 30-foot-long tarmac scar through the no-doubt expensively commissioned ground art which was laid over the road in the newly pedestrianised zone just six months ago.
The ground art was designed by Croydon School of Art graduate Adam Halliday, and at the time the patterns were laid at either end of the High Street pedestrian zone, the line taken by the council was that “the artwork uses bold and distinctive imagery to highlight and celebrate features of the borough’s unique skyline”.
The council even put out a quote from a cabinet member that gushed about how “these fantastic pieces of ground art will bring a lovely splash of colour to Croydon”, promising that the now closed section of town centre road “will be a fantastic space for a variety of performances, cultural and civic activities”.
It’s all a bit like when Kim Jong-un gave orders for the tower blocks of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, to be painted gaudy colours, to brighten the daily life of the city’s workers.
No doubt that was an effective distraction for the masses from the otherwise shitty state of the streets there, too.
Perhaps Croydon, under Jo “We’re Not Stupid” Negrini, should be twinned with Pyonyang, instead of Arnhem?
There is no doubt that the artwork in Croydon town centre has been irreparably damaged by last week’s roadworks. It clearly never occurred to anyone in the plush executive suites in Fisher’s Folly that in such a busy part of town, with shops, bars and residents needing all sorts of electricity, gas and broadband pipes and cabling, such road works would have been inevitable sooner rather than later.
The pedestrian zone, complete with the Mark Watson Whimsy, a piece of Ikea-like woodwork which the council immediately declared was too dangerous to sit on, is coming close to the end of its 12-month traffic-free trial, a trial which has caused considerable disruption to the bus routes and their passengers in the town centre, which was launched with little consultation, and was not entirely welcomed by Transport for London.
The ground art, both on this site and elsewhere, appears to have made little impact on the quality of life for most hard-working Croydon residents, many of whom wondered at the time of the installations whether the money might not be better spent on filling in some of the hundreds of pot holes on the borough’s poorly maintained roads.
The coloured rubber ground art in other locations nearby is, just a few months after it was laid, already looking grubby and stained by the oil and dirt of the traffic that drives over it, and pieces of the colour work have worn away, even on the High Street stretch.
If the council apparently cares so little for the ground art that it has allowed a large section of it to be dug up with such damaging results, it may suggest that the pedestrianisation of the High Street might be abandoned at the end of the one-year trial.
The council has never been fully frank and forthcoming about the cost of the Watson Whimsy and the trial road closure. However much it cost, it will have been too much, and can never be argued that it was money well-spent.
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