Croydon to get £1m from Mayor’s ‘gentrification premium’

Croydon has been named as one of London’s six Creative Enterprise Zones, part of the Mayor of London’s initiative to support artists and creative businesses, and develop skills and jobs for Londoners.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan at the announcement of the Creative Enterprise Zones last week

Croydon has been awarded just £500,000, from a £11million fund, though additional benefits will bring the total value to the borough to close to £1million.

Other schemes which will also benefit from the Mayor’s fund are Lambeth, Hounslow, Lewisham, Haringey and Hackney Wick (a joint bid by Tower Hamlets, Hackney and London Legacy Development Corporation).

According to the Mayor’s office, “This new initiative…”, that’s as opposed to an old initiative, presumably, “… will protect the creative sector in the capital, increase affordable spaces for artists and entrepreneurs, and boost job and training opportunities for local people. Across London, creative communities have demonstrated their important role in revitalising areas, but over time, they can find themselves priced out of the neighbourhoods they have helped regenerate.”

Put another way, it is Mayor Khan’s gentrification premium. A hand-out to help assuage a bit of guilt at some of the social cleansing that has been going on in the capital.

In Lambeth, for example, many of the small businesses which have given Brixton its special, youthful buzz over the past decade have been forced out of their premises under the arches along Atlantic Road through a redevelopment scheme run by Network Rail.

Closer to home, several artsy and craft businesses which took under-utilised shop spaces in St George’s Walk off Croydon High Street have had to pack up and move out, as the site’s Chinese owners redevelop the Nestlé Tower into hundreds of “luxury apartments”.

Often, when forced to relocate, these small businesses, without the financial clout of the multi-nationals, struggle to find suitable premises, or a location which serves their often loyal customer base which they will often have spent years building up.

According to the Mayor’s office, “A total of 25 boroughs applied for the funding, showing the appetite for this brand-new idea, with the six winning zones chosen due to their commitment to creating local jobs and increasing affordable workspace.”

The ‘Grafton Quarter’ in West Croydon is the sort of development which may benefit from the Mayor’s largesse

City Hall’s press release adds: “Each of the Creative Enterprise Zones have outlined how they will collectively leverage more than £30million of investment in order to deliver their ambitious plans.”

According to City Hall, the creative sector is growing faster than any other sector in the UK economy and provides 1 in 6 jobs in London. “During a time of uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the Creative Enterprise Zones will provide investment and support for creative businesses in the capital, ensuring that London remains one of the most entrepreneurial and innovative business centres in the world.”

The claims made for the scheme are bold indeed.

“The six Creative Enterprise Zones will generate tens of millions of pounds of growth, create more than 3,500 new jobs and support more than 1,000 local people into education, training and job opportunities. The zones will also deliver more than 40,000 sq m of new affordable workspace for creative businesses and entrepreneurs, with the long-term creation of additional affordable space embedded into their planning process.”

While other boroughs’ CEZs are intended to support existing businesses and young people already in their areas, “Croydon focuses on initiatives designed to encourage creative businesses to the area”. Our italics, for clarity.

Not for the first time, Croydon Council is trying to lure businesses into the borough with business rate relief.

Croydon’s plans were detailed by the Mayor’s office:

  • Developing Croydon as a music city – a place that encourages and nurtures emerging talent and breaks down barriers to success in the music industry
  • Launching an ambitious new cultural internship programme offering young people paid work placements with leading national and local arts organisations
  • Creating a subsidy scheme for under-25s looking for studio space, which will cover up to 40 per cent of the cost
  • Encouraging businesses to move to Croydon through the introduction of business rate relief for creative start-ups and those relocating to Croydon
  • Collating an online list of available properties for creative businesses, and launching a start-up incubator programme providing tailored business support

According to Ollie “Caddy” Lewis, the Croydon Council cabinet member for arts and butt plugs and stuff, “Croydon is gaining a reputation as a borough that embraces creativity, invests in the arts and most importantly, breaks down barriers for emerging talent.” Lewis didn’t mention the £50,000 “investment” in the arts in Croydon which went towards a show “demystifying the anus”. Can’t think why…

Samuel Facey, the founder and director of The Front Room, the music venue in a part of St George’s Walk which is not yet undergoing redevelopment, said, “We are honoured to be a recipient of this award and thank all the team for their hard work behind the scenes.”

Councillor Oliver Lewis is a keen supporter of Peter Flack (right) and his Artists Studio Company

Peter Flack was part of Croydon’s bid team. He is the chief executive of the Walworth-based Artists Studio Company, which markets studios and artist accommodation; they recently acquired “the Grafton Quarter”, in West Croydon, where three-bed flats are a snip at a mere £510,000.

As part of the council-backed development, which opened in August, studio rents are supposed to be 20 to 30 per cent below market value, starting at only £43 per week for a 120sq ft space “inclusive of everything”, according to the council, and where no business rates will be payable.

After the Creative Enterprise Zone announcement, Flack said: “It is vital to maintain affordable studio space and encourage creative industries at a time when artists are being pushed out of London with ever-increasing rents. We are particularly delighted to be part of the Croydon scheme that will offer young and emerging creatives subsidised space.

“The local stakeholders who make up the CEZ consortium have worked closely together to devise models of support which we believe will help a wide section of local people.”

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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2 Responses to Croydon to get £1m from Mayor’s ‘gentrification premium’

  1. Lewis White says:

    If Art encourages new businesses and new customers into under-occupied areas of Croydon, we will all be better for it. i would be sad and angry if we end up with boring “art reserves” monopolising space that could provide space for these new enterprises. It’s a matter of balance.

    Anything that adds life and colour to the sad town centre and some peripheral areas of Croydon, the better. If that means a bit of gentrification, that’s fine. I don’t see this being a major problem ousting native Croydonians as Croydon is further out from the centre of the metropolis.

    I am wondering, however, if anyone will be vetting exactly who is taking up tenancies in the “studios”. Will they be real artists, part timers, or phonies. Are we all artists nowadays?

    • The important word here, Lewis, is “if”.

      If this encourages new business and customers, and if the tenancies are vetted. And by whom.

      It has all the hallmarks as another public subsidy for a private developer, albeit in the guise of a “charidee”, to make profits.

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