Selhurst homes and businesses face demolition for rail scheme

Thirty-three homes in Selhurst and business premises on a light industrial estate all face demolition, under plans from Network Rail to provide a long-term solution to congestion on the London-to-Brighton mainline.

Network Rail’s Croydon Area Remodelling Scheme – or CARS – is coming towards the end of a three-month consultation period.

It is the second time Network Rail has consulted on the significant project, which includes some impressive engineering proposals to unblock the bottleneck on the Brighton mainline at the “Selhurst Triangle” as well as upgrading Norwood Junction station and the complete rebuilding of East Croydon Station, with two new platforms.

But to achieve some of the ambitious railway improvements, including having eight rail tracks passing under Windmill Bridge, Network Rail’s plans require the compulsory purchase of a considerable chunk of land, including an entire row of Victorian-built railway workers’ cottages and some light industrial premises alongside the tracks at Gloucester Road in Selhurst.

Inside Croydon first reported on the potential property blight of the houses and business premises nearly two years ago, when the first version of Network Rail’s plans were put out for consultation. Then, it was suggested that the process might blight the area for five years – with owner-occupiers unlikely to be able to sell their homes on the open market if they wanted to move. Now, that period of uncertainty could last much longer.

Gloucester Road runs roughly parallel with the railway, before rising on a ramp to form a T-junction with the road over Windmill Bridge.

Network Rail’s scheme to widen Windmill Bridge to eight tracks would require the compulsory purchase of the area in light blue

Also known as the St James’ Road bridge, the road currently crosses five tracks. Under Network Rail’s proposals, the work on the bridge would require the closure of the southern end of Gloucester Road and demolition of the buildings there, with the space being used temporarily as a construction depot.

The latest version of the plans requires much more rail-side land than previously envisaged, including the demolition of all 33 cottages. The land they are sited on is marked as essential for construction. The buildings have to go, even if some of the land can subsequently be made available again for housing once the scheme is complete.

The general principle adopted with construction projects in the public interest is, wherever possible, to avoid taking private domestic property. According to the specialist website London Reconnections, “Thirty domestic properties is actually quite a lot for a railway enhancement programme involving no additional route mileage.

“Business premises, which form the bulk of the site, are generally not so well protected from compulsory purchase orders as the prevailing attitude is that businesses can be compensated for the inconvenience with no undue hardship caused.

“The need for the destruction of so many domestic properties could go some way to explain why it took so long to come up with a plan to eliminate the bottleneck at East Croydon,” London Reconnections says.

Where Windmill Bridge fits into Network Rail’s proposals

“Unless it is accepted that a considerable number of domestic properties need to be compulsorily purchased, a scheme would only provide marginal benefit. The only alternative is going to the extreme lengths of proposing a long tunnel emerging south of Purley – which was what Network Rail proposed about a decade ago.” The costs of such a tunnelling scheme would obviously stop the project in its… err, tracks. Crossrail, anyone?

Network Rail’s consultation website even includes a natty little animation video which illustrates “the closure and demolition of the southern end of Gloucester Road” to enable the bridge widening works to take place. What is missing from the animation is any sign of the buildings and homes that need to be demolished to make way for the rail works.

Residents on Gloucester Road and business-owners on the Tait Road trading estate have obviously been shocked by the proposals to turn their premises into a “logistics compound”.

The hard details, which also include similar demolition of some track-side properties on Lansdowne Road, can only be ascertained by trawling through drawings which are tucked away in a separate section of the consultation website (here, here and here).

“It’s not that we’re opposed to the need to resolve this issue, and we know with lineside spaces it comes with the territory somewhat,” one business owner affected by the proposals told Inside Croydon.

Part of Network Rail’s animated video showing the demolition of Gloucester Road

“We just feel it’s unacceptable in a second wave consultation for our road, businesses and jobs to have been treated like an afterthought not even worth mentioning as an important matter for fully informed public feedback.

“Most people don’t have the capacity to trawl through or decipher construction logistics drawings – especially when they might not even see them ‘cos they’re tucked away in a totally different section after the ‘give feedback’ section!

“There’s also no info on the potential future of this land after the completion of the railway scheme – a huge loss of already dwindling industrial space for businesses in the area, with much elsewhere being lost to ‘windfall’ developments. Nor are there any environmental impact reports for the public to provide feedback on. It appears to be a case of plans first, reports later.”

Network Rail’s public consultation ends on September 20.


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About insidecroydon

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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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7 Responses to Selhurst homes and businesses face demolition for rail scheme

  1. Reena Mahtani says:

    What about the properties in the yellow area? The play area opposite the tracks, Lambert’s Place, etc

    • “Whataboutery”.
      Have you bothered clicking on the linksin the article? If you had, you’d have seen that the yellow areas are part of the worksite.

    • J K says:

      There’s a separate drawing of the play area in the drawings for Windmill bridge showing it becoming a construction compound.
      They propose to eventually reinstate it but the reinstated one is 300sqm smaller for some reason.
      Lamberts Place houses will almost definitely get demolished – it’s within the worksite and you can see them disappear in the ‘introduction’ animation. Apparently none of the buildings on Gloucester Road even exist in their ‘before’ animations though!!
      The block of flats on Bridge Place is within the ‘worksite’ too so who knows? It’s all hard to tell because they don’t have any drawing or info which clearly lays out what they’re proposing will be demolished or affected for local people to give informed feedback on.

  2. William_Gloucester_road says:

    This has concerned me and neighbors for the past couple of years… since we found out of what was being proposed. The public consultation help by National rail was aimed at how to get positive feedbacks from the general public but wasn’t for us (residents) we still did not get a proper acknowledgment or our issue taken seriously by National Rail, it seems that we (residents) are a negligible byproduct of what they want to do… at first we though gardens where at risk but from thee new proposal they are looking at destroying the community of residents in Gloucester road.
    They are applying directly to the secretary of state so that they think they can avoid dealing with us… I still wander where will the money will be coming from as we are not in a good place to spend money considering the pandemic, the fact that commuting should reduce not increase, Brexit and the fact that the Government has pledged to invest in Northern infrastructures rather that in the SE. Lets watch this space and we will not give up without a fight!

  3. Lewis White says:

    If the tracks need to be increased , to eliminate this long-standing bottleneck, more space is needed. As long as these owners are properly compensated, and the remaining land redeveloped with good quality housing and / or industry, (in my view) the project seems to be in the public benefit.

    • J K says:

      It’s not so much the need to expand the railway that’s in discussion here particularly, but the consultation not making transparent the potential impacts on local residents, businesses and jobs in a consultation that’s meant to inform the public to give feedback on the scheme. Like William says above this feels like it’s been treated like acceptable collateral damage not even worth mentioning, when it absolutely should have been clearly indicated as a significant, direct impact of the scheme. There’s been poor communication with those directly affected and no suggestion of how the remaining land will be reinstated. Business owners may be properly compensated short term, but if there’s not suitable space left for them to move to those local businesses and jobs cease to exist locally.

  4. Hayan says:

    They’ve been communicating with us for a couple of years now. We’ve go loads of letters and even spoke with NR’s surveyors on the phone. As long as I get the going rate for my flat I’ll be happy. The area needs investment.

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