Today brings a second – and final – chance to see the council’s plans to improve the area around Croydon Minster.
On Friday, along with around 60 other local residents, Inside Croydon went to see what is intended for the first part of £17.5million of public spending on improving the environment and links across Old Town and Waddon, an area that was so badly scarred by the half-completed inner ring road when it was built in the 1960s.
The area around The Minster has become increasingly down at heel, notably so in the past seven years or so, since the arson on the night of the Croydon riots saw the furniture store at nearby Reeves Corner set ablaze. That site remains a vacant lot.
But the problem for The Minster stretches back 50 years, because since Roman Way was built what was then known as Croydon Parish Church now sits, isolated, at the end of a through-town route, rather than being at the heart of the Old Town.
Pictures at the exhibition from before the six-lane motorway was built show the devastation caused by 1960s planning policy, when the car was king.
Now the council says it wants to create, “a new public space in front of The Minster which will be able to accommodate a variety of activities, improve the crossroads of two main pedestrian and cycle routes, and incorporate The Minster as a stop on the borough’s heritage trail”. Which sort of suggests that The Minster is not a stop on the “borough’s heritage trail”, which if that is the case, would mean that the trail would be somewhat bereft of an obvious piece of Croydon heritage.
Nonetheless… The second of two opportunities to view the council exhibit takes place from 11am till 2pm today, at 136 Church Street, close to The Minster itself. At 1pm there is also a 30-minutes heritage walk for adults and children.
The proposals include reducing the size of the wall that masks the view from the west of The Minster, and removing the often flooded pedestrian subway outside and enhancing the pedestrian crossings there instead.
The neglected granite water trough is to be relocated and gravestones, as in the 1960s reworking of the area, used for enhanced walkways.
The musty property at 136 Church Street, where the exhibition is held, is to be brought back into use, perhaps as a café.
Car parking outside The Minster is to be accommodated elsewhere on Church Street and by the Minster Hall, though parking beside the church will be retained for funerals and for civic events.
There is the ambition to make the area good for Remembrance Day services and parades.
Attempts at designing out crime through better planning, better tree husbandry and lighting will aim to tackle local anti-social behaviour. The Minster provides alms to the many needy or substance dependent who congregate in the church yard, but there is the intention to make the area feel safer as a pedestrian route from Church Road.
A route might be opened to the east of The Minster to St John’s Memorial Grounds which was the Parish Church’s burial ground. Seating and a cycle route would be installed, though residents have expressed some concern about the inappropriateness of the suggest of placing children’s play equipment in the graveyard.
There are hopes that Old Palace School might feel confident enough in the improvements made to safety to open its gate to the Memorial Grounds.
The proposals give the lie to the scare stories used by the Conservatives in the local elections that Labour intended to build housing on the land next to the Grade I-listed Minster.
The progress on this matter is a reward for years of lobbying by Waddon’s Labour councillors – Robert Canning, Andrew Pelling and Joy Prince – for safer and better links across into Old Town. It resulted in a £10million improvement grant from the Mayor of London, which Croydon Council has topped up with an additional £7.5million.
What is not obvious, though, is whether The Minster and its CofE congregation will buy-in to the proposals. There is nothing from the council about The Minster’s own plans to redevelop its Church Hall, which would seem to be fundamental to the changes proposed here.
The timing of the exhibition today should suit those attending the Sunday morning service.
Paul Scott, the council cabinet member overseeing the proposals, says he “encourages everyone to attend the exhibition to learn more about what is planned for an area that has been so central to the history and development of Croydon”.
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