Let’s revive town centre with more trees and youthful vitality

Reality or fantasy? Croydon Council produced this CGI of the town centre’s skyline last year. But doubts over the Westfield development could leave a big hole in the middle

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Retired landscape architect and local resident LEWIS WHITE offers his suggestions for reviving the town centre after nearly a decade of development blight thanks to Westfield, who yesterday announced that they are ‘reviewing’ their £1.4bn flats and shops scheme

Croydon town centre is suffering from a multiple whammy.

1, The decline and disappearance of major companies who used to have big offices in Croydon. So, empty office blocks, and fewer office workers out shopping at lunchtime. The dereliction or empty appearance resulting from this further discourages people from coming in to the town –why come to an empty, tatty place?

The approaches into Croydon town centre are too grey and grim, says Lewis White

2, The building of Bluewater, and more locally, Valley Park and Purley Way out-of-town retail centres, with free parking, pull in hundreds of thousands of car-borne purchasers.

3, The unattractive environment that awaits the visitor when arriving in Croydon by car. The multi-storey car parks are shabby and expensive. People expect better environments for the money.

4, From the south, the shabby Brighton Road in South Croydon, and the inner approach to the town centre from Coombe Road to the Flyover and Katherine Street – this is a grey and greasy asphalt desert, with no street trees. Of all the places in Croydon, this is probably the area now most in need of investment in transforming the streets with new paving and greening.

5, Online shopping.

The solutions?

Surely, more people living in Croydon town centre, which is beginning to happen, with new residential blocks and office conversions. Which is great, if the standard of design and management is high. We don’t want a race for the bottom.

Leon House is an example of one of the better office-to-flats conversions

The newly converted Leon House looks very good, as does the exhibition for the re-designed Nestlé Tower.

It all needs much better street sweeping, and rubbish bins emptied every day. There should be washing down of the streets in the summer, if necessary, to be done outside the storefronts, cafés and bars by the owners of those shops and restaurants.

There needs more money for greening and new paving of all the main streets like South End,but also the often drab adjacent side streets.

Re-create Croydon as an urban park.

Reduce the amount of mall shopping – how about replacing one-third of the old Whitgift Centre with residential blocks?

And make the place open to more sunshine – planners and designers need to plan the new buildings to create sunny, sheltered places.

Bring in students to the town centre. It needs that vitality of youth which would come with having a university campus there.

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4 Responses to Let’s revive town centre with more trees and youthful vitality

  1. mikebweb says:

    Its all very good to talk of tree planting, but the Council faces an uphill struggle as the vandals take them out again!! A new development in Broad Green had a row of five trees planted – there is now one struggling to stay alive. That coupled with the empty retain premises does nothing to improve the place. (Since being built the retail areas have never been used, so why provide them?) In respect of the Whitgift Centre development, may be the so called developers have done us the favour of not having a large, new shopping precinct that nobody wants or uses – Some would say we told you so! St Georges Walk is on its way down – was it ever a success?

  2. Lewis White says:

    Hi Mike, Thanks for reminding me of the row of dead trees at Broad Green, on a forecourt, which might not be council street trees, but might well have been required as part of the planning permission for that retail and maybe residential mixed block. I will contact the council planning department tree officer to find out, and ask if they can get the developer to have those trees replaced.

    With regard to shopping, like many over the age of 60, I well remember the latter days of Grants , Kennards and Allders in the 60s, 70’s and 80’s. Although they were “mature to past their sell-by-dates” It was sad to see these character stores replaced (in terms of shopping floorspace) with the Centrale centre, I recall wondering at the time if there was too much shopping, but it perhaps it worked for a decade or so.

    St George’s Walk came along as a high-class shopping precinct while those department stores were still reasonably prosperous, but it sank to a low level of shopping provision in the new century. Its problem is that it is on the way to nowhere. Once Grants had gone, it was even more isolated.

    I hope that the Westfield impasse gets sorted out by its French owners. So sad for Croydon, and for those who work in the shops that are still hanging on. Many of these are good shops, with helpful staff. I buy my shirts at one such Whitgift shop.

    My other “Grand idea” for Croydon is that we knock it down and rebuild a new Medieval / Tudor Croydon, with half-timbered buildings and a new Tudor Bishop’s Palace, but with a modern sewage system. Plus building a replica of Hogwarts on the site of part of the Whitgift centre, roughly where the old Middle Whitgift School was. .

    It could be a Euro tourist destination, even if Brexit happens.

  3. sebastiantillinger7694 says:

    there are lots of good ideas here. Local councillors and Croydon officers…..anyone listening?

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